Coming up with a highly effective company name is more difficult than you’d imagine. The team behind Twitter can testify to this. If only they had not had the humility to resort to looking up names in a dictionary, we might have all been tweeting on a network called Status. What do you need to look out for when your business has reached the stage that you need to ponder issues like registering it with the appropriate authorities? Seven pitfalls many people in your position stumble over and which are easily avoided.
1-Geographic references. Make sure you shun them like the plague. Even though they work a treat in the beginning in some cases, in the long run you will find that the geographic reference limits your appeal to a larger group of customers. These names are difficult to change.
2-You might be very tempted to think up a noun/adjective combination. Avoid this almost always because even though you might think the world of the combination, to others these names almost always come across as bland and artificial. Only go for this when truncating a verb with a noun makes even the staunchest cynic smile. Or when you produce a really clever pun (not many puns are!) A good example is Yandex, the Russian search engine. It is both a pun and an acronym and it comes across as if it stands for ‘Yet Another iNDEXer’ (“Ya" is like ‘I’ in English).
3-Using a name that gives people the impression you sell a different product/service than you do. This will not only confuse potential clients, but also severely inhibit your chances to climb in Google rankings. Your name should clearly indicate what it is your business is all about yet not be too elemental/bland.
4-An overly obvious name won’t do. In the past many people thrived on nondescript names because these inspired a certain familiarity and trust among their customers. But it just does not work anymore. Customers will get the impression you don’t deserve their attention if you do not even make an attempt at standing out. Avoid words like ‘general’, ‘independent’ etc. Your name should reflect your uniqueness.
5-Do not assume too easily that your name is not being used already. Always check the US Patent and Trademark Office and the internet before you decide on a name.
6-When you have employees, be aware that choosing a company name might turn into an emotional issue. Do not get everybody involved in the decision. The more people you give the opportunity to democratically speak their mind on the issue, the more difficult it will become to pick the right name and not achieve the opposite effect to the laudable principle. The involvement of your twenty personnel and the mentor and close friends that nurtured you during the past years will only be democratic for the very few seconds it takes for you to bestow the honor on them. After that moment, the decision that needs to be made might alienate everyone you tried to involve in the first place.
7- What works now might not work in the future. Before you make the final decision, leaf through your business plan and verify that the name will still be highly applicable five years down the road. Your name is a cornerstone in the architecture of your entire venture, and if there’s only a hint of doubt in your mind, delay the decision. Because as your business grows, a slightly dubious name will become a true mistake that will grow out of all proportion.
That said, Twitter was first almost called Status and then Twitch, so it’s easy to be way off before getting it oh so right, by painstakingly sifting through the dictionary.