Giving your business a name is a lot like laying the cornerstone of a building. Once it’s in place, the entire foundation and structure is aligned to that original stone. If it’s off, even just a bit, the rest of the building is off, and the misalignment becomes amplified.
So if you have that gnawing sense that choosing a name for your new business is vitally important, you are right. To help you get off to a good start, read on to discover the top mistakes people make when it comes to choosing a name for their business:
Getting the “committee” involved in your decision
We live in a democratic society, and that seems like the right thing to do: involving everyone (your friends, family, employees and clients) in an important decision. This approach, however, presents a few problems. The first and most obvious fact is that you will end up choosing only one name, so you risk alienating the very people you’re trying to involve. Second, you will often end up with a consensus decision, which results in a very safe, very vanilla name.
A better method is to involve only the key decision-makers — the fewer the better — and select only the people you feel have the company’s best interests at heart.
Employing the “train wreck” method of creating a name
When forced to come up with a catchy name, many aspiring entrepreneurs simply take part of an adjective and weld it onto a noun, essentially colliding the two words head-on to create a new word. The results are names that have a certain twisted rationale to them, but look and sound awful. The problem with this approach is that it’s simply forced. And it sounds that way.
Using words so plain they will never stand out in a crowd
When you have competition, you need differentiation. The name would be much more descriptive but hardly memorable. And, with the onslaught of new media and advertising channels, it’s more important than ever to carve out your niche by displaying your uniqueness. Nothing does that better than a well-conceived name.
Taking the atlas approach and using a map to name your company
In the quest to start a new company, many businesses choose to use their city, state or region as part of their company name. While this may actually help in the beginning, it often becomes a hindrance as a company grows. Many other companies have struggled with the same issue. Learn from them, and you will avoid this potential bottleneck from the beginning.
Turning your name into a cliche
Once you have pass the literal, descriptive word choices, you will likely find your whole process turning to metaphors. These can be great if they are not overly used to the point of being trite. For example, since many companies think of themselves as top in their industry, the world is full of names like Summit, Apex, Pinnacle, Peak and so on. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with these names, they are overworked. Instead, look for combinations of positive words and metaphors, and you will be much better served.
Making your business name so obscure, customers will never know what it means
It’s great for a name to have a special meaning or significance: It sets up a story that can be used to tell the company message. But if the reference is too obscure or too hard to spell and pronounce, you may never have the opportunity to speak to customers because they will simply pass you by as irrelevant.
If it’s too complex and puzzling, it will remain a mystery to your customers. This is especially true if you are reaching out to a mass audience. But while something “different” might work for a branding firm, it wouldn’t work as well for more common businesses, like an ice cream parlor or an auto body shop.
Taking the Campbell’s soup approach to selecting a name
Driven by the need for a matching domain name, many companies have resorted to awkwardly constructed or purposefully misspelled names. The results are company names that sound more like prescription drugs than real-life businesses. It’s amazing how good some names begin to sound after you have been searching for available domain names all night. But resist the urge. Avoid using a “K” in place of a “Q” or a “Ph” in place of an “F.” This makes spelling the name — and locating you on the internet — all that much harder.
And it’s not that coined or invented names can’t work; they often do. But keep it mind that such names have no intrinsic or linguistic meaning, so they rely heavily on advertising to convey their meaning, and that gets expensive. So check your pocketbook before you venture into these types of names.
Choosing the wrong name and then refusing to change it
Many business owners know they have a problem with their name and just hope it will somehow magically resolve itself. It’s only a matter of time before other companies that have successfully outgrown their original markets begin to question their positioning.
In the fever to start your new business or expand a current one, take time to think through some of these issues. By tapping into your creativity and avoiding these potential pitfalls, you will be able to create a name that works for both the short and long term. Like the original cornerstone of a building, it will support upward expansion as your company reaches new heights.