Every small business starts with the age-old question, “But what do we call ourselves?” Entrepreneurs sit around tables in coffee shops, cafes, bars, and offices, trying to come up with the Holy Grail: a business name that will stand out in the marketplace, reach the target market, be clear about what the business is all about, and still be interesting.
Oh, and it has to sound catchy, too.
Unfortunately, more often than not, businesses end up with sad, boring, unoriginal, uninteresting, weird, or flat-out bad names. But you can put all of that aside; here’s everything you need to know to come up with an awesome name for your business.
Step 1. Know Your Target Market
First, you have to know who you’re talking to. Who do you want to do business with? Once you get those thoughts narrowed down to a real description, then find out everything you can about that audience, especially what keeps them up at night.
Step 2. Know the Right Words
When you’re thinking about your brand, you want to think about how you want that brand represented. So list out the words you want associated with your company. You’re looking for adjectives like: trustworthy, strong, fun, exciting, personable, and warm. Use a thesaurus to come up with synonyms of the words and then add any other words that you think you might want to include in the name of your business — don’t forget to include industry-related words. If you were opening a sewing shop, for example, you’d want to add words like “stitch”, “needle” and “thimble.”
Step 3. Mix It Up
Once you have your list of words, write each one on a 3×5 index card. Then mix and match the words to come up with various combinations; see what inspires you. Remember that brand names don’t have to make sense. They just have convey the right meaning to your target market.
Step 4. Ask for Help
Asking friends and family for help can often yield terrible results, largely because you’re looking to people who are just as inexperienced at branding as you probably are. Plus, they’re not in your target market, usually.
Let’s say you’re coming up with a name for a business that has a target market that is decidedly female. Asking your husband for feedback probably won’t yield useful results. Instead, ask people who are in your target market for their feedback on your favorite three names.
Step 5. Be Patient and Walk Away
Naming a business is one of the more challenging aspects of the startup process. Don’t get discouraged if the name doesn’t come right away. In fact, if you get frustrated, just walk away from the process and do something completely unrelated. Some of the best business names come to light when you’re not even thinking about it.
Step 6. Know When to Seek Help
Naming your business is so important that if you get the name wrong, your business really will suffer. If you know that you’re so far outside of your element that you aren’t the best person for the job, you can find help when you need it … something that’s often hard for entrepreneurs to do, but can be one of the wisest decisions that you make.
Susan Baroncini-Moe is the author of BUSINESS IN BLUE JEANS: How to Have a Successful Business on Your Own Terms, in Your Own Style. A business and marketing strategist, Baroncini-Moe shares how to create and grow a business that works for you and offers sage advice on picking the right name — strong and durable, and comfortable to you — much like denim.