This is the part of setting up a business that I love! Giving your startup enterprise a name (and subsequently developing a logo) makes it all that more real, and therefore it can be an exciting exercise, if not a bit daunting and sometimes frustrating as well.
Having gone through this process numerous times in my professional life, as well as worked with numerous startups—not necessarily in naming them, but working with what they had as a name (for better or worse), here are some thoughts I’ve had along the journey.
(NOTE: these tips can also apply to the naming of a new product or service, or an event you’re running—essentially anything that will be a sub-brand of your overall business).
1. Make sure you can get the domain name.
This will probably be the ultimate determinant as to which name you go for; you might have a brilliant name for your business, but if you can’t make it work from a web domain perspective, then you’re pretty much back to square one.
Let’s face it, your website is probably your most important marketing tool today; if your domain is not congruent with your business name, forget it! This is why you see many online businesses make up words (Google, anyone?) or change the spelling of existing words (e.g. Flickr, Flippa) or join two words together (Airtasker, Facebook, MailChimp, PayPal, HubSpot, etc). If it’s the only way to get the .com, .com.au or .co.nz domain, then it’s worth considering.
2. Try to ensure there’s a story behind your name.
What is the purpose behind your business, its reason for being? How and why did you come up with the name?
I do some work with a startup called SplitIt.com.au—they’re a comparison and switching website, but unlike their competitors, rather than keep the commission they receive from service providers, SplitIt.com.au splits it 50/50 with their customers. Name says it all really!
Take a leaf out of how marketing and PR people name their agencies. For example, Man Bites Dog is a personal favourite of mine—it’s a B2B PR firm from the UK and refers to a classic truism in PR and media circles, which is: If a dog bites a man, it’s not news, but if a man bites a dog, it is news! Nice one.
Another fave is Threepipe Communications, which was inspired by one of the world’s most insightful and creative minds, Sherlock Holmes, who was quoted as saying: “It is quite a three pipe problem.” (As in, he needed to stop, think and smoke for 50 minutes to think about a particular problem.) Threepipe’s mantra is: “We see what others don’t see, leading to solutions others would never find.”
I think in this age of social media, content marketing and online communications, this is definitely an area I would be focusing on.
(I once named my consulting business ONE19 Communications after Geelong’s 119 point demolition of Port Adelaide in the AFL Grand Final! Nothing to do with the business, but hey, it was a great conversation-starter!)
3. The shorter and sharper, the better.
We live in an information-overloaded world; the marketplace is crowded and noisy. A long and convoluted name won’t do you any favours. You need something that’s preferably short, sharp and memorable.
Look at the big names, the two-syllable ‘monsters’—Apple, Nike, eBay, Virgin, Twitter, Intel, Starbucks—they were (mostly) relatively small companies once. Think small before thinking big!
But ultimately, you need to like your business name because you’re gonna be stuck with it for potentially a long time!