There are two schools of thought for choosing a name. First, you can choose a name that represents what your business does. Businesses like Bank of America, Ford Motor Co. Home Depot, UnitedHealth Group and AT&T (originally American Telephone & Telegraph) use this strategy. When you hear the name of one of these businesses, you immediately recognize what industry the business is in and what the business probably does. The primary benefit of this strategy is that you don’t need to teach your customers what your brand is about. For example, at USGolfTV it’s immediately clear to our viewers and our readers that we produce golf video and content in the United States. The downside is that it can be harder to build a very unique brand if your business has a generic name.
The other strategy is to make up a brand new name and build a brand around it. This doesn’t necessarily mean the name of your business is a word that no one has ever heard of before, but it does mean that no one else has used it in your industry. For example, the word “apple” has been around since the dawn of the English language, but it wasn’t until Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple Inc. that the word “apple” meant anything in the computer industry. Some companies that use the “brand new name” strategy include Walmart, Exxon Mobil, Verizon, Kroger, Amazon.com, Boeing, Wells Fargo and Procter & Gamble. The two main benefits of using this strategy is that you have the opportunity to define the meaning of your brand to your customers and you can be certain that no one else is using your name. The downside is that you have to take the time to educate your target market about what your brand means, which can cost both time and money.
While both of these naming strategies are viable for your online authority publishing business, I tend to lean toward business names where it’s immediately clear what the business does based on its name. You also don’t have to spend precious ad dollars educating your audience what your brand means and can instead direct precious ad dollars toward advertising that directly generates sales. It’s also statistically unlikely that your business will ever be a billion-dollar brand as an online entrepreneur, so it’s okay if you miss out on some of the branding opportunities that having a totally unique name affords.
What Makes a Good Name
The criteria that make for a good brand name can be somewhat difficult to define. While we can often recognize a good brand name when we hear it, it can be challenging to communicate why that particular brand name is effective. As part of the research for this chapter, I went through and reviewed the names of hundreds of major brands and found a few commonalities that I believe make for a great brand name. While these guidelines are not universal, many good brand names meet the following criteria:
- Short and Concise – Good brand names tend to be short brand names. The names of Fortune 500 companies tend to be between two and five syllables long. Try to avoid any brand name that’s longer than five syllables because names that are longer than five syllables tend to be less memorable and harder to establish in the minds of your potential customers.
- Memorable – The name of your business should be memorable to everyone. You should be able to tell someone the name of your business and they should be able to recall the name of your business 48 hours later. If you want to test whether or not your name idea is memorable, call five of your friends and mention your name idea in passing. Two days later, call them back up and ask them if they remember what the name of your business is. If they remember it accurately, you know that your name passes the memorability test.
- Easy to Pronounce – Good brand names tend to smoothly roll off your tongue. If your name is difficult to pronounce, it will also be difficult to remember. Try to say the name of your business idea ten times in rapid succession. If repeating the name of your business ten times fast becomes a tongue twister, you might want to consider a smoother sounding name for your online business.
- Defines What Your Business Does – I truly believe that the best brand names inherently define what your business does. If you can identify a concise, memorable and easy-to-pronounce name that also defines what your business does, you know you have a winner.
How to Come up with Name Ideas
There is no step-by-step process that will guarantee that you come up with a good name idea. You might come up with a bunch of name ideas during a brainstorming session. You might get a great name idea from a friend, a coworker or someone on Facebook. The name idea you end up using might come to you in the shower while your subconscious is doing the thinking for you. There might even be a business in a different industry whose name you like and want to create a variation of for your business. While there’s no sure-fire way to find the perfect name idea, there is an exercise that you can do that will help get your mental juices flowing and will help you come up with some initial ideas.
This exercise, which I like to refer to as word crunching, involves coming up with words that are used in your industry and combining them with other words in hopes of coming up with name ideas. The first step is to think of all of the words that describe your niche. In the investing world, I would list words like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, investing, markets, Wall Street and trading. Once you have run out of ideas, run each word through Thesaurus.com to get additional ideas for words that describe your niche. Ideally, you’ll have as many as 20 different words that you could potentially use as part of your business name.
The next step is to look up a list of common prefixes and suffixes on the Internet. Prefixes and suffixes are simply words that you attach to the beginning or the end of one of the words that are used to describe your industry. You can find a number of good lists of prefixes and suffixes by searching for “domain prefixes list” and “domain suffixes list” on Google. Lean Domain Search has made a list of the 5,000 most commonly used domain prefixes and suffixes at http://www.leandomainsearch.com/top-domain-name-prefixes-and-suffixes. Some common suffixes would include words like blog, guide, advice, info, hq, report, journey and tutorial.
After you have a list of industry words and a list of common suffixes and prefixes, start creating combinations of industry words and prefix and suffixes to come up with name ideas. For my investing example, you might come up with names like MarketBlog, WallStreet Guide, Trading Advice, Market Info, StocksHQ, WallStreet Report, Investor’s Journey or Trading Tutorial. Spend 30 minutes coming up with as many combinations as you can, then choose the 5-10 names that you like the most. You might immediately find a winning name in that list. You also might have a list of decent names to choose from or you might not have any good names in the bunch at all. Again, there’s no perfect process to choose a name for your business. You just have to keep mulling over ideas until the right name shows up.
How to Choose Between Multiple Name Ideas
If you are trying to decide between multiple name ideas, there are several things that you can do narrow the list down to a single choice:
- Check Your Ideas Against the “What Makes a Good Name” Criteria – Earlier in the chapter, there’s a list of criteria for what makes a good name. For each name idea, verify that it is short and concise, memorable, easy to pronounce and defines what your business does.
- Conduct a Facebook Poll – In any Facebook group that you are a part of, you can create a poll of different name ideas. Have the other people in the group vote on your list of name ideas to get some public feedback. It often works well to poll various business groups that you might be a part of on Facebook. If you’re not part of a group, you can post the question on your personal Facebook profile, but you will just have to ask respondents to comment their choice since polls aren’t currently available on personal Facebook profiles.
- Create a PickFu Poll – For a small fee, PickFu (www.pickfu.com) allows you to poll their network of respondents for feedback your name ideas. Using their service, you can create a poll that lists all of your name ideas and they will have several dozen respondents choose which of your name ideas they like best. The respondents will also provide you feedback why they might like one name idea over another.