What Entrepreneurs Need to Know About...
This is the seventh in a series on helping the entrepreneur put his or her best foot forward during the process of securing funding. The articles are researched and written by Eric Billingsley.
Think for a moment about the power of a name. Twenty years ago you would have never seen the word "Google," because it did not exist. The closest you would have come in the English language dictionary is the word "googol," which refers to the number 10 raised to the hundredth power.
But now, Google is known all over the world as the go-to search engine on the internet. The word, which is a play on the mathematical counterpart found in the dictionary, has even evolved from a noun—€”the name of the search engine company—€”to a verb that broadly refers to searching the internet.
Why did such an off-the-wall name work? It's safe to say that, first of all, Google offers customers a useful product. Second, the name is catchy; it's different from others in the industry, is easy to say and easy to pass on by word of mouth. And it's not just a name anymore, but rather a brand that people associate with the internet and a certain level of quality and user friendliness.
A name can literally make, break and/or limit the growth potential of your startup. So before choosing one, consider the following:
Take Time Choosing a Name
The name of your company is your first point of contact with the outside world, a constant advertisement, and the thing consumers and clients alike are going to be attracted to or repulsed by. So don't make a hasty decision.
Make a list of hundreds or even thousands of possible names. Scour dictionaries and even create your own words. Once you've determined a list of likely candidates, bounce them off other people and research any possible negative connotations of the word(s). It's also important to remember that part of choosing a name depends on choosing the type of company you're running. The terms "Corp.," "LLC" and the like will have to be included.
Consider the name in relation to the company's larger branding and marketing plan
The fact is your company name is an integral part of competing in the marketplace.
When developing names for clients, one naming/branding company, goes through a six-step process that includes: conducting a competitive analysis, which looks at the names of other competitors and their products in the marketplace; refining and defining your company's brand positioning; determining what you want the name to do for your marketing, branding and advertising efforts; prescreening names for possible trademark infringements; and seeing how the name works in advertising layouts.
The company also evaluates names on the following criteria: how it looks as a visual signifier; how differentiated it is from competition; layers of meaning and association; whether or not it has a buzz; whether there's an element of humanness to it; how it fits into the positioning of a product or company; how it sounds audibly; how likely it is to generate word-of-mouth buzz; and trademark availability.
Dare to be different
Imagine if Google was named "Large Internet Search Engine, Corp." Would you want to use it over competitors such as Yahoo, Amazon and Netscape?
A name should set you apart from competitors. One of the reasons company names such as Google, Apple, and Yahoo work is because they are catchy, easy to say, and are backed up by high-quality products. If you look a little beyond the surface they also spark subtle associations and have meaning. For example consumers may associate Yahoo with fun or Apple with intelligence.
Company names do not always have to describe, in clear and stark terms, what your company does. And the problem with going down this route is that the outcome is often boring. Also avoid names that are generic. But keep in mind that names that are hard to spell and far too esoteric or convoluted can also be a hindrance.
A name should also provide your company with some room to grow.
Many fall into the trap of naming their companies after the city, state or region where they're located. While this may serve in the beginning —€”when your customer base is only located in that region, it will limit your marketability as you expand. This also applies to including just one product or specialty in the company's name. So choose a name that leaves the possibilities open.
Check Trademark Availability
Legally trademarking your company's name is a way of protecting yourself. Just imagine the amount of money and time that you'll waste if you end up in a trademark infringement lawsuit —€“meaning you've been using and profiting from a name that another individual or company has the legal rights to.
A trademark is defined as a word, phrase, symbol or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from others. Before settling on a name, scour the internet to see if it or anything like it is being used. You can also hire professionals to conduct a formal trademark search. Consider filing for trademark protection at the state, national and international level. This also applies to product names you are considering.
Before choosing a name, it's also important to find out if it's available for use as a domain name on the internet.
Change the Name if It's a Hindrance
If you chose a name out of haste and/or if it's preventing your company from moving forward, don't be afraid to change it. Sometimes finding a name that's more evocative is as simple as re-working the existing one. Other times, it may need a complete overhaul. Not being attached to your initial creation may, in the end, determine whether your company succeeds or fails.
8 Mistakes to Avoid When Naming Your Business, article by Phil Davis on www.entrepreneur.com
Entrepreneur.com article that is an excerpt from the book Start Your Own Business: The Only Start-up Book You'll Ever Need by Rieva Lesonsky
Building the Perfect Beast: The Igor Naming Guide, www.igorinternational.com
Choosing a Company Name, article by Karl Schmieder, www.sideroad.com
How to Create a Great Business Name, article by Scott Allen, www.snarkhunting.com