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How To Pick The Perfect Name For Your Business or Startup

Browsing around /r/Entrepreneur and other entrepreneur communities I see that one roadblock many new entrepreneurs run into is picking a great name for their business.

How to pick a good business name howtogoodbusinessname1

howtogoodbusinessname3

Name selection is often an overwhelming, frustrating, and exhausting experience.

I can remember how stressful the naming process was for me when launching my first couple of projects. It would start off fun and loose for the first couple of names, but I would quickly become trapped in a mind numbing list of gibberish.

Several hours into it, I could feel my standards dropping and eventually lost all confidence in my ability to even judge the names I was coming up with. That was usually the point where I would put up a desperation post on some forums like this (or the ones you see above) -

howtogoodbusinessname2

And while I think it’s a good idea to ask somebody but yourself, this isn’t the best way to come up with a good name. Not by a long shot.

What I always ended up with were names that I settled for. Terrible names that doomed my projects before they had even started.

And that’s not what I want for you…

So here is the method I have developed over the years to avoid the naming labyrinth and picking the perfect name for your business.

 Step 1 – Know What Makes a Good Name

Most people already know intuitively what makes a good business name, so in the spirit of brevity I won’t go in too much detail here.

If you are over-thinking things and want some direction, check out this article for an awesome breakdown of what makes a good name.

Then come back here, because this guide picks up where that one ends…

Step 2 – Brainstorm a List of Names

Once you are confident you’d know a good name if you saw one, you need to come up with a few keywords to get you started.

You probably already have a few in mind. If you don’t, you should probably go back to the last step.

If you’re still lost, look for successful competitors and rapid-growth companies and use them for inspiration.

Huge time saver – Bust-A-Name

Open up Bust-A-Name (the best tool there is for brainstorming domain names) and enter in your initial keyword ideas. I’ll be using StartupBros as the example in this post, since we did use this method to decide on that name (StartupBros was originally going to be IncomeLabs).

So your initial list should look something like this -

Initial Keyword List

As you can see, Bust-A-Name checks all possible combinations of the keywords you put in and gives you the available domains containing those.

Though we just started the naming process, there are already a few good names on the board that I would save. SmartIncomeLabs, StartupIncome, and IncomeBros are all decent names already on the board (and of course StartupBros would have been on this board if it were available).

Add onto initial keyword list

Once you have some initial keywords on the board, you’ll want to expand on those ideas to come up with synonyms/similar keywords.

Bust-A-Name has a feature that will help you with this a little bit -

Keyword Synonyms

Mmm – Synonyms…

I also use LeanDomainSearch at this point to expand on ideas and get some ideas going -

lean domain search

Those are really the only two sites I use to come up with keywords. I sometimes also use Thesaurus, but even that is rare.

At this point, you should have a pretty decent amount of name combinations to look through.

Step 3 – Narrow It Down to a Few Decent Names

Now the mind-numbing part of it all – combing through the list of names.

Try to avoid the temptation to get caught up in this stage. Every startup name will have pros and cons to varying degrees.

Bust-A-Name will save you a huge amount of time by only showing you name combinations with available domain names. All you have to do is scroll through and pick the ones you like.

I usually have over 500 names to go through. You’ll probably end up around there.

90% of the names Bust-A-Name generates will be duds, you’re panning for the gold in them…

There is no real process at this point to what names you should be picking – just save the ones that sound decent.

Try to find 25 out of them that you think are decent, then whittle those down to 15…

Then 10…

Then 5…

Then move onto the next step.

Step 4 – Find Out Which One Is Perfect

Now my favorite part – we test to see which name is the best!

This is where everybody screws up…

It seems everybody thinks they should get their naming advice from friends, family, and Facebook friends – I suspect out of desperation.

That is a stupid thing to do.

Ask the audience

I would much rather A/B test my possible business names to find out exactly how much more or less receptive my target audience would be with each name.

I use the same method highlighted in 3 Steps to Validate Your Business Idea For FREE…almost -

  • Head over to Unbounce(I now use and would recommend LeadPages for this) and sign up for a Free Trial account.
  • Make an identical landing page for each possible name (you can just duplicate your first page in unbounce)
  • Make a quick logo for each possible name with Creatr.cc and put one on each landing page (don’t forget to publish your page after you’re done!
  • Run traffic to your landing page.

Your landing pages should look something like this -

landing page

Original StartupBros Landing Page

Landing Page

One of four variant landing pages

 

Make sure the traffic you are running to these pages is targeted. I’d recommend Facebook Ads for this – check out this article for a great breakdown on how to target the correct people.

Step 5 – Domination

After a few days and $50-100, you’ll end up with something like this in Unbounce -

Business Name Test

StartupBros wins!

As you can see, the StartupBros name performed 13% better than our original name idea, IncomeLabs.

Thinking about what that 13% means completely baffles me, and I would love to hear your opinions on it.

