Entrepreneurs fret over packaging and a host of other details as they get started, and then leave one of the most important aspects as an afterthought.
The sad truth is that the right name can sometimes make all the difference when it comes to propelling a business to success, rather than just slogging on.
Consider this: Would you like "Patagonian toothfish" on your plate tonight for dinner? Hmm… not so much? Ok what about "Chilean Sea Bass?" That's much better, right? Or another example is how Marion Morrison put on a cowboy hat, slung on a six-shooter and became "John Wayne."
Names are quite powerful. I pretty much started as a copywriter. I know that words are incredibly important. Each one has a distinct difference. Get the name right, and you get branding as a by-product of your advertising.
Here are seven things I consider when determining a business-related name:
1. The name needs to sound good when it's said aloud. I'm a big fan of alliteration, using words that start with the same consonant, Coca-Cola or Jimmy John's. Just make sure to say it aloud -- a lot -- and make sure this isn't a "she sells seashells on the seashore" situation. People need to say the name on the radio, a video or in conversation.
2. Use a name that has meaning to it and conveys a benefit. If you heard it you'd know right away what it is. For example, my first "real" book was called, "Moonlighting on the Internet." The word "moonlighting" instantly conveyed that this was about using the Internet in your spare time to make extra money. Also make sure the name isn't too generic. Personally, I think Boston Chicken made a mistake when it changed its name to Boston Market. Don't try to be everything to everybody with your name.
3. Avoid Web 2.0-ish syndrome. I still don't know if you spell Flickr with an "er" or not. And I definitely have no idea how to spell delicio.us without looking it up. This sort of mildly dyslexic spelling is so last decade. Potential customers for your new venture of "Computer4You" should be able to easily look up the name, and they shouldn't be asking whether a "you" is a "u."
4. Beware initials. They are so boring. Yes, IBM and 3M have gotten away with initials, but these are multibillion-dollar corporations that have been around for decades. You can do the same when you've brought in billions of dollars over a hundred years. Until then, rely on a name that is interesting.
5. Use specifics. Don't use a generic name that doesn't mean anything. I like names that take advantage of details such as numbers and days. My buddy Tim Ferriss found a pretty specific and compelling name for his book "The 4-Hour Work Week." Other titles that use numbers to focus in on specifics include "8 Minute Abs" and "5-hour Energy."
6. Make sure you can trademark the name. Depending on how big you want to build the brand, this is an important consideration. It's worth it to check USPTO.gov -- or a new site called Trademarkia.com -- before settling on a name.
7. Test it out on Google AdWords. One of the great features of the "find keywords" tool on AdWords is that it will list similar search phrases, along with how many global and local monthly searches each are getting. Some AdWords searches with the name you are considering can ensure there isn't a slightly different name out there that might get more attention on the Internet.
If you really want to get advanced, try to come up with a name that could be eventually used as a verb, or lends itself to the creation of your own "language." People who go to TED, the conference for Tech, Education and Design, now call themselves "TEDsters." My company, Maverick Business Adventures, recalls "Maverick Moments" stories about happenings during a trip.
Think it through, and your name will be a multiplier in your favor.
Related: Five Tools for Naming a Startup
This article is an excerpt from the book Maverick Startup: 11 X-Factors to Bootstrap From Zero to Six Figures and Beyond from Entrepreneur Press.
Yanik Silver, a serial entrepreneur based in Potomac, Md., is the author of Maverick Startup: 11 X-Factors to Bootstrap From Zero to Six Figures and Beyond from Entrepreneur Press.