So far this has been absolutely the hardest thing I have done for this new business. I spent countless hours over months trying to come up with a name. I’m happy with my final choice but I could have done without the pain of finding it.
Since this is going to at least initially be an online business one of the most important aspects of the company name is can I get the right domain name for the website. In case you don’t know, the domain name is the “google.com”. There can be only one site using “google.com” and it is owned by Google (or maybe their parent company Alphabet). So you can’t use it. You must find your own.
When are you ready to start checking names, find a site where you can see if your name is available. Two sites that I use for checking are GoDaddy.com and Register.com, but there are plenty of others out there in the series of tubes.
There are also laws prohibiting you from using the same name as an existing company in the state where you create the business. You might find that your name is unique to your state, but it might exist in another state and then they might have the domain name you want, or something very close to it that would confuse potential customers. Forgetting about the domain name, if both of your companies are national you will no doubt have conflicts. Make sure your name is unique.
When you have a name picked out, check with your state government to see if your name is available. It most likely will be your state’s Secretary of State’s office or web site where this can be found. You should be able to do it online, though likely for a small fee. When you’re ready to formalize your company name you’ll have to do it here anyway so you might as well get to know their site.
Finding a Name
Before you even try to figure out the right name to call your business you are limited to what it can be. Don’t fret. The 26 letters of the English alphabet can still be formed into all kinds of interesting names. You just have to work a bit harder to find the right combination of letters.
Descriptive vs. Implicative
In my mind there were two main types of names: descriptive (like weather.com) or implicative (like amazon.com).
A descriptive name tells you exactly what you will find on the site. When you go to weather.com you won’t find the latest film releases or stock prices (unless they have branched out and I don’t know about it). You will find the weather. The name tells you what they do.
An implicative name doesn’t lend itself immediately to what it is, but gives you an overall feeling of what to expect there. With the example of amazon.com, I see dual meaning. There is the obvious “A -> Z” that they make clear in their logo above, meaning that you you will find everything from A to Z on their site. But there is also the word itself, Amazon, which makes you think of the Amazon rainforest. That area, according to Wikipedia, “comprises the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest in the world”. So if you want to find a type of living thing, odds are you’ll find it there. So, like the rainforest, if you are looking for something to buy, odds are you’ll find it at amazon.com.
Get to Know Your Competitors
You absolutely MUST get to know who your competitors are before you start your business. At this point though you need to know them to avoid similar names. Keep a list of them handy as you go through the process to make sure you avoid them or anything like them. Jot down the domain names they use too.
Come up with a process that feels right for you. Try brainstorming names and write them all down. Try descriptive ones first as they would be easiest and move to the implicative names if you want.
When you have some that you think aren’t too bad then first look up possible domain names. The domain name doesn’t have to be exactly the company name but it is good for it to be very close. Keep a record of what is available and what is taken. Put some thought into what suffix you want to use as well (that is what I call the “.com” or .org”, what it really is is the top level domain). When you pick one it is a good idea to go ahead and buy the other top level domains as well to protect your name so others can’t come up with sites with your name and steal your traffic. This means if you pick a domain name of “xyz.com” then you should also buy “xyz.org”, “xyz.net”, etc.
When you have a name and a domain name set then check with your state (the state where you intend to form the business). If it is available then you are good to go! If not, start over.
I thought I had a name at least three times before I finally picked the one I have gone with. Just remember to be sure about your name before you open for business. It is a lot easier to change the name before than it is after. After you open if you change your name you lose your name recognition and have to possibly pay for a lot of renaming costs. Be sure before you go live.
Good luck and happy naming!