Does that mean that everything we do at StartupBros will grow 13% faster and perform 13% better than if we were doing it under IncomeLabs?

I suppose there is no way to know for sure…

But what I do know for sure, is that our target market responded better to the StartupBros name more than any other name we could come up with – and that’s why we chose it.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way :)

by Will Mitchell

Will Mitchell is a serial entrepreneur and Founder of StartupBros. You can learn more about him at the StartupBros About Page. If you have any questions or comments for him, just send an email or leave a comment!

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21 comments… add one

  1. I’m agree with your opening words that finding a good name for startup is stressful and no doubt even the experienced and old players face it again and again.

    Reply
    1. It’s painful each and every time :)

      Reply
  2. Some good points here. A bad name can spell disaster for a company so it’s important to get it right straightaway.

    Reply
    1. Definitely with you there Ben – a name doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does need to be damn good.

      Reply
  3. would i have any problems if i add ” .COM ” to my business name ? Would i need to give the ” .COM ” $ for adding it to the business name ?

    Reply
    1. If you mean ‘add it to your business name’ as in when you tell people about it, on your cards, as the title to your Facebook Page – In most cases no. There are some businesses this works with, but it will make most brands look cheap these days. You don’t see Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc calling themselves ‘Google dot com’…

      If you mean legally, it doesn’t make much of a difference. We’re legally StartupBros LLC, I don’t think you need to put the .com on there.

      Reply
  4. On a more logistical note, make sure you can trademark the name and if so, that you are able to purchase a good domain for your startup.

    Reply
  5. One effective branding technique for startups is to review BrandStarters ( http://www.brandstarters.com ) or similar brandable domain marketplaces to locate a name. This approach helps to know that the name will ultimately be available for purchase at a known cost rather than engaging in frustrating, unsolicited negotiations with indifferent owners. Even if you do not purchase a name, you may wind up generating some great ideas through the process of window shopping.

    Reply
  6. Hey we are planning for rebranding and came across your article…I think this is a perfect guide unless it helps me…because the process is too lengthy for me at this time as I have been in the process from last two months and have been scratching my head…!!

    Reply
  7. Did you do the testing before you launched your full site? We’re torn between 2 really great names for a web app. One is a descriptive straight forward of what we offer, 3 syllables & its a dot com. The other is a .co but the name is 1 syllable word that uniquely says what we do like the word “twitter” does for twitter. I own the domains for both. Do I launch the app first with 2 different urls/landing pages or do I do this with pre-launch landing pages? Don’t want to put out too much information on functionality before we launch.

    Reply
  8. I’m also in the process of rebranding. I really don’t like researching names. This article helps to take some of the pain out of the process.

    Reply
  9. My wife won’t be happy I read this – fixing the garage door just became a secondary project for this weekend!

    Reply
  10. Absolutely ingenious methods you have here on the site, Will! Do you think hiring a designer full-time is good later down the timeline?

    Reply
  11. Would you use Leadpages built-in A/B testing feature or use it in conjunction with Visual Website Optimizer?

    Reply
  12. A friend just sent me this post, and I have to say it’s one of the more interesting branding methods I’ve seen to date. I’ve signed up to check out some of your eBooks and things of that nature, and it all looks top notch.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  13. Damn, too bad I’ve already set my name in stone! I have it on my business cards, invoices, and website… Oh well, next time :)

    Reply
  14. I believe that shorter names are most of the times better than names that describe your industry.With the right company name , you can build a strong brand like Ikea, Nike e.t.c.I have some examples on my website if someone is interesting to see.

    Reply
  15. “I believe that shorter names are most of the times better than names that describe your industry”
    Says the one whose company name is called a lengthy and generic “Buy a company name”

    Reply
  16. Those are all good in the hood but what about places that sell already registered names (like http://www.brandroot.com/) where they come with a logo? I see a lot of great names here with exorbitant prices. Although high in price I see the merit in most of them and looks like quite a few get sold. I’ve tried several of the options you supplied here but for some reason nothing I am generating is worthwhile. And how do you fall in love with a name that you can find available for registration? Wouldn’t it be registered if it was so good? I am conflicted but more frustrated with finding great domains.

    Reply
    1. I probably wouldn’g go the brandroot route, your business’s image probably could use a personal touch.

      There are an infinite amount of great business names out there – you just got to put work into making them. Tommy Coffee isn’t bad at all!

      A lot of time the name is only awesome after the branding and product. Feel free to email if you need more help!

      Reply
      1. Hi Kyle,

        Thank you for your reply. I actually just found a name there I am very happy with. A name I know would have been impossible to find available for registration. They r super helpful their too. I would recommend them as an additional resource to your list above. I got the domain on the same day I purchased. TBH the others produced little results for me but thank you for the article. It did ultimately lead me to this name I am excited to get developed!

        Reply

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