Today’s post is about seven pitfalls to avoid when naming a company.
Your company name is an important element that’s directly linked to your ability to grow.
Your company name can make your brand or it can break it.
Don’t hinder your progress by painting yourself into a corner with a name that will hold you back.
Learn what to avoid and what to do when you create a brand and company name by avoiding the seven traps here.
1. Avoid initials or acronyms
The first thing we aim for with a company name is communication. Ideally, your name says what you offer in an instant.
Acronyms and initials may not make much sense to someone who comes across them.
Avoid them. Instead, aim for a name that says what you offer in clear language.
2. Steer clear of similar-sounding names
Picking a name that’s similar to something that’s already known in your market may seem like a good idea. But why spend your marketing dollars trying to differentiate your business from your competitors’ businesses because your names are so similar?
Don’t be afraid to come up with a name that’s unique and will stand out from what’s already out there.
3. Stay away from your own name
If you’re just starting a new business, selling it and handing it over to someone else might be the last thing you’d think about.
But it happens every day. People build a profitable business they name after themselves and suddenly they’re fielding offers from interested buyers.
Part of what the buyers look at when valuing a company is “brand equity.”
If a business has laid the groundwork for a strong, recognizable brand over many years, that’s worth real money.
If you’ve used your personal name as your brand name and you plan to exit from the daily operations of your business, that brand equity will go with you.
Your company won’t be as valuable if your name is on it — but you’re not around.
There are exceptions, of course. If you’re a counselor, attorney, life coach or artist, for example, it might make sense to use your name as your business name. You are your business, so stating your name and crafting a tagline that explains what you do may be all you need.
But those businesses aren’t easy to sell or hand over to someone else: they’re very dependent on the work of one person. Keep this in mind and choose carefully.
4. Don’t get too specific
One of the most difficult aspects of naming your business is that it happens so early. When you’re just starting your business, you may not know exactly what you’ll focus on yet, or who your ideal customer will be.
That’s why it’s best to avoid ultra-specific names that are tied to a particular product or service, like Rattan Rockers Inc. (what if they want to offer wicker furniture?), or Just Desserts Deliveries (what if they decide to expand into delivering sandwiches?).
5. Don’t be generic (and forgettable)
I know, I know. I just told you not to be too specific, and now I’m saying not to be too generic!
It’s important that either your company name or your tagline explain what you offer. For more on this, read How to Write a Terrific Tagline.
It’s best to avoid names like Fernstone, Inc., Marvin & Sons, and The Gilberton Company. These names say nothing and mean nothing. Using a name like this means you’ll have to spend valuable time establishing what you do before you can move on to building trust and comfort.
6. Avoid made-up words
They could afford to pour their money into establishing the meaning of the made-up words they used for brand names. Can you?
If you’re running a small business and your marketing budget is tight, chances are you can’t.
Don’t be too clever: stick to using words that already have a meaning rather than making up words and having to explain yourself.
7. Steer clear of trends (they guarantee obsolescence)
Allied Carbon Paper.
Dave’s VCR Rental.
United Ice Block Home Delivery.
These businesses may have existed at one time, but not anymore. They built names around specific technologies, and those technologies disappeared.
Be aware that this may happen to the business you’re building right now. Focus on the benefit your product or service will offer and don’t mention the technology you’ll use to offer it.
Bonus pro tip: Check the availability of a URL
The website you create for your new business will be one of your most important marketing tools.
Before you commit to a business name, be sure you can find a website address that uses that name. I use Namecheap for this — and have for years.
Domain names ending in .com are the industry standard, so don’t plan to grab the .biz version of the name you want if the .com isn’t available. Doing that is a sure way to send lots of visitors to the website of the owner of the .com URL.
Instead, keep searching until you find a name that meets the criteria in this post and is available for purchase.
Keep learning: Get my FREE Branding 101 course
Take full advantage of my 30+ years of branding experience with the FREE, quick course I put together. You’ll get a process to follow and lots of extra resources to help you along the way. Register for Branding 101: It’s FREE.
This post was originally published on March 21, 2012. It has been updated for today with additional information and resources.