You’ve covered every base, dotted every “i” and made the most of your resources, and the time has finally come: Your baby needs a name. Not the kind of baby that sleeps in a crib – the kind you are proud to introduce as your very own business.
We were reading about a restaurant recently and couldn’t get over the sheer ordinariness of its name. We won’t repeat it here, but let’s just say it fell along the lines of “Food and Table.” The place had a name that showed no imagination, thought or personalization, which is a huge missed opportunity. These business owners had come so far, courting investors, finding a space, hiring a chef and staff, and no doubt agonizing over the design aspect. Yet there was nothing about the name they chose that reflected their efforts. As a matter of fact, even the name “Food and Table” would have had a modern appeal to it, conjuring up images of minimal decor, silver industrial tables and maybe some ultra-modern chairs. “Food and Table” would have been a far better name than the one they came up with.
Which begs the question: How do you do it? How do you come up with the all-important name for your small business?
The first thing to keep in mind when opening up your own business is “Blood, Sweat and Tears.” Upon researching how the iconic band came up with their moniker, we discovered it was apparently inspired by the Johnny Cash album of the same name, which is, as he put it, was “a collection of songs for the working man.” Prior to that was this quote from Winston Churchill, in his first speech as Prime Minister to the House of Commons: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
Indeed, it takes blood, sweat, toil and tears to open up your own business, particularly in New York City – “The City of Champions.” A successful business needs a name that is professional, eye- and ear-catching and unique. The challenge is to take that flurry of virtues and condense them into a name, often the last step before you hang up your shingle. Here are some tips to keep in mind when choosing your name:
Remember the Client
First and foremost, your customers, clients and guests have to know what it is you’re presenting and offering. It’s wonderful if a name has a personal meaning, but if no one knows what some obscure word or phrase you have chosen means, they may just move on to the next option in their Google search. So hold back on naming the business after, say, a hit from your favorite band (which only charted in Japan) or the Italian phrase for “We are the Champions”(which, by the way, is “Noi siamo i campioni”).
When a name has an organic sound and a clear meaning, it’ll sing. If it’s too involved or perplexing, you’ll alienate your target demographic and confuse your mass audience. Think smart, and use your common sense. Personalized is great, as long as it fits your theme.
Save the Voting for Election Day
At this point, you’ve run a list of possible names by your family, your friends and even your favorite barista, who has, in turn, asked the rest of the staff at your local coffee shop. You’ve listened to what the masses have to say, and you are more confused than ever. Seeking this kind of wide consensus can lead to either a watered down name, or a name that has moved far away from the image you wanted to convey in the first place. Asking for advice is great, but it’s best to ask only your core group – the decision makers, the few who have an actual stake in your company’s success. Also, you can poll a nice (albeit small) mix of right-brained and left-brained people, combining the practical and the useful with the descriptive and the colorful.
“Simplicity is the Glory of Expression.” – Walt Whitman
No simpler way to say it other than “Keep it short.” Shorter names are easier to remember, and they stick with people..
Use Your Imagination
We use our imaginations constantly, and it is often noted that we remember using imagery. When selecting a name, try to come up with something that conjures up images immediately. Your clientele should get a mental picture when they think of your company’s name. Cross off any ideas that do not instantly paint a picture in your mind. If your company name does that, it may very well become the first go-to in its field.
Clever can be fun, but choosing to go down the path of wordplay can also make it more difficult for customers to remember you, let alone even find you. Depending on your business, it can also make potential clients think you’re less than serious about serving their needs. Resist the temptation to be cute.
You’re not AOL, KFC or J-Lo
It may seem like a good idea to abbreviate your business name to make it snappier and easier to remember. But as a small business owner, you won’t have the resources to educate your target customer on what your acronym means. So except in very unusual circumstances, spell it out.
Keep it Legal
Be sure not to borrow, modify or make any other use of an existing brand name. Calling your restaurant “Chick’s Fillet” will only cause you legal troubles down the road, and you’ll not doubt have to change it to something else eventually, at the very least.
Sound it Out, Spell it Out
Lastly, go back to square one. Make a list of all the services, products, offerings and customer service skills you and your staff possess, traits that you feel in your heart make your business unique. Literally go back to that English class in high school and list ten adjectives, ten benefits, ten unique ways you approach business that sets you apart. You’ll more than likely come up with a name you’ll love, and if it doesn’t happen immediately, doing those lists will eventually lead to your mind opening up, releasing ideas and ultimately landing on the perfect business name.
So now that you’ve learned the tricks, check out this list of some of the best and worst business names of all time.