What’s in a Name?


Shakespeare says, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” While this is certainly true, how likely are you to go smell a patch of, let’s say for giggles, “Big Ugly Trash Rats?” Your name makes a difference. It’s the first thing people hear and it’s how they reference you in their mind.

So let’s get down to it. Where do you even start?

Step 1 – Initial Brain Dump.

Start here. Put the computer away, seriously. Hit that little power button and turn it off.  Break out the Sharpie and some sticky notes (paper will work too, I just have an unhealthy obsession with sticky notes). A Sharpie (or pen) is key; you don’t want to erase any thoughts, not at this stage.

Ask yourself some basic questions about your business and its personality. Here’s just a few: What do you want to be known for? If you could leave people with one thought about your business what would it be? Why are you doing what you are doing?

Turn those answers into key words or phrases and write them all down on your paper – with your pen!

Step 2 – Go Wide!

Take those keywords, and EXPAND. Power Thesaurus is your friend! Look for similar words, phrases that express the same feeling. Have fun with it.

Figure out new combinations. Try some mashups – make new words out of smashing two other words together.  

Step 3 – Focus.

You have this big mess of sticky notes scattered across your floor, wall, or whatever other space you have taken over with your variety of office supplies. What next? It’s time to focus, to narrow down your choices to some top contenders, about 2-3 to move onto the next step.

Set some criteria for narrowing down your list. Keep in mind your final choices should be:

  • Simple– It should roll off the tongue, not too long. Aim for about 15 characters or less and 3 syllables or less.  Shorter names work well on social media (think character name limits on user names and even in Twitter posts).
  • Scalable – Try not to use limiting terms. For example, if you plan to expand your business beyond the one service you are offering now, make sure your name is inclusive enough to grow with you. Can it move with you if you add services, will you have to rebrand?
  • Available
    • Trademarks – You can search to see if there is already a trademark on your desired name. First do a search on USPTO. You can also search on something like Trademarkia
    • Domains – When searching for your domain, use a tool like Domize. This tool provides a private search unlike other sites which can be monitored. A public search can be used by domain purchasers to snatch up your domain and try to resell it for more money! (believe me, this has happened to me).
    • Social Media – Are your social media handles available for the name? If not are there variations you can try?

Step 4 – Test it Out.

Take the names out into the world! You can only really tell if it works for you, if it’s memorable, and observe people’s reactions to it by putting it out there.

Say it out loud, use it as you are networking. How do people respond? How does it feel for you to use it in conversation, does it roll off the tongue? Are you confident using it?

So there you have it: after you test you should have a good idea of which name really represents the personality of your business. Do you have a Rose or a Big Ugly Trash Rat? What techniques did you use to name your business? Share your stories below.