How to Choose a Business Name for Your Startup

Most new entrepreneurs don’t think about their startup name too much but it’s a big deal. Choosing the right name for your business is as crucial as naming your newborn. Just like how an awkward name can make your child’s life unnecessarily complicated, a bad business name can stifle your company’s growth.

Don’t believe it? Check out this list of famous companies that all ended up changing their names:

  • Cadabra » Amazon
  • Sound of Music » Best Buy
  • Research in Motion » Blackberry
  • AuctionWeb » eBay
  • BackRub » Google
  • DrivUrSelf » Hertz
  • Burbn » Instagram
  • Blue Ribbon Sports » Nike
  • Japan Optical Industries Co. » Nikon
  • Marafuku Company » Nintendo
  • Brad’s Drink » Pepsi
  • Stag Party » Playboy
  • Sky Peer-to-Peer » Skype
  • Unadulterated Food Products » Snapple
  • Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo » Sony
  • Cargo House » Starbucks
  • Pete’s Super Submarines » Subway
  • Goodfellow's Dry Goods » Target
  • Walton’s Five and Dime » Walmart
  • Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web » Yahoo

So how do you choose the right name for your startup? Here are a few tips to get your creative juices flowing.

Keep it generic

In 1945, an entrepreneur named Sam Walton opened a business called “Walton’s Five and Dime.” By 1969, that company was renamed “Walmart.” Sam Walton had to change the name of his business because he realized that a more generic name would allow him to expand his business model and it would also appeal to his target audience much better due to its simplicity.

Although it’s not impossible to change the name later, it’s much more difficult than starting with the right one from the beginning. Once your company is established and well-known, rebranding it will cost a lot of time and money, resources that can be better utilized elsewhere to grow your business.

Keep it simple

While names like Fiverr and Flickr do work, these companies had to spend millions on marketing alone to reinforce their brands to prevent potential customers from getting confused.

Once these companies grew, they even had to acquire the correct spelling of their domain names, fiver.com and flicker.com, as customers would easily misspell them in their web browser. Flickr eventually spent over a whopping $600,000 to buy the domain flicker.com. Yikes!

Make it memorable

It’s a bad sign if people have to keep asking you the name of your company. You want a name that is catchy and memorable so it stays on top of people’s minds.

Jot down a bunch of ideas and make a list of names you like. Then rank them based on their length. The shorter ones will generally be easier to remember.

The world is changing and a company’s brand name is becoming more and more important by the day. Having a unique and memorable business name is the only way for a new company to stand out from the crowd.

A great product alone just won’t cut it when you have millions of businesses around the world with similar products and services competing for customer attention.

Evoke a feeling

Humans are emotional creatures that primarily rely on their feelings to make decisions. This means your future customers will care about how your brand name makes them feel when they’re comparing you against your competitors. You want a business name that evokes a feeling inside them that coincides with your brand image.

Test it out

Don’t keep the name you like a secret. Talk to other people about it. Mention it to your friends, family, coworkers, or neighbors for valuable feedback. Ask for their first impression because that’s likely what your potential customers will be thinking about when they first hear your business name.

Amazon was originally named "Cadabra," like the magician's phrase "abracadabra." But Jeff Bezos decided to change it after noticing that his lawyer confused it with the word “cadaver” which is used to refer to a dead body.

Check for conflicts

Before you commit to a name, check to see if there are any other businesses that use that same name especially those that are in the same industry as you.

Start with a quick BackRub (Google it). Then look through your Secretary of State’s database. Follow that up with a trademark search. Make sure there aren’t any potential conflicts before moving forward to avoid major legal headaches down the road.

If you find any potential conflicts for the name you like, move on to the next one on your list. Otherwise, consult a trademark attorney to see if your name infringes on another trademark. Sometimes if the business using your name is in another industry, you may still be able to use it.

Get the domain

In today’s tech-savvy world, it’s crucial to have a domain name that matches your company name. And you can’t just grab one with any random extension like .net, .org, or .co. It has to be a .com, the most popular and trusted extension online. If you don’t own the .com then you’re just giving away free traffic to whoever does because that’s where a lot of your potential customers will go.

The problem is that finding a great domain name is like looking for a needle in the haystack. Most are already taken and existing domain owners want outrageous prices in return.

This is why we built Alter, a domain marketplace that connects entrepreneurs with premium business names. Names found on the marketplace are priced at market value, come prepackaged with a .com domain and even a professionally designed logo. Each name is carefully hand-picked by our team based on a number of factors including its meaning, length, pronounceability, memorability, and its overall brand potential to make the business naming process super easy for entrepreneurs.

Final thoughts

Choosing a business name for a new company can seem like a daunting task at first just like when you’re about to name a newborn. But once you get through it, you will thank yourself later when your business starts to reap its benefits. No matter what name you end up picking, remember to enjoy the journey because that’s what life is all about.

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