1. Look for a short name that’s easy to spell and pronounce. Shorter names are easier to remember than longer ones. The Texas Oil Company shortened its name to Texaco and it’s hard to imagine “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web” having been as successful if they hadn’t decided on the shorter “Yahoo.”
Even if you’re using words that are made-up or use creative spellings, make sure they make some level of sense for the product or service. “U-Haul” and “Flickr” work despite their text-speak because they are accurate names for the business, not because they are spelled strangely. Naming your salon “d’ verse tease” is too clever for its own good.
2. Go universal. It might seem like the best idea in the world to name your construction business “Daedalus Construction” because you’ve studied your Greek mythology, but alienating customers by risking going over their heads is a risk.
This is where knowing your audience comes in: a comics shop named “Jim Gordon’s” might appeal to the Batman-obsessives while alienating the average reader though average readers tend not to shop in comics shops anyway. Think of it as a tradeoff. Upscale restaurants in expensive districts can get away with naming their restaurant something French, but it might be a bad idea in West Memphis, where your clientele might be made to feel excluded, or not “in the know.”
3. Avoid clichéd names. Too often, an adjective becomes train-wrecked into a noun, and a terrible business name is born, like QualiTrade or AmeriBank. Names like this lack personality and your business won’t stand out in a market saturated with similar-style names.
If your business name includes Ameri, Tech, Corp, or Tron as prefix or suffix, you might want to reconsider and come up with a name that’s less saturated.
4. Pick names that can work anywhere. Geographically-specific names will lock your business into a particular niche that will require changing the company name if it grows outside that niche. “Omaha Pipe and Drain” will work for a plumbing repair business in the metropolitan Omaha area, but it won’t help a plumbing contractor land a pipefitting contract in Des Moines or Kansas City. “Kentucky Fried Chicken” officially changed its name to “KFC” recently for this very reason.
5. Pick the most accurate name. Everyone called Bob Dylan’s backup band “The Band.” One day, it just stuck and they would be “The Band” forever. If everyone has taken to calling your copy shop “Main Street Copy,” don’t risk changing it to “The Awesome Copy Super Fantastic Fun Shop” because the given name isn’t exciting enough. In the end, your product or service is the most important thing and the name is the package it comes in. If it’s already got one that works, don’t change it.
Alternatively, know when you’ve picked a name that doesn’t work and take the risk of changing it. Even if you already ordered “TACSFFS Rules” magnets for all the workers at the Main St. Copy joint, take the hit and go with the name that works.