Name your business like an expert

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Name your business

A name can mean a lot when it comes to small-business success. The right name can make your company the talk of the town. The wrong one can make it fail.

Preferably, your name should convey the expertise, value and uniqueness of the product or service you have developed.

The best names are abstract, a blank slate upon which to create an image. Some says names should be informative so customers know immediately what your business is. Some believe that coined names (that come from made-up words) are more memorable than names that use real words. Others think they’re forgettable.

A good marketing strategy is the key to make any name effective.

Coming up with a good business name can be a complicated process. Your company name may influence the success of your business. Naming firms have elaborate systems for creating new names and they know their way around the trademark laws. They can advise you against bad name choices and explain why others are good.

The downside is cost. A professional naming firm may charge as much as $80,000 for complete package with graphic design, to develop a name.

Start by deciding what you want your name to communicate. It should reinforce the key elements of your business.

The more your name communicates to consumers about your business, the less effort you must exert to explain it. According to naming experts, entrepreneurs should give priority to real words or combinations of words over fabricated words.

On the other hand, it is possible for a name to be too meaningful.
Common pitfalls are geographic or generic names.

How can a name be both meaningful and broad? Descriptive names tell something concrete about a business — what it does, where it’s located and so on. Suggestive names are more abstract. They focus on what the business is about.

Consider “Italiatour,” a name that was developed by one naming company to help promote package tours to Italy. Though it’s not a real word, customers can recognize immediately what’s being offered. Even better, “Italiatour” evokes the excitement of foreign travel.

When choosing a business name, keep the following tips in mind:

1. Choose a name that appeals not only to you but also to the kind of customers you are trying to attract.

2. Choose a comforting or familiar name that conjures up pleasant memories so customers respond to your business on an emotional level.

3. Don’t pick a name that is long or confusing.

At a time when almost every existing word in the language has been trademarked, the option of coining a name is becoming more popular. Some examples are Acura and Compaq, which were developed by naming firm NameLab.

New words are complex and may create a perception that the product, service or company is complex, which may not be true. Plus, naming beginners might find this sort of coining beyond their capabilities.

An easier solution is to use new forms or spellings of existing words.

For instance, NameLab created the name Compaq when a new computer company came to them touting its new portable computer. The team thought about the word “compact” and came up with Compaq, which they believed would be less generic and more noticeable.

After you’ve narrowed the field to four or five names that are memorable and expressive, you are ready to do a trademark search. Not every business name needs to be trademarked, as long as your state government gives you the go-ahead and you aren’t infringing on anyone else’s trade name.

If you’re lucky, you’ll end up with three to five names that pass all your tests. Now, how do you make your final decision?

Recall all your initial criteria. Which name best fits your objectives? Which name most accurately describes the company you have in mind?

Some entrepreneurs arrive at a final decision by going with their gut or by doing consumer research or testing with focus groups to see how the names are perceived. You can doodle an idea of what each name will look like on a sign or on business stationery. Read each name aloud, paying attention to the way it sounds if you foresee radio advertising or telemarketing in your future. Use any or all of these criteria.

Keep in mind that professional naming firms devote anywhere from six weeks to six months to the naming process.

Once your decision is made, start building your enthusiasm for the new name immediately. Your name is your first step toward building a strong company identity, one that should last as long as you’re in business.

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