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How to come up with the right name for your start-up

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How to come up with a business name

Coming up with a cool startup name isn’t as easy as it seems. With every potential name having upsides and downsides, it’s easy to get stuck in a never-ending state of analysis. Sometimes, the name of your small business sticks out right away. But more often, it doesn’t.

If you need help creating a name for your small business, you’ve come to the right place. With Shopify’s brand name generator, you can come up with a list of potential brand-names in seconds, but how do you decide which one to choose? That depends on your brand.

Your name is the first thing customers recognize about your brand. The best products, perfect service, and engaging marketing will go a long way in building brand loyalty⁠—but it won’t be enough if your customers can’t remember your name.

A customer’s ability to recall your business name has a huge impact on how they view your business. Every inch of the marketing funnel, from attracting new customers to bringing back loyal ones, is tied to how quickly a potential customer remembers your name.

Your business name selection from the naming brand generator shouldn’t be made hastily. That’s not to say you should get stuck obsessing over the pros and cons of every option. You still need to make a decision before moving forward, but before you resign to picking a random name from a hat, it’s important to evaluate your names for branding potential.

Our business name creator will provide a ton of potential brand names and domains, but finding the name that works for your brand is up to you. Knowing what makes the best name isn’t always easy, but when you create a business name, here are some factors to keep in mind:

Clarity: Something that is simple, clear, and direct will be far more catchy easier for customers to recall. If customers don’t understand your brand initially, they’re less likely to remember it later on. Good brand names don’t require too much explanation.

Our online store name generator is designed with the simplicity of an effective brand in-mind. When using the shop name generator, you’ll be asked to describe your brand in one word. Is your brand funny or sincere?

Branding: Your name will be a blueprint for all the decisions you make when developing your brand down the road. Your logo, slogan, and value proposition can be changed, but it’s exceedingly hard to change your name without losing some of the strength of your online brand.

While it should be clear, it should also be adaptable to change. Names that are too topical, or directly reference a specific product could box you in later on. Make sure to evaluate your name ideas for company growth potential and entry into adjacent industries.

Uniqueness: Customers won’t remember a brand name if it isn’t distinct. Catchy branding is all about setting yourself apart from your competition and that starts with a cool, unique brand name. A startup brand name that grabs a customer’s attention will be remembered later on.

Availability: Last but not least, you need to make sure your brand name isn’t already taken. Setting aside the legal risks, another brand with your name (or something similar) can be confusing for customers and damaging to your online reputation.

This is true of your domain name as well. Your domain name should be as memorable as your name and easy to associate with your brand. When you’ve selected a name, make sure to claim a workable domain as soon as possible.

Fast and easy domain names from Shopify’s business name generator

When you use our company name generator, original and available domain names are auto-generated in seconds. Find the perfect domain name for your brand in just a few clicks.

Finding the right name for your startup can have a significant impact on your success. The wrong name can do worse than fail to connect with customers; it can also result in insurmountable business and legal hurdles. In contrast, a clear, powerful name can be extremely helpful in your marketing and branding efforts.

Here are 12 helpful suggestions on how to come up with a winning name for your business:

1. Avoid hard-to-spell names.

You don’t want potential customers getting confused about how to find your business online. (I never understood why “Flickr” was pushed as the name for the photo-sharing site.) You want to avoid having to continually correct the misspelled version of your name. Keep it simple.

2. Don’t pick a name that could be limiting as your business grows.

Picking too narrow of a name may cause you problems down the road. Imagine if Jeff Bezos had picked the name “OnlineBooks” instead of “Amazon.” So avoid names like “Wedding Dresses of San Francisco” or “LugNuts Unlimited.” You don’t want to limit your business to a particular product or a specific city.

3. Conduct a thorough Internet search.

Once you have determined a name you like, do a web search on the name. More often than not, you will find that someone else is already using that business name. While that won’t be a total showstopper, it should give you pause.

4. Get the .com domain name.

My strong preference is that you secure the “.com” domain name for your business rather than alternatives such as .net, .org, .biz, or other possible domain extensions. Customers tend to associate a .com name with a more established business. Undoubtedly, someone will already own your desired .com name, but many domain owners are willing to sell their name for the right price.

Think of acquiring the .com name you want as a business investment. You can check on the availability of a domain name on sites such as GoDaddy.com or NetworkSolutions.com, and if the domain name is taken, you can often track down the owner of the domain name and see if they are willing to sell it by using the “Whois” tool at GoDaddy or Network Solutions.

Also make sure to grab your desired business name on popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

5. Use a name that conveys some meaning.

Ideally, you want the business name to convey something meaningful and positive related to your business. Can people instantly get what your business is about? While meaningless names like “Google,” “Yahoo,” or “Zappos” have some appeal due to their catchiness, these kinds of names will cost you a lot more to brand.

Some examples of clear, simple, and intriguing domain names include Canny.com, Cling.com, Afire.com, and Administer.com. A domain name like “OnlineTickets.com” is genius as it conveys the meaning of the business and is helpful for search engine optimization purposes.

6. Conduct a trademark search.

Do a search at USPTO.gov to get an idea as to whether you can get a trademark or service mark for the name.

7. Conduct a Secretary of State search.

Since you will likely want to structure your business as a corporation or LLC, you should do a search of the Secretary of State’s records to make sure your name won’t be confusingly similar to a business name that’s already registered. If it is too similar to an existing name, the Secretary of State may not allow you to register it. Your corporate lawyer can help you conduct this kind of search. (See “10 Big Legal Mistakes Made by Startups.”)

8. Assess if the name is catchy.

Obviously, you don’t want a boring name for your business, but you also don’t want to choose something that’s too “out there.” You want your employees to be able to say where they work without hesitation, and you want your name to resonate with your target audience.

9. Get feedback on the name.

Come up with 5 or 10 names and then run them by friends, family members, and trusted colleagues. Get feedback from your target audience as well. And make sure that the name doesn’t have any negative connotations (such as when GM named its new car model the “Nova” without realizing that the name meant “doesn’t go” in Spanish).

10. Make sure the name sounds good when said aloud.

Sometimes names seem fine on paper, but sound awful when said aloud. And if it’s said aloud, make sure people aren’t confused as to how it’s spelled.

11. Use resources available for brainstorming names.

There are a number of sites that can help you brainstorm names, including:

  • VisualThesaurus.com (gives you a visual around a keyword)
  • Shopify Business Name Generator (generates business name ideas and checks domain availability simultaneously)
  • NameMesh.com (provides a startup company name generator)
  • Naminum.com (allows you to generate names based on a theme)

There are even name branding experts such as Alexandra Watkins at Eat My Words.

12. Make sure you are personally happy with the name.

You as the business owner will have to live with the name for a long time, so make sure you are happy with it and believe it will resonate with your customers. Take the time to get it right from the start.

Read all of Richard Harroch’s articles on AllBusiness.com.

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