10 Steps to Picking Your Startup Name

10 Steps to Picking Your Startup Name

10 Steps to Picking Your Startup Name

As an Executive Coach, I help founders find the right kind of help at the right time. Whether you run an early stage business or are doing millions per month online, returns can cripple your cash flow. Last week I taught you 10 Ways to Minimize Product Returns. This week I’ll teach you the “10 Steps to Picking Your Startup Name“. More person-hours will be spent on Picking Your Startup Name than almost any other function in the opening weeks of your startup. Sadly, the Startup Name you Pick may not be the right one. Time to discover what the 10 Steps to Picking Your Startup Name! Ready? Let’s get started!

Step 1: Start with a Pad of Paper

Write down every name that pops into your head, no matter how crazy or long. Don’t worry yet about whether it’s already taken. This is the Idea Phase of picking your company name. There are no bad ideas. Plan on spending 1-2 hours just writing down names. If you’re working with a team, get everyone together. Have one of you play scribe. Don’t verbally judge any idea from anyone. Just write it down. After 1-2 hours, STOP!

Step 2: Identify Names Relevant to Your Product

Now go through the list and scratch through any names that are NOT relevant names to your end product. So, if you’re making a piece of wine hardware, scratch through all names that don’t have verbiage related somehow to the wine industry or the products function. Why? Good question. If you’re looking for a company who can dry clean your clothes, “dry cleaner” being part of the name is likely to help you find it. If you’re a restaurant and serve seafood, like say Red Lobster, you’re instantly going to recognize it as a seafood restaurant.

Step 3: Pick Easy to Say & Remember Names

We’ve all the weird names out there. Take yslx.com for example. How do you pronounce it in English? I have no idea. There’s no trick I can think of to remember it either. I have no clue what they do by looking at the name. Do you? Maybe it means something in a non-English language. Whatever language that might be, if that’s the only market you’re selling to – great! If you want to sell in an English speaking language, I recommend choosing another company name.

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Step 4: Choose Shorter Name

Yes, you could name your startup “Far North Yosemite California Custom Wine Racks”. Kind of a mouthful isn’t it? It is also highly demographic isolating for potential sales. Are you willing to sell to folks in Tampa, Florida? Yes? Those who live in Florida might think California is too far away to buy a wine rack. Instead, choosing “Custom Wine Racks” (if available) is shorter and removes any geographical information that could limit sales.

Step 5: Check to See if the Name is Trademarked

Now your list is shorter. Let’s see if someone has already registered it. If you picked McDonald’s, sorry, you can’t use it, even if your name is McDonald’s. Why? It’s been Trademarked by the McDonald’s Hamburger corporation. Now trademarks have limited use rights, so if you were making telescopes, and wanted to name your company McDonald’s Telescopes, you might be legally OK. However, if McDonald’s lawyers send you a “cease and desist” letter, do you really want to spend tens of thousands on a lawyer telling McDonald’s corporation that you are legally free to use McDonald’s Telescopes? I don’t think it a good use of monies. Go to https://www.uspto.gov/ and see if the name is in use. Stay away from trademarked names.

Step 6: Check the Name in Other Languages

English is a combination of many languages. There have been instances in which a product name meant a curse word in another language. Nokia/Microsoft’s “Lumia” phone line is one example. In Spanish slang in means “prostitute”. The car manufacturer “Peugeot” has a similar meaning in some Chinese dialects. Use a website like http://wordsafety.com/ to check your name before you fall in love with it.

Step 7: Is the Domain Name Available?

OK, the list is shorter. Now comes the big list thinning check. Is the domain name available? If you haven’t done domain name searches before, you’re about to be shocked. Most names left on your list are likely already “owned” by someone. There are hundreds of people around the world who make six to seven figure incomes buying and selling domain names. The odds that many, if any, names on your reduced list are not owned by someone is relatively low. The fewer the number of characters in the name, like three to five, are almost positively owned by someone on the web already. I recommend using https://domains.google.com to search. I use it exclusively for all my businesses and my clients to find, buy and manage domains. There is no better service IMHO.

Step 8: Should You Choose a Dot Com if Possible?

When the internet started, names ending in Dot Com (.com) and Dot Net (.net) were dominant. Now there are hundreds of domain extensions. Currently, the top 150MM domains extensions are:

.COM: 82.01 million
.DE (Germany): 13.05 million
.CN (China): 12.55 million
.NET: 12.42 million
.UK (United Kingdom): 7.83 million
.ORG: 7.79 million
.INFO: 5.24 million
.NL (Netherlands): 3.5 million
.EU (European Union): 2.98 million
.RU (Russia): 2.31 million

If you are USA based, I would recommend choosing a Dot Com (.com) domain extension over any other. Why? Well, the list above is one good reason. Also, your customers are more likely to have an instant “trust” in a company name that ends in Dot Com (.com) than one that ends in Dot Wine (.wine), even if you make a wine product or service. Same rationale for choosing a name that ends in Dot CN (.cn) if your company is based in or predominantly sells into China. The other company that has your company name using Dot Com (.com) is more likely to win the “search ranking” race unless you’re ready to spend a lot of money. Choose a company name that you can get the Dot Com (.com) or even if it’s not your “first choice”.

Step 9: Grab Other Related Domains

Once you’ve found your Dot Com (.com) domain, grab the other strong domain extensions around it. Using my Wine products company example in the USA, grab the Dot Com (.com), Dot Net (.net), Dot Info (.info) domains also. If you plan to sell your product in a major foreign country also, you might want to grab the related country extension also. Don’t go crazy though on country extensions. Your home country is the key extension you want to focus on.

Step 10: Choose a Domain Management Service

I mentioned earlier that I recommend using https://domains.google.com to search. I also recommend it for managing your domains. Google’s tool allows you to easily grant full permissions to set up and manage your website by an inside employee or an outside service provider while you stay in full control of the domain. So, if you decide to switch the outside company that is building your website, they can’t hold the control of your domain name hostage (it happens a lot!). You simply remove the current web building company as administrator and then assign the new web building company administrator rights. You stay in full control of the domain.

Conclusion

I hope I have educated you on how to “10 Steps to Picking Your Startup Name“. If you follow my advice, you’ll have a company name that will serve you and your customers well.

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Next time …

In the next blog post, I will write about “Automate Your Twitter Campaigns”.

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