A 12-step Process to Naming Your Business Something You Won’t Regret Later.
Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of…”
— Socrates, Greek philosopher in Athens (469 BC – 399 BC)
One of the biggest mistakes a fledgling business can make is to mis-name itself. Over time your business will change, and the last thing you need is a name that doesn’t fit. It doesn’t matter if your firm is in the staffing or recruiting business or sells widgets like every other widget firm — your business name will define your firm for a LONG time. So you need to put some serious thought into it.
Herewith is my own 12-step process for coming up with a name. I’m not going to go into detail on the kinds of names you can use or other minutia (I favor coined names or neologisms for what it’s worth), for that you’ll have to do your own research — or better yet, contact me for help.
A 12-step Business Naming Process
Step 1: Get together your name selection team. There should be no more than three on the team. Why? First, you need some outside objectivity and thinking. Second, it helps to build consensus and buy-in — even though it is you who will still have to make a decision that you can live with.
Step 2: Define your business position, ‘elevator pitch’ and primary attributes. To name your business, you first have to define and position it in as few words as possible (I’ll be talking more about positioning in a future post).
Step 3: Establish your name selection criteria. For the most part an acceptable name might be based on the five criteria below, but you may have more or less criteria based on your business positioning.
- Articulate the brand’s attributes
- Be simple and easy to say and spell
- Translate well and be easy to pronounce in key international languages
- Be owned outright and defined (i.e., for a coined name)
- Be protectable: Trademark, Logo, Domain Name, etc.
Step 4: Review and secure whatever resources (such as books, software and/or outside naming consultancies) to assist in the name development process. You may start out brainstorming names with a variety of tools, then come to the conclusion that you need outside help. See the list of resources at the bottom of this post.
Step 5: Train Name Selection Team and those participating in name submission/generation on standard naming practices, methods, etc. This includes:
- Overview of the naming process
- Overview of naming development — what goes into a good name
- Types of names: Coined (neologisms), Evocative, Greek/Latin roots, Experiential, Adapted, Descriptive, Foreign words, etc.
- Sound & Language: Impact of pronunciation on meaning
- ‘Brainstorming’ and review process
Step 6: Review competitive product and company names and their positioning strategies. You have to avoid ANY miscommunication or infringement on their name or their position if you want to be successful (and stay out of court).
Step 7: Generate LOTS of names for review. You can’t have too many names to filter — I’ve seen more than 400 names developed for a “bet-the-business” product.
Step 8: First screening – kick out the obvious chaff at this step, but consider holding onto the really crazy names — you might just come back to them later.
Step 9: Second screening – filter names by your selection criteria, then develop rationales and possible taglines for names. This helps focus the meaning of the name for those who see it for the first time.
Step 10: Third screening – preliminary screening of names for trademark/domain use. Any name that can’t be registered as a trademark or as a dotcom must be discarded as it’s probably not worth your time and effort to pursue, unless you have deep pockets to buy it.
Step 11: Fourth screening – Select the name from your top candidates. Talk through it: How will your customers, partners, vendors and other stakeholders react to the name? Does it REALLY have the kind of positive connotations you want?
Step 12: Nuts and bolts time – make the name your own. Secure the domain(s), create a logo, trademark both the name and the logo and establish standards for using the logo and name.
Simple right? No. But a process will take a lot of irrationality out of the thinking that goes into naming your firm — and help you tremendously in branding your business for success as it should!