Here at Maple Leaf Corporate Services we often meet budding entrepreneurs incorporating their company with us and trying to think of a name for their new business. So what is in a name? A lot actually, when it comes to business success.
Your company name will make sure you are remembered and conveys the expertise, value and uniqueness of the product or service you have developed. Some experts believe abstract names are best, others think names should be informative so customers know immediately what your business is. In certain sectors coined names (made-up words) have found their place, the same approach can be considered inappropriate or unprofessional in other sectors. Memorable one word names are common practice in crowded market places where the brand needs to stand out.
In reality, any name can be effective when it’s backed by market research and a solid communications strategy. Here’s what you need to consider for your new business name.
Your domain name is a huge part of branding your company, and it must be done right. Think about how you’ll want to talk about your company in the future, as well as URL extensions and keywords when you brainstorm a name. You’re going to build a website for your new business and with that you’ll need a suitable domain name. Picking the right one is so intertwined with naming a business these days that the process is almost one and the same.
When searching for that magic domain name, keep the following three factors in mind: spelling, pronunciation and length – get one of these wrong and it decreases the chances of people discovering your website. The domain has to be easy to say to someone in conversation. You may also consider one of the new domain extensions if you operate in a specialist sector or primarily on-line.
Even start-up companies and SMEs need to think about today’s global market place. As per the famous HSBC advert ‘think global, act local’. If you are targeting international audiences in foreign speaking countries, check how your new company name translates and sounds in another language.
Blackberry for example used two figurative English words for their TORCH and CURVE devices. CURVE is very similar to a common word for ‘bitch, whore’ (kurva, kurvë) in most of the main languages of South-Eastern Europe. The model was not successful in that region.
Sound symbolism is often a factor researched by professional naming and brand experts. For example the sound ‘cl’ in cluster, clot, clamp, close, clique signifies ‘togetherness’. Hence a name like ‘Clio’ for a fun, small, cosy car.
You might consider consulting an expert, especially if you’re in a field where your name may influence the success of your business. Naming firms have elaborate systems for creating new names and know trademark laws. They can advise you against bad name choices and explain why others are good.
Of course there are the expensive big brand and naming agencies who charge tens of thousands, but naming services that charge as little as £500 do exist and paying for professional expert advice can save a lot of money in the long term.
Who are you?
Decide what you want your name to communicate. It should reinforce the key elements of your business. Your work in developing a niche and a mission statement will help pinpoint the elements you want to emphasise.
The more your name communicates to customers about your business, the less effort to explain it. According to naming experts, entrepreneurs should give priority to real words or combinations of words over fabricated words. People prefer words they can relate to and understand. That’s why professional namers universally condemn strings of numbers or initials as a bad choice.
On the other hand, it is possible for a name to be too meaningful. Common pitfalls are geographic or generic names. A hypothetical example is “London Incorporation Services.” What if the company wants to expand beyond the city of London? And what if the company diversifies into virtual office services or accountancy and legal services?
Descriptive names tell something concrete about a business, suggestive names are more abstract. They focus on what the business is about. Consider “Homebase”, the name is meaningful and customers can recognise immediately what’s being offered.
Almost every existing word in the language has been trademarked, as coining a name is becoming more popular. Coined names can be more meaningful than existing words, but made-up words aren’t the right for every situation and naming beginners might find this sort of coining beyond their capabilities.
An easier solution is to use new forms or spellings of existing words. For instance, NameLab created the name Compaq when a new computer company came to them touting its new portable computer. The team thought about the word “compact” and came up with Compaq, which they believed would be less generic and more noticeable.
Once you narrowed the field to four or five names, you are ready to do a trademark search. Not every business name needs to be trademarked, but you should consider hiring a trademark attorney or at least a trademark search firm to make sure your new name doesn’t infringe on another business’s trademark. On-line business name generators, such as Naminum can also be a useful method of testing and finding name ideas.
How do you make your final decision?
Recall all your initial criteria. Which name best fits your objectives? Which name describes the company? Some entrepreneurs go with their instinct or by doing consumer research, testing with focus groups to see how the names are perceived. Work with a designer to see what each name will look like on business stationery and a website. Read each name aloud, paying attention to the way it sounds. Test the name with your friends and professional circle to get initial pre-launch feed-back.
Professional naming firms devote anywhere from six weeks to six months to the naming process. You won’t have that much time and resource, but make sure you spend the necessary time researching and selecting your new company name before making a decision you may later regret.
Once your decision is made, start building your enthusiasm for the new name immediately and register your new company with a formation agent such as Maple Leaf Corporate Services. Your name is the first step towards making your new enterprise a reality.