13 Mistakes to Avoid When Naming Your Startup Business

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When setting up a new business, you have many challenges to face. From getting your legal framework set up to how you will market your products to new customers, you will have your work cut out. However, one often overlooked aspect is the name. 

It might seem like one step that you can put on the back burner until all other steps are taken care of; however, doing so will sabotage your business before it has even begun. 

This post will cover why your name is such a critical element in creating a startup and some of the main mistakes to avoid. 

So buckle up; this is going to be a long one.

What's in a name?

A good name for your startup is the first step to success and can be the difference between a successful business and one that never makes it out of the starting gate. A name is not just a tagline. It is the first thing that customers see when they visit your website. What your name says about you can be a make-or-break factor for your business. 

Mistakes to Avoid When Naming Your Startup Business

An easy to remember business name will help you build a strong brand and attract more customers. A bad name can lead to loss of revenue, lack of customers, and even possible litigation if you are stepping on another brand's toes. 

Of course you can use a logo maker to make a professional logo and boost your brand, but your business name is something that will always be in the mind of the buyer.

The name you choose should be catchy, easy to remember and fit with the overall branding of your business. A good startup name will also reflect the personality of your company. A good name can provide significant advantages such as:

  • Providing a positive first impression
  • Help you to appeal to your target audience
  • Sets you apart from other similar businesses
  • Makes it easier to market your business
  • Your identity is formed by it

As a result, what are the biggest mistakes to avoid when entering the wild world of startup naming?

Choosing a generic name

Choosing a name for your business is an important decision. It can be challenging to pick the perfect name, but it is vital to consider a few things before deciding. When starting a business, it's best to choose a name that has meaning and reflects your company's mission. 

Choosing a generic name

If you don't have one, try brainstorming and come up with something that fits your company's personality. Try a business name generator to get some ideas flowing. However, if your desired name is overly generic, you will fail to create an identity and cause confusion over what your business is and what you are selling.

Choosing a name that's too niche

The flip side of being too generic is coming up with a name that is too niche. It is a fine line to tread, but if you choose a name that is too narrow, you will limit yourself in the future. For example, if you sell automotive parts for Audis and call yourself "Audi Automotive Part LLC," you will find it challenging to move to other car models as you scale up. 

You can certainly change your name down the line, and many companies do, but it is a hassle and something you want to avoid when possible.

Spelling words in unusual ways

Many businesses use a range of grammar like portmanteaus to name their businesses in interesting and clever ways. This can be a positive thing as it makes you stand out, but it can also hinder you if you get it wrong. A great example is Microsoft, a portmanteau of "Microprocessor" and "Software." This works because it is easy to remember and represents their services concisely. 

However, some words simply don't work well together, as you will find out a bit later in the post.

Naming via committee

Nothing good is ever achieved via committee. It doesn't matter what you're doing, whether it's product design, staff salaries, or coming up with a name; many things can go wrong when many people have a say. 

A problem arises when too many people get involved, muddying the water. Everyone has their own options and wants to be heard. 

In rare cases, it can be successful, but it mostly isn't. This isn't to say that you shouldn't get opinions. You should certainly pass your name by other people to get feedback, but the critical point is to develop a name yourself and leave the committees to other aspects of your business.

Not checking if the name has already been taken

Although it sounds obvious, you should choose a name that hasn't already been taken when starting a new business. This keeps your startup from getting confused with other companies, which could be detrimental to its success. 

Not checking if the name has already been taken

At best, you will be unable to market your business effectively, but at worse, you could find yourself in serious legal trouble. Moreover, if you are already a long way into the process and discover the name has been taken, you might have to go back to step one, costing time and money you might not have.

Your chosen name is too long

What do you imagine when you think about the name: "The amazing brightly colored children's toy company"? Apart from being a horrendous example, it is far too long, unmemorable (although perhaps unforgettable for the wrong reasons), and difficult to recall

Your name should be snappy, to the point, and represent what you are selling. Essentially, Longer terms can confuse customers because they might not know what the company does or where they are located.

Failing to perform an online search for the name

Having checked the company registrar in your country and not finding a similar name, you may think you have already covered all bases. There is a possibility that some businesses outside of your jurisdiction might already use the name online

Even if someone else is using the name for a random blog and you aren't concerned about legal issues, it will make your life harder when it comes to your digital marketing efforts. 

If you end up paying for advertising and the random blog keeps popping up in the search results, you will cause confusion and possibly provide them with free traffic that you would rather have. While you could contact them to change their name or buy them out, it is far easier to perform a quick internet search to avoid these issues in the first place.

You fail to check if the domain name is taken

In a similar but slightly different vein to the previous point, you must check if the domain name for the name of your business has already been registered. You might come across domain name squatters who have bought the name and parked it waiting for someone to buy it

This tends to happen with familiar phrases and words, so the more unique you can be, the better. As with the previous point, a quick search using a domain name registrar should let you know if the name is available or not. If it is free, you should buy up all of the other TLDs (.net, .org, ai, etc.) to prevent others from using them.

Combining words that look awkward without spaces

What do you see when you look at the domain name: poolife.com? Do you see "Pool Life" or "Poo Life"! Many of these domain name double entendres exist, and some are worse than others. The point is that you should carefully examine how your name looks without spaces so that you can avoid this particular pitfall. After all, you don't want to be the next Penisland.net!

The name evokes negative connotations

In today's climate of diversity and inclusivity, you must take all steps to avoid names that evoke negative connotations. While nobody suggests that you would ever name your business in an offensive or derogatory way, it can sometimes slip under the radar without proper forethought and consideration. 

You need to evoke positive associations with your business name so that people feel great when they see it. By doing so, you instantly put them in a great frame of mind and hopefully ready to purchase your offerings.

It is irrelevant to your business

If your business sells fish aquariums and your name is "Dog Food Inc," something has gone seriously wrong! Your name needs to match your business and the products or services you provide. 

It is irrelevant to your business

Again, this is a delicate balance as you want to avoid being too generic or narrow, as mentioned earlier, but it should still represent how you want to be seen. Some startups will opt for a name representing their industry to play it safe. So for the aquarium example, you could choose something like "Aquatic Cove" or similar.

Your name doesn't scale well globally

If you plan to eventually scale your business globally, you should look at how your name might sound to the countries you plan on entering. One of the most extreme examples of international naming gone wrong was when Toyota introduced its MR2 model into France. If you say MR2 fast enough, it sounds in French like something you wouldn't want to associate with your product or brand, for that matter! 

While you can't be everything to everyone, you can perform a free basic check to see if the name translates well enough in all major languages.

Final words: Mistakes to avoid when naming your startup business

Naming your startup is fraught with danger. From being so niche that no one understands what you are to choosing a domain name that makes you sound like something you might find on the dark web, you have a lot to consider!

About the author 

Peter Keszegh

Most people write this part in the third person but I won't. You're at the right place if you want to start or grow your online business. When I'm not busy scaling up my own or other people' businesses, you'll find me trying out new things and discovering new places. Connect with me on Facebook, just let me know how I can help.

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