If you follow me on social you probably know that my son is bilingual. German daddy, American mommy. Before he was born, we spent hours and HOURS fighting over names.
The name we would give our baby boy had to work in both languages, had to be pronounceable by all of our relatives, it had to fit our combined personalities, be original, and not carry with it any weird cultural suggestions.
Long (LONG) story short, the whole process of selecting a baby name was a lot like choosing a business name. The process got me thinking about the format for coming up with a business name that projects your personality, and supports your brand for years.
Where To Start
There are really just 2 steps to choosing an incredible name for your new project. Brainstorming and editing. Creative people will probably find this process familiar. The first step to producing some amazing new design, an inspiring piece of content, a stellar end product, is to let those creative juices start to flow.
— Olivia Derby (@OliviaRDerby) March 31, 2016
Once you’ve got that “feeling” and you’re headed in the right direction it’s time to take all of that creative energy and channel it into something you can work with. This is like coming up with a list of 20 names you think you “kinda like”, or 5 different sketches you can get excited about.
This next step is the editing phase. This can be the hardest part of the process because it requires applying a critical eye. Take a look at your work and get rid of the redundant, ask questions that make you feel uncomfortable, and trim, pare, and scale unto you get to something that is fantastic.
What do you do? What do you want your customers/clients to feel like when they see your brand? Who are you as a creative and entrepreneurial person?
Ask yourself the big questions about what it is your goals are and who you envision your company to grow into. Think about your blog or business as a “who” instead of a “what”. Write down your values, your mission, the characteristics you want to embrace above all else and what your customers, clients, or audience should see/think/experience through your work.
2) Create a Persona
I always like to think of any new project as a person. It helps me understand what my audience will think of when they are first introduced to the idea. Creating a profile of your company, almost the same way you would create a profile for yourself, helps direct you towards a name that fits your audience and your mission. Does your profile sound more like a he or a she? Is it more of a thing or more of a style? An object or a way of thinking?
I once had a client who was in the process of opening a hair salon. She and her partners had such a clear idea of who their clients were and how they wanted to be perceived, they kept referring to the company as a “she”. After toying with several really clever names that all had something to do with “hair”, they decided that a name that sounded like a salon just didn’t fit. They ended up naming their studio “Maude” and it fits so well with their vision. “Maude” needed a name that could project an attitude and a style that only a person could.
So, how about your business? Is it a person, place, an object, a movement, or something else entirely? Figure it out and describe it like one.
More To Think About
Of course the name you run with should be unique and stand out, but it also needs to be easy to spell, comfortable to say, quick to be remembered, and fit nicely into a domain. Beyond the basics though, there are a few more categories you should consider when choosing a name for your blog or business.
I’m sure you’ve heard it over and over again. New entrepreneurs are continually told to “focus”. Narrow your idea down to one, concentrated plan which you can build on later. Although this is great advice for productivity and following through on your goals, it might not be the best strategy for a business name. Because so many creative entrepreneurs start out doing one thing and find their businesses evolve and grow over time, a great name should be able to grow with you.
For example, “Pretty Pink Planners” may sound like a great idea for the name of a business that sells classic feminine design stationary and planners, but what if, a year or so down the road, you find yourself shifting your focus. Maybe the photography you’ve used to market your original planners has found you a base of fans and your business has turned into more of a wedding photography or a product styling venture. The name “Pretty Pink Planners” suddenly stops making sense and starts to require more explanation than you have time for.
If you’re a creative entrepreneur this should be the fun part. Your name should be unique and inspiring. The name should stand out on the web and in your industry.
It’s easy to be influenced, subconsciously even, by the things we see online. Once you’ve got a few ideas for the name, research them. Devote some serious time to uncovering other people using the name you’ve picked and anything similar.
Avoid using “creative” spellings of common words. People have trouble remembering unusual versions of things they know very well.
Your brand is a reflection of you. Make sure it’s ACTUALLY unique.
You’ve settled on an awesome name, you’ve got a super cool domain figured out, and you’re just about to hit that “buy” button, moments before you take the plunge your husband (or son/daughter/bff) leans over your shoulder and says “how come your domain says “Got A Hoe North?”
(Gotahoenorth.com is an ACTUAL website for Lake Tahoe. I’m not kidding. I’m still laughing.)
Anyways, to save you from an accidentally inappropriate domain, make sure you’re reading your domain in as many different ways as possible. Look for words hidden within words and double meanings.
Aside from alternate meanings, make sure the majority of the population can actually pronounce your business name. Be cautious about using made up words, it’s hard to refer a company when you can’t remember the name.
While you’re mulling over your new name, think about the feeling it gives someone who reads it. Is it perky and energetic? Long, drawn out and luxurious? Quirky and sarcastic? Does that feeling match up with your brand? Consider what type of personality your customer will expect from the name, and whether or not you want to be that same company?
5) International Appeal
One of the first things I learned while living abroad was that perfectly normal words in one language can be HILARIOUS in another. Need some proof? Go look up the word for “drive”.
Even if you’re sure you will only be operating in your home country, it’s always worth the time to do a little research. The name of your choice could sound silly or even offensive in another language.
Once you’ve invested the time to create a name that you love, and given it some honest critiques, don’t let anybody rain on your parade. If you love what you’re building, you will be successful.