As the saying goes: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. That's why coming up with good business name ideas is so important.
In this post we're going to take a close look at how you can come up with a great business name that will create the image you want to project to the world — to your prospects and clients.
When you get it right, it is so obvious that you can’t think of any other name.
Notable examples of great business names include:
- Oracle: the database as the ultimate source of all knowledge.
- Microsoft: software for micro computers (as they were then called).
- Tesla: the electric car company named after the inventor of alternating current (AC) Nikola Tesla.
- Google: read the case study below for the fascinating story that explains how Google got its name and what it means.
But how can you come up with such brilliant business name ideas? Please read on ...
The 3 elements of great business name ideas
Naming your business is one of the first and most important decisions you’ll ever make. Here’s what the best business names have in common.
They sound credible.
They look professional.
They’re relevant to what you do.
The key to hitting any target is knowing what you’re aiming for. Shoot for these three things.
1. They sound credible
The process of coming up with business name ideas starts introspectively, asking yourself key questions to establish the foundation of what your company is, what it does and what it will stand for. What image do you want to project to prospects and clients? If you’re not sure, answer these questions:
How do you look when dealing with your clients?
- What type of car do you drive?
- How clean is your car?
- Are you shoes polished or scuffed?
- Are your nails bitten or neatly manicured?
Don’t think it’s important? Guess again.
Why does the military make dress and deportment one of the most important aspects of the daily ritual? Because it matters — a LOT. Everyone judges everyone by their appearance and other superficial elements (height, ethnicity, gender, etc.). Just like in the military, the business world also judges businesses by their name, logo, slogan, graphic design and website — among so many other factors.
First impressions are the most important
First impressions include the services you provide and the products that you sell. However before you even get to this phase, the way you look and present yourself to your clients will determine if you even get a chance to pitch those services or products at all.
That starts (and can end) with your business name!
Think you’re off the hook if you are a sole practitioner, internet/web-based business or working from home? Guess again.
If you’re an independent consultant or business owner who has no staff or just a few employees, your image is even more important.
If you project an image that you are a small company — worse, if they think/know you’re working from home, you run the risk of not getting your foot in the door at bigger firms. Small companies today must present an image that they are bigger than what they actually are.
2. They look professional
Your business cards must be professionally designed and printed — not done from your home computer on perforated cards from an office supply store. I can’t say this enough: You’re better off with NO business card than a cheap one.
The same goes for business names. Take Boozle, the alcohol search engine, for example. This is a great business name for three reasons:
- It’s short and catchy.
- It describes the service it provides (i.e. a search engine dedicated to booze).
- It tips its hat to another well-known search engine.
I have seen many consultants and coaches who are wondering why they’re not making inroads growing their businesses. Simply put, they don’t LOOK successful.
Years ago, I had a friend who charged $40 per hour for his personal services. I told him to go out and buy the new BMW convertible he dreamed about so he could charge $80/hour. I explained that no one would pay that much if he kept his old Toyota — even if it was a Supra. He tripled his income within a year.
If buying a BMW isn’t in the cards, then go out and improve your clothing selections — TEST it and see what happens. You don’t have to spend $10,000 in one go. Just buy ONE really nice outfit and see what happens, notice how people treat you differently.
Image of course isn't everything. Your service and product have to rise to the occasion. However, you absolutely must have a great image in order to get a chance to open the door and have the opportunity to present.
3. They’re relevant to what you do
In 1920, the American mathematician Edward Kasner asked his 9-year-old nephew Milton Sirotta to invent a name for a monstrous number — 10 to the power of a hundred (the number one followed by a hundred zeros). Milton came up with the name “googol." The term later appeared in Mathematics and the Imagination, a book Kasner co-authored with James Newman.
In 1996, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, then students at Stanford University, began collaborating on a highly promising search engine called BackRub. The success of this venture began to attract investors. Searching for an appropriate name, the founders settled on a name which as you might have guessed created history. On Sept. 4, 1998, Google Inc. opened for business.
Imagine if Google had been named BackRub!
Now the world’s most popular search engine, you’d agree that Google, a name that appears senseless to most people, is just perfect. It’s a name that stands out from the competition.
Why? The Google name sits perfectly with the company’s mission to organise the seemingly infinite amount of information that’s available on the web. With the internet continuing to grow exponentially every single day, the name becomes more apt over time.
So how do you pick a true winner?
There’s been a lot written and said about how to think of the perfect name for a business. Many experts will tell you that abstract names are the best; to draw an image on a blank slate that would relate to a name. Others will tell you to think of a name that relates to your business, so customers know what you are selling.
Some believe that the best approach is to use coined names created from made-up words as these words can easily be memorized. Opponents of this theory claim that coined names are easily forgotten.
So how do you emerge through the confusion and give your business a name with absolute clarity?
Try a business name generator
There are a number of free online tools and resources to use in coming up with great business name ideas. During your brainstorming phase, you can use one of these business name generators to get inspired. A thesaurus is a must-have, along with services like these:
- With Wordnik you can find synonyms, equivalents, rhymes and reverse dictionary entries related to any English term you type in.
- Anadea generates business name ideas based on your industry.
- WordLab Business Name Generator serves up random business names from a database of millions.
- For those who like simplicity, Dot-o-mator displays a different random name whenever you click the button.
- Wordoid generates made-up words in English, Spanish, French, Italian and German.
Once you have a short list of names you like, check the availability of each with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). This should shorten the list you made using business name generators still further. At this point, many people will consult with family, friends, colleagues and prospective clients on their reactions to each name still under consideration.
Last, set up an online address
Whether you plan to build a website for your business now or in the future, registering the domain name that matches your business name is key.
Nothing is more confusing for customers than a business named Two Tone Curls with a web address that reads KristiesKuts.com.au.
In addition to being required for a website, you’ll need your own domain name in order to have a professional email address (e.g. Kristie@TwoToneCurls.com.au). This is quick and easy to do and is the minimum you MUST do to get going and growing with your business.
Check the domain availability
As soon as you have a short list of names that you like and you know aren’t already in use, the next step is to open a domain name search tool like GoDaddy’s and type your desired business name in. In seconds you’ll find out:
- If the domain name matching your prospective business name is available.
- What your options are if it’s already registered to someone else.
Find an available domain name that matches an available business name? Register both before anyone else has the chance to. Then order those business cards.
Try it now
Start your search for business name ideas
In their rush to start selling goods or services, many small business owners neglect or hurry through the task of naming their businesses. After all, they’re busy. But this is one task that’s worth spending time on, because your business name will be with you for the life of the business — and it can either help or hobble you.
So put in the time it takes to brainstorm, research and register a great company name. And remember, the best business names sound credible, look professional and are relevant to what you do. Dream big!