01/06/11

By Adam Gore, managing director of www.find-me-a-gift.co.uk

Every day, for the rest of the time you are in business, your company name will be at the forefront of your day. It sounds obvious, but having the right name is so critical that it’s hard to emphasise it in any other way. The name must work well in whichever context it is used, from the logo, signage and in copy, through to over the telephone and in advertising and marketing material. For online traders like www.find-me-a-gift.co.uk, there’s even more to consider.

Step 1 – Choosing a Name

Keep it simple – make it easy to spell, easy to pronounce and easy to recognise. Make it as simple and straightforward as possible for people to understand what you do and remember you. If the chosen name can be shortened to initials, check the initials don’t mean or infer something else when abbreviated.

Think big – check that the name doesn’t mean something negative in another country. Although you may not be looking to work overseas at the moment, it may be a possibility in the future – and as soon as you launch a website, you will become a global entity. Using a single word or making up words avoids the problem of translating into other languages.

Visual is key – does your chosen name work with a logo that is easy to recognise? Is there a symbol that you can associate with the company name to increase recognition? Symbols can be powerful assets for companies – after all, there are very few people who couldn’t recognise the blue F of Facebook.

Be strong and bold – go for a name that stands out, which says what you do and which is memorable. Don’t be afraid to be different.

Remember the emotion – look at what your business stands for and ensure the chosen name represents this well. Positive connotations evoked by the name will help reassure customers, so try to conjure a picture in a customer’s mind. Once they make this connection, they will remember it each and every time they think about your service or your business.

Does your chosen name work with your future business plan?

The company name Find-me-a-Gift means we can stock almost anything. If we’d called the company Find-me-a-Picture-Frame, it would have made it hard to expand or incorporate other items and still communicate all our products and services to consumers. Avoid geographical references too, so don’t incorporate ‘South East’ into the name, for example, as it limits plans for expansion which you may not be thinking about now, but could be a reality in the future.

The legals – when you’ve chosen a name, don’t forget to check with the Trademark Registry, Companies House and Business Link. Companies House will let you know if the name has been used already as a limited company, and Business Link will give you lots of advice in how to make sure you’ve ticked all the legal boxes with HMRC and other key organisations.

Step 2 – Making it Work Online

The online world is evolving quickly and for anyone operating online – in fact, for any business which wants an online presence – there are more rules than ever before.

Check available domain names to purchase. Is your preferred company name already taken, and could people therefore go to the wrong website? A simple search for domain names can be performed, or you could use a site such as www.godaddy.com to find an available domain name. Always register all the domains for your name, including with and without hyphens, so that when you grow into a big company it prevents fraudsters setting up copycat sites with the lesser-used endings such as .info, .org, .uk.com etc.

A lot of commonly used words have already been registered so it may be worth making a name up that sounds