Congratulations! You’ve finally had that brilliant business idea, and are beginning the process to catapult your startup to international success. Now, the main obstacle standing between you and millions in VC funding is a business name that perfectly encapsulates your startup’s vision.
Three big business name disasters
While you may be tempted to settle on the first name that comes to mind and move on to pitching your idea to investors, this will set you up for disaster in the future.
Below, we’ve highlighted the three naming disasters that often befall startups, and have provided you with an effective process to avoid those pitfalls in order to find the perfect name for your startup.
Disaster 1: Not looking at linguistics
Don’t wait until you’re ready for international expansion to learn that your name means something offensive in another language. At the very least, use online translators to check the meaning in popular languages.
Disaster 2: Using a trademarked name
Due diligence is necessary when it comes to trademark issues, and always consult a professional. You can check for any obvious trademark conflicts on USPTO.gov; however, a comprehensive trademark check also requires checking for similar sounding names and spelling variations.
Disaster 3: Not validating your name
You might love your name, but if your target audience doesn’t, you’re back to the drawing board. Once you’ve narrowed your name down to a few options, run an online poll with your target demographic to help you understand which name connects with them more.
How to avoid business name disasters and find the perfect one
You now know how to mitigate disaster when it comes to naming your startup, but finding the perfect name may still seem elusive. These six steps will help you to craft the best name while keeping it legal, linguistically safe and validated.
Step 1: Write a statement of purpose
Put some time and effort into defining your startup concept. Start by jotting down short sentences that sum up your idea. Here is a simple formula for creating a basic statement of purpose for your startup:
[Great Business Name] helps [audience] [core benefits].
Step 2: Make a persona of your ideal customer
Think of the types of people who will benefit most from your idea and be most interested in it. This is your persona. Ask yourself questions like, “who am I naming this for?” and, “who should this name appeal to?” Think about demographics including age, gender, location and income. Define their goals and motivations, and jot down any relevant wants or desires.
Step 3. Validate your statement of purpose
Talk to real people who fit the persona you came up with in step two. Find out their opinions when it comes to your ideas or name. Use this information to make any required adjustments to your statement of purpose.
Step 4. Dig deep
Choosing a name is an important decision that can make or break your startup. To ensure you end up with the right name ideas on your shortlist, you should consider the following:
- Story: take a stab at writing your startup’s story – this should be a work in process as your company grows and evolves
- Customer benefits: create a list of short statements about why your ideal persona (from step two) will buy from you
- Emotions: decide how you want people to feel when they hear your company name. Are you serious, fun or hip?
- Models: make a list of names and brands that you love and some that you hate. While you should never copy a name, use this list as inspiration when creating your own name
Step 5. Get help
Don’t try to come up with the perfect name by yourself – brainstorming with others increases your chances of finding the best name. Make sure you do the following:
- Find your team: recruit your naming team and decide how you will communicate
- Share your naming brief: send your team your statement of purpose, personas, emotions, story, benefits and models to help guide the brainstorm
- Write down every name: include all name suggestions with notes
- Consider every idea: go through every name submitted carefully
- Provide feedback: respond to ideas with your opinion and any ideas of your own about how the name could be modified to fit your aims better
Sharing the naming process with others will not only help you with the creative aspect of naming, but it will also aid you in honing the foundations of your startup.
Step 6. Make a shortlist
Continue to brainstorm and whittle down your list until you have a short list of name ideas that you can test with your target audience. Make sure that your shortlisted names avoid the naming disasters listed above.
Finding a fitting, evocative and disaster-free name is one of many important hurdles you must overcome when getting your startup off the ground. Following this methodology will help you create a name that resonates strongly with your customers while avoiding any trademark issues or linguistic embarrassments in the future.