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How to name your business (and how it impacts sales)

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How to name your business (and how it impacts sales)

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How would you feel if I told you that Google was originally named BackRun? Well, first you’d probably Google it, and then you’ll most definitely cringe at least a little! Imagine saying “Why don’t you BackRub it?”

And that’s a simple lesson in why brand names matter. Your business’s name directly impacts your monetary success. It decides how your customers see you, and is the building block of your reputation. 

How a business name impacts sales

Naming a business is linked to branding. However, its impact on sales today, especially with a buzzing e-commerce landscape, is exponential. Hence, naming can no longer be thought of as an auxiliary activity or as a creative embellishment. A good name almost directly translates to good business for the following reasons: 

  1. It can create buzz: A unique or compelling name will catch the user’s attention, especially on social media. It’s one of the easiest ways to market your business. The name could be a buzzword or create curiosity among potential customers. This buzz can quickly turn into higher sales if recognized at the perfect time.  
  2. Your name is your talking point: As Jeff Bezos famously said, “your brand is what people are saying about you when you leave the room.” Name is part of the brand. A well thought-out name that is compatible with brand values can stay with customers. The more they talk about your business, the more people hear about it, and the higher your chances of sales.  
  3. High TOMA: Top of Mind Awareness (TOMA) is a brand metric that measures how well brands rank with consumers. A name will most likely be the first thing they notice about your business. If a customer remembers your name and spots your product, they’re more likely to choose it as compared to a name that’s forgotten. This can be achieved with memorable names that stir up powerful emotions. High TOMA also means you can save on marketing efforts aimed at building repeat customers if they remember you from the first time! 

In a nutshell, naming your brand is serious business. At Squadhelp, we’ve done this more than 30,000 times. So, I’d like to first share the core naming process with you:

How to find an epic name for your business

Understand the brand

A major misconception is that you need an enchanting and mind-blowing name to help your brand stand out. But this smashing name will fall flat if it doesn’t connect to your brand. Your brand is who you are and how you want to be seen. The branding process directly impacts your naming process. 

Let’s say, you open a chocolate shop. You could name your business based only on the fact that it sells chocolates. But it doesn’t offer your customer any way to connect to you. Your brand, however, could be that you care about the smaller things in life. Instantly, there’s a hook for anyone who values the same ideology. 

To understand your brand, keep narrowing it down and winnowing out any additional elements. Ultimately, you should be left with one line, which in the business world, is called Value Proposition or elevator pitch or Unique Selling Proposition.

Understanding your brand also means thinking deeply about its tone and values. Which emotions do you want to evoke in your audience? I strongly suggest choosing from one of these five: Modern, Emotionally Powerful, Pragmatic, Playful and Fun or Pre-eminent. This exercise will greatly clarify in your mind what your brand is – a question many established brands still fail to coherently respond to Once you have the answer, your audience has the answer.  

Brainstorm name ideas

Now, on to the fun and creative part – brainstorm a lot of names, the bad ones too. This is your chance to be bold, unique, quirky and anything else that you want. Here’s Squadhelp’s name ideas page to kickstart your naming process

This can also be a fun team activity, if you have one at this stage. While brainstorming, you might end up thinking of hundreds of names so in order to give some structure to the process, you can begin with a few techniques. For example, misspelled names are quite the norm as their domains can be easier to grab, and they sound modern (Lyft, Tumblr, Flickr). You can think of some such names and play around with the spelling. Another method is short, real-word names that stir up curiosity. Popular examples are Apple, Slack, Zoom, among others. These methods can help you get started but don’t be afraid to try out any other new and unusual ideas. You can also think of synonyms, rhyming words, alliterations, in-your-face names such as The Honest Company, etc. 

This step is not about analysing which names are good or bad but only about gathering ideas. Go crazy, think-outside-the-box, and get your markers ready for the next step.

Shortlist 

Obviously, not all ideas during brainstorming will be great. But, I strongly recommend you note down the bad names too. It’ll help you understand what fits your brand and what doesn’t. Now, you must begin to go through each name and discuss them with a team or seek help from friends. When you work with others, you are much more likely to have a broader and fairer perspective. You can also share a naming brief with them so they’re evaluating each brief for the parameters you would have picked in Step 1.

Provide and seek feedback on each name to understand what works and what doesn’t or if it can be modified to better fit your brand. Plan to end this step with a list of 5-6 names. 

Validate

You’re now very close to picking your business name. But you must first pass a few key tests to ensure that it is the right name for you. 

  • Domain: Check if the domain name is available. The ideal domain name that you should aim for is is [yourbusiness].com but such a coveted domain name will, in most cases, require a hefty investment. In fact, most short, real English words are taken or are very expensive. If you have a tight budget, try checking .co, adding your name to the business name, and so on.  
  • Trademarks: You may not love this is an integral step of the naming process. Almost all words in the dictionary are trademarked to some extent. So, get your name vetted by a legal professional to ensure it hasn’t already been trademarked. Hence, it can help to choose a unique or misspelt name, depending on domain availability, brand compatibility, etc. Ensure you do all the due diligence in this process as using a trademarked name can invite a cease and desist letter – the last thing you want as a new business.  
  • Audience test: Run your name by as many friends, acquaintances, family members, strangers as possible. Ultimately, it’s them who will probably use the name more than you do so it’s important to communicate with them. Write down feedback, use analytics, and decipher which name sits well with the audience. Remember, this could be vastly different than the name you had picked out but what your target audience thinks matters more here. You can also do a linguistic analysis test at this time to understand the name’s meanings in other languages, spot any red flags or any complex pronunciations. 

The ultimate (underrated) tool to ace naming

As mentioned, the entire naming process rests on really understanding your brand. While that sounds fairly simple on paper, the activity requires a great deal of thinking, researching, visualising, analysing, and so on. But there is one highly underrated tool that can immensely help you: Brand Imagination. 

Brand Imagination is the ability to imagine, envision, and become excited about the elements of a brand, and how they converge. 

This concept stresses on getting thrilled about your brand. Do you have a brand identity that gets you going? Many names will check off every box in the naming checklist but not whip up excitement or hope. And underwhelmed brands rarely lead to excited audiences. That’s the gap brand imagination can help you bridge. 

When narrowing down your brand’s values, tone, value proposition, and so on, visualise your brand. Picture its colours, font, which emotion it evokes, and match these with what you intended the brand to do. Once again, since this process requires you to run with your imagination, don’t be afraid to explore the unknown or unprecedented. Slack, for example, is an extreme outlier. The name is quite the opposite of what they do yet it is modern, punchy, cool, and works wonderfully! 

Brand names are quintessential to your business’s sales, success, and reputation. So, naming your venture deserves your utmost attention and should be done methodically. Begin with clearly stating what you do, then visualising and setting your brand’s expectations, understanding what it stands for and what hook it can have with customers. This groundwork puts you in a great position to then begin brainstorming a ton of name ideas, shortlisting according to your brand’s values and image, validating for a domain name, trademark, and for your potential audience’s interest.

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