Picking a killer name for your business is harder than it might seem.
One of the things to think about when choosing a company name is how it will look in the subject line of an email, according to cloud-based analytics company DataHero. Then there’s how it will sound when it’s said aloud. A number of leading companies in recent history have chosen names with between five and 10 letters and at least one hard consonant: Google, Starbucks, Verizon.
Before naming your company, check out these tips from entrepreneurs who have been through the process, some of whom have even named the same company more than once.
1. Don’t rush the process.
There’s no set amount of time it should take for you to settle on a name for your company, but know that it could take six months of iterating before you make a final decision. An important thing to remember is to continue working on other aspects of the business as you get closer to picking a name, says Charlie Miner, founder of furniture and lighting e-commerce company WorkOf. “You don’t want the process of naming to prevent you from moving the business forward,” he says.
2. Think about your audience.
Venture capital database CB Insights was initially founded under the name Chubby Brain, something co-founder Anand Sanwal says represented his attempt to come up with a name that was cool, funky, and “startup-sounding.” Sanwal’s philosophy changed after he heard from the investment banks and other institutional clients that would be citing his startup’s data in their marketing materials. “Nobody wanted to put ‘Source: Chubby Brain’ at the bottom of a deck, because it’s not a real big credibility builder,” Sanwal says.
3. Make it easy to spell.
It’s okay to use unique spelling, a la Chick-fil-A, but don’t make your company’s name so unconventional that it’s hard to remember. “I’ve seen some startup names where I’ll think, was that four ‘E’s’ or three?” CB Insights’s Sanwal says.
4. Short is better than long.
Not every company can have a short, simple, one-syllable name like Box, Dell, or Lyft, but if you come up with a great long name and a great short name, you should probably go with the short one. Acquiring the rights to short web domain names, however, can be pricey, if not impossible, so make sure to check the availability of your desired URL first.
5. Factor in search engine optimization.
Making your company easy to find in search engines is an important consideration when picking a name. If you’re going to use a proper noun for your name, you should think about how that decision will impact SEO. Choosing a common term like “Bell,” for example, would make it hard to place your company on the first (or second) page of search results on Google.
6. Enlist a focus group (or groups).
Once you have a shortlist of names you like, it’s a good idea to see how other people respond to each one. “Survey as many people as you can,” says Bridie Loverro, co-founder of QuadJobs, an online marketplace connecting college and grad students to local employers. “The name to choose may not necessarily be the one people like best, but the one they remember most.”
7. Keep your options open.
Having to change your name after pivoting from one business model to another isn’t the end of the world, but if you can pivot and still retain the brand identity you’ve already built up, that’s ideal. Picking a name that doesn’t pigeonhole your company to one specific service will help. “The goal is to create something that is broad enough to intuitively answer who you are and that speaks to your core customer base, but also gives you room to grow into other areas,” says Logan Sugarman, co-founder of wellness concierge service Refresh Body.
8. Keep mobile in mind.
If customers can buy your products through a mobile app, you might want to factor in how your company name will look on a mobile app icon. A friendly sounding name like Shopify might also lend itself better to mobile users compared a three-letter acronym that doesn’t convey anything about your brand.
9. Don’t obsess over a descriptive name.
The name of your company doesn’t have to make it clear what your business is. While it helps to reference the spirit of your brand in some way (think: food delivery company Seamless), avoid a name that sounds specific to an entirely different industry. As Neil Patel, co-founder of web analytics company Crazy Egg writes, the name NomNom suggests food, and therefore doesn’t work if you’re starting a financial services software-as-a-service company.
10. Make the name visually distinctive.
After you pick your name, you should consider adding a custom feature that makes the brand more than just the word or words in the title. Some examples include unconventional capitalization, combining two words into one, or adding a unique design touch, like the curled “C” in the first letter of the bedding startup Casper. “It’s about developing a more fully fleshed out visual identity,” says WorkOf’s Miner.