7 mistakes to avoid when naming your business


Would Google still be Google if the founders had kept their nickname for the company and called their company BackRub? Would Sony have become a world power if it had kept its original name, Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo? And what would you prefer, a Pepsi or a nice cold can of Brad’s Drink?

Looking back on near misses is funny. It also illustrates how extremely important it is to choose the right name for your business. Besides how easily even smart entrepreneurs get it wrong almost horribly, hilariously.

That’s why we’ve rounded up the best tips from top branding experts, along with stories from the field of entrepreneurs, to point out the most common pitfalls that founders stumble upon when choosing a name for their business. new startup, so you can avoid them. .

1. They don’t do their legal due diligence.

Let’s take a look at the basics first. Almost every entrepreneur and pundit I have spoken to about a business naming kicked off their comments with the same advice: don’t look into a business name until you’ve made sure it can be one. trademark and that no one else has already taken your idea.

“The biggest pitfall that many businesses face is just trying to find a name that you can legally use. The world is so filled with brands that it’s incredibly difficult to find a brand available for use, ”says Kellogg School of Brand Management Expert Tim Calkins. Most naming projects land on a shortlist of favorites only to find that none of the ideas are available.

“You really want to find out the problems there early. There is nothing more frustrating than having to go back and change your name later. It confuses customers. It is very disruptive, c ‘is expensive, ”Calkins warns.

2. They do not verify the numeric presence of the name.

Can you get the best web domain name for your business name? Are relevant and coherent social handles available? Does a spammer already use a similar name so that when customers try to find you, they end up with a “Nigerian Prince” or an inappropriate product? In today’s digital world, verifying the digital presence of a name is almost as important as verifying its legal availability.

At least some experts claim that you shouldn’t obsess over domain names too much. “No one expects a business to have an exactly matching domain name anymore. Using a modifier word is perfectly acceptable. For example, SquareUp.com, JoinKnack.com and BlissWorld.com,” notes Alexandra Watkins, CEO of brand agency Eat My. Words and author of Hello my name is awesome: how to make brand names that stick (Berrett-Koehler Editors, 2019). Get creative and brainstorm something unique.

That being said, if you’re going to be competing with shady companies or a corporate giant to rank for you in the search, steer clear of a name.

3. They rank their business.

Business has always benefited from naming clarity – hanging a shingle marked “Dentist” will cause more toothache than one marked “Smith Corp.” – but thanks to Google’s dominance, specific names are even more appealing now.

But even if you call yourself something like Springfield Roofing may be great for SEO, if there is any chance that you will ever want to expand in terms of services or geography, your descriptive name can limit your business. ability to develop yourself.

Just ask Joey Randazzo, founder of Portland SEO Growth marketing agency. “My business has grown quite quickly and we are opening offices in other cities. It would be really strange to have a company called Portland SEO Growth with a location in Vegas,” he told Inc.com. . “I am currently going through the painful, long and expensive process of changing my name to SEO Growth Partners.”

The same principle applies to company names that are too specific to the services you offer. Calling yourself “Main Street Math Tutoring” may seem like a surefire way to convey what you are doing, but that name will become a handicap if you ever decide to add SAT preparation or French to your offerings.

4. They choose a name that doesn’t mean anything.

While overly descriptive names can be limiting, so can names that mean nothing. According to the leading appointing agency, Lexicon, the ideal name conveys something about the values ​​or attitude of the company, even if it doesn’t directly describe what the company does.

“The name must offer some degree of relevance. But this is tricky and sometimes misleading because when you read the word relevance, most people think of names that are descriptive or very suggestive. While this is true in some cases, the relevance can also be provided in attitude or by association. Think Google. Think Apple. Think Sonos. These names are not descriptive, but they deliver relevant attitudes, “says the firm.

Compare that with “Consolidated Business Interests”. This vanilla name was entrepreneur Michael Rosenthal’s first choice for his negotiation and conflict resolution business until several clients admitted that they had trouble remembering the business name.

“We changed our name to Consensus, which better fits our business and is much easier to remember for customers and prospects and to refer to others, which has generated millions in revenue for our business,” Rosenthal reports.

5. They offer a tongue twister.

Consolidated business interests aren’t just painfully boring. Another cardinal sin of the trade name is that it’s long. Research by Clifton Green, professor at Goizueta Business School at Emory University, and colleagues has shown that the more fluent a business name is (basically how easy it is for people to process) , the higher the market value of the business tends to be.

Investors prefer companies whose names are short and easy to pronounce. Customers too. “We tend to dislike things, or see them as worse or riskier, if they’re harder to deal with mentally,” says Green. “It’s unconscious.” So if you are choosing between a bite of several syllables and something sticking out of the tongue, don’t make the mistake of going with the bite.

6. They don’t think about inclusiveness.

Entrepreneurs want their businesses to appeal to as many customers as possible, but sometimes they accidentally choose a name that limits their appeal, according to Watkins. She offers the case of a vertical agricultural enterprise initially called See Jane Farm.

The name “was inspired by the Dick and Jane textbooks, which were prevalent in a simpler time when food was more nutritious, but young people don’t understand why the name is so charming,” says Watkins. After a rigorous rebranding process, the company is now known under the more widely appealing name of Plenty and has raised more than $ 200 million in venture capital funding.

Don’t think about how a given business name will strike you and those like you. Think about how the name will resonate with people of different ages, backgrounds, and life experiences. Get various comments before deciding on a choice.

7. They don’t think globally.

Similar to the point above, if there is a chance that you could possibly sell in foreign markets, you need to think about not only how your name sounds to English speakers, but also to speakers of other languages. Asking a translation agency to do a global brand survey for you can be a good thing.

This is especially important if your business is completely online, as your clients can be based anywhere in the world, says Nataly Kelly, international growth expert. “With digital products, it’s much more important to make world-friendly naming choices from day one,” she says.

The opinions expressed here by the columnists of Inc.com are theirs and not those of Inc.com.

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