What’s wrong with most business name generators?
Nothing. But they’re just a stage in the process of naming your business (and not the first stage either). There’s some work you need to do first.
A rose by any other name…
Shakespeare is wrong in this case. Your business name will feature on every piece of marketing collateral, it’s the first thing customers see and a bad name can kill a business before it’s even begun. Call them ‘Stinkspikes’ and no one will order any of your roses to find out how sweet they smell.
Ok, so how do you generate a business name?
Do a word dump
Write down all the words that come to your mind when you think about your business. You’ll need at least 40 minutes, keep on writing. Get it all down (even – especially – the silly stuff). Don’t edit anything yet.
Found any good words that really sum up what you want to do? Look them up in a thesaurus and see if there’s anything else that says it even better.
Work out what makes you special
Are you faster? Brighter? Bigger? Add these words to your dump and try putting them together or squashing words to create new ones. Now, why do you do what you do? Can you add some of that feeling into your name?
Can you get across a feeling, value, emotion, strength or the uniqueness of your business into your name?
Now try online business name generators
Stick the favourite words that you’ve come up with so far in and see what the business name generators come up with.
Here are a few of our favourites:
NameStation online name generator, that lets you run crowdsourced naming contests – great if you want another perspective and more feedback on your name.
NameSmith a creative business name generator that also shows you if the website domain is free and lets you buy it straight away.
BusinessNameGenerator type in some keywords and get a whole heap of suggestions, click on one to buy the website domain.
Portmanteau Generator for Naming mixes two relevant words together to create a new one. See below for more info (the good, the bad and the deeply ugly).
Avoid these 4 common pitfalls
What are portmanteaus?
You’ll have seen these everywhere, two words smashed together. They’re seductive because you create a new word and they can be more descriptive in a shorter space. Perfect if you’re looking for a unique business name. But the danger is creating a sushi-smoothee, both lovely on their own but horrific together.
Some good examples:
Netflix: internet and flicks (this works because it’s one stage on, Cinenet is a much weaker name).
Groupon: group and coupon
Intel: integrated and electronics
Pinterest: collect your interests on a pinboard
...So they can be a creative business name generator – if used carefully.
Creating a portmanteau business name? The ones that work sound like they were a word already.
Cliches: how to avoid getting sucked in
Ok, this is a tricky one. But once you’ve gone through all the literal words, smushed words together, thumbed the thesaurus and written down what makes your business unique, now you’ll come up with other ideas. Be careful. Have you got Summit, Apex, Pinnacle, Quality or Tech in there?
These are tricky because they sound like names, people may even like them. They sound safe but actually they’re toxic. You won’t get found online and you won’t be remembered. Keep going with your list – don’t stop yet!
The problem with feedback
You should definitely get a lot of feedback from as many people as possible BUT if you remove all the names that people don’t like, you’re often left with the bland options.
So if one of your favourite name options means something rude in Spanish or has a fruity entry in Urban Dictionary, ditch it, but… Give people a list and make sure they tell you at least 5 they love and 5 they hate. If one name is getting a lot of love and hate and you really like it – don’t cross it off just yet.
Don’t get trapped by geography
When you start out, you’re probably a local business. Having your location in the name, like Wood Street Coffee or Peterborough Plumbing, works well. But those who think small aren’t usually the people who start businesses and if you’ve got dreams of world-domination (or even if you’re planning to expand in the future) make sure your business name won’t limit you.
Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranded to KFC to get around this issue; it’s worth thinking about at the beginning.
Create your shortlist
Ok, you’ve got a humongous list? Great, let’s start crossing names off.
How to edit your long list
- Do you hate it?
- Does it sound too much like a competitor?
- Is it longer than 15 characters? (It won’t work as a Twitter handle, so it had better be awesome not to cross it off.)
- Is it hard to spell?
- Is it a joke/pun that will get old quickly?
- Is it fun to say? You’ll be saying it a lot.
- Does it explain what you do or why you do it?
- Is it memorable?
- Do other people like it?
- Are you proud to say you work for
Easy to pronounce?
Some massive brands aren’t easy to pronounce (TagHeuer, Huawei, Bvlgari, Porsche) but do you have access to their huge marketing budgets? If not, make it easy for customers to say, ask for and type in your brand name.
Is the website domain free?
You’ve created a unique business, it can be tough to find that the name you’ve chosen is already being used out there on the web. It’s not a total showstopper but if there’s a local business in the same line of work using your name, you need to reconsider.
Will it work on social media?
Check on Knowme to see if your chosen name is being used on any social media sites. If it’s free, lock them down! You’ll want your online presence to be consistent with one great brand identity across all your channels.
Test them out
The final step is to ask your target audience. Either set up a quick survey (with money off as a thank you for answering) or go out and speak to potential customers. See what they think of your chosen name.
This isn’t a stage for generating business name ideas. But if your favourite business name is turning customers off, find out why. You may have missed something. Rather than a couple of words written on a blank piece of paper (hard for people to visualise and easier to criticise), try making the name feel more real. For example, if you’re a coffee shop, print a couple of possible names onto coffee cups.
You’ll need to think about logos next, luckily we’ve got a logo maker guide for that too: Check our logo maker guide here.
How can I generate a name for my business?
Try a company name generator but before you do, work out what makes your business unique and find other angles to explore – or you’ll end up with very generic business name ideas. Think about your target audience – what are they looking for?
What should I name my startup?
Make it memorable. Go through the steps above and get a long, longlist of business name ideas. Can you create a great brand with a strong brand identity with them?
Can I check if I’ve come up with a unique business name?
Once you’ve chosen a few strong contenders, do a business name search. It’s very easy to check the domain is free and then buy the website domain. Check social media too, you’ll want a strong brand identity with the same great business name, everywhere.
How do I come up with a catchy business name?
If you’re a creative business name generator, you’ll look at your business differently. Are there metaphors for what you do? Is there an emotion you want customers to feel when they use you? What’s the opposite of what people usually look for?
Greig is the Digital Content Lead at Builder.ai and a University of Bristol History grad. He has 5+ years’ experience in B2B SaaS, creating data-driven, human-friendly content for high-growth tech startups. When Greig needs a dopamine hit, he checks Builder.ai’s keyword rankings.
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