What is in a Name? Shakespeare Clearly Never Had to Name a Startup (Here are 5 Steps for Doing it Right)

No offense to anyone, Shakespeare was a great playwright and poet, but in Romeo and Juliet he wrote:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

While roses would smell the same by any other name, I really don’t think they’d be very memorable or popular if they were called something like ‘Cosmos atrosanguineus’ (which is btw a rare flower also known as Chocolate Cosmos).

Rare flowers of the world

Chocolate Cosmos or Cosmos atrosanguineus, one of the rarest flowers in the world.

Imagine Robert Burns wrote his famous poem ‘A Red, Red Rose’ with the name Cosmos atrosanguineus. It would read something like:

O my Luve is like a red, red cosmos atrosanguineus….

…and Robert Burns, in his grave he turns.

Okay, I think that’s enough to make a point. Names matter.

Names matter more than you and Mr. Shakespeare think. Today, when there are literally tons of ‘roses’ in the market, a good name is what makes one stand out.

This is even more important in the tech world, because startups with catchy names go a long way, not just in the sense of traditional marketing but online marketing as well. This is why, today we’re going to discuss some of the most important things to consider before choosing a name for your startup.

Some facts about people picking names

They say wise people learn from the experiences of others. So let’s start with what other people think about the names they picked for their businesses.

According to a research conducted by Wakefield Research, 52% people say they would change their business’ name if they got a chance.

That’s more than half of business owners thinking they picked the wrong name. That shows us, naming can be very frustrating, especially now that all businesses need online presences.

You will be surprised how difficult it can be to find a good domain name to go with your startup.

Research says:

  • 49% of Small Business Owners with a website or blog are not completely satisfied with their current domain name.
  • 57% of Small Business Owners with a website or blog say that finding a good domain name for their business was just as difficult, or more difficult, than naming their baby!
  • 46% of Small Business Owners say they are more likely to find a $100 bill on the street than to find a great .com domain name that hasn’t already been taken.
Small business naming issues

Courtesy go.co

All this only goes to show the importance of picking the right name and finding the right balance between what you want and what is available on the internet. Now let’s take a look at some key factors to consider.

Establish a mental image of your brand first

Before you name anything, you need to establish a mental image of it. Your business is your brand and the name you pick needs to convey the ‘feel’ of your brand. For instance, say out these names loud and think about how they ‘feel’ – Rod – Richard – Randy – Radcliffe – they all sound and feel different.

business mental image

Make sure you convey the right mental image to your users.

Likewise, you need to think about how you want your business to sound and feel like. Is it something quirky like Gizmodo or Kaggle – something casual like Facebook or Twitter or something formal like Time and Fortune?

All these names create a subconscious brand image in your mind which is then associated with not only the brand but the products/services as well, and that is how your customers/users will see you.

Hence, the image you want your brand to portray is a big consideration.

The secret to a memorable name (syllables are key)

This is a tried and tested formula. Names which are not memorable are…well, not very good, and the easiest way to increase the memorability of your name is by keeping it short.

By short we don’t necessarily mean short in terms of characters.

Granted names like Tin, Bin and Rin are easy to remember, but so are names like Yahoo, Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit and Google.

What do these names have in common? They all have two syllables. Ya-hoo, You-tube, Face-book, Pin-terest, Red-dit and Goo-gle.

Syllables for Names

Syllables are key when it comes to memorability.

When you’re picking a name, keep in mind that you need to look for something that rolls off the tongue easily and is catchy. While many people will tell you this, they won’t tell you how to achieve it.

The secret lies in the syllables. While names with three syllables are not bad, two syllables are what you should be aiming for. Once you get the hang of this, you can’t really go wrong.

Coming up with the right options

Before you go shopping, you need to have options. Even if you feel like it, don’t go for a name on impulse alone. After some time, especially a couple of days, you’ll start to realize that the first choice wasn’t the best.

That’s why its important to have options so you can pick and choose objectively (we will discuss objectivity later in this post).

having options

Having options is never really bad. Well, almost never.

Don’t use name generators though, they are terrible. Your business’ name needs to be the outcome of a creative process. You don’t want to name yourself Best Cars, or #1 Tissues. You want to be going for something that has a unique factor as well.

You need to remember that your name will determine whether you stand out, so you also have to be careful about picking options that sound too similar to other business names.

For instance, Yike, like Nike, wouldn’t really be able to establish its own identity. It will always remind your users/consumers about Nike, and well, you may have business and sales, but you’ll be doing Nike a bigger favor every time your own business grows.

Think about names that come to your mind (apply the two-syllable rule), ask your coworkers/employees, check with family and friends after briefing them about the brand image you have in mind. Once you have a couple of names, write them down on a whiteboard and then weigh them against each other.

Check for available domain names (TLDs open new possibilities)

Before you get stuck on any one name, its important to check all the available domain names. You’ll be very frustrated if you spend hours debating and arguing a name only to find out that it wasn’t available on the internet.

While ‘.com’ domains are not always available, new TLDs open new possibilities. Think List.ly, Import.io, Believe.in, Indievoic.es.

A lot of people will tell you .com is the only way to go, and while there are reasons for such advice (SEO and easy urls etc.); you, as a startup or business owner, are not very likely to be critically affected by any negatives.

In fact, if you search for ‘yourturn’ on Google, the first result will be Seth Godin’s website about his book ‘yourturn.link’ – so rest assured, non .com domains also rank well on search engines.

Think like your target audience (be objective)

Preferences are always ‘subjective’. You may prefer to be called King-of-the-World, but that doesn’t mean you should keep that as your name.

You need to think about people who will actually be saying, writing, typing and remembering your name. In other words, you need to go with something that has the potential to become popular at a mass level as opposed to something that only a very small niche of people can understand or relate to.

That’s pretty much it. Following these tips and steps, you should be able to come up with some great names for your startup. You can also share your naming ideas with us via comments or the MuslimInc Community Forum to get responses from a host of entrepreneurs.

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