Cezary Pietrzak | Mashable
Naming can be one of the most difficult challenges in the early stages of a startup. But while many people have written about the topic, few have actually codified the process to help entrepreneurs succeed in the endeavor. This guide breaks down naming into individual steps with detailed, practical suggestions that can be applied to almost any industry. It’s based largely on my personal experience naming several tech products as well as the themes I’ve noticed in great startup names. You’ll find numerous examples to bring each concept to life and inspire your creative side — something you’ll need to get to the finish line.
In this first article, I provide a general overview of naming. Specifically, I examine the challenge of naming companies, the importance of creating a good name and pre-naming preparations.
The Challenge of Naming
Naming on the web is difficult because it’s a multiple-step process that’s a mix of art, science and pure perseverance.
First, you must create a name that is short (ideally, two syllables and <10 letters), memorable and relevant to your idea. It should be easy to find and spell, project positive connotations to your target audience and cannot conflict with existing trademarks. Unless you’re a linguist, this is not an easy task. Large companies often defer to experts at naming agencies who do this for a living, but you must rely solely on your creativity.
Then, you must find a domain that’s available. This is where things get really tricky. Given that most good .com names for $10 are already taken, it’s likely that you’ll spend at least a few hundred dollars on a good name, or risk forgoing some of the best options. You may also be subject to the availability and interest of a third party who may not be interested in selling the real estate.
If that’s not enough, then you’ll probably be naming your company as you juggle dozens of other responsibilities, such as building and testing your product, recruiting new team members or developing your go-to-market strategy. If you constantly put the process on the back burner, you’ll find that it takes time to get back in the groove and that naming can ultimately become a huge roadblock to other parts of the business.
That doesn’t sound like too much fun, does it?
The Importance of Naming
While the naming process requires a lot of time, patience and focus, doing it well is ultimately worth the effort. That’s because a name has a big impact on your entire business.
The name is first thing that people hear when you tell them about the company. At best, it signals maturity and relevance; at worst, a lack of vision, attention to detail and creativity. Before you can even finish your pitch, people are already making judgments of your company, and bad names can be a real distraction to important conversations.
The name is important for discoverability, whether in Google searches (10% to 50%+ of site traffic, depending on the category), the App Store (especially painful in iOS6) and other text-based discovery channels. If it’s too hard to spell, or too similar to something that already exists, chances are that people won’t find you, and you’ll lose a good chunk of your potential business.
The name is also a conduit to an emotional connection with your users. Good names — like good logos — evoke strong passion for your brand, while bad names elicit distaste and indifference. Using the former can be a competitive advantage for your company, especially when feature sets are roughly the same.
Generally speaking, a name is more valuable to a B2C (marketing-driven) company than a B2B (sales-driven) counterpart, so allocate your efforts accordingly. But whatever the case, there are simply no excuses for having a bad name. It represents your company and should always live up to image you want to project — both internally and externally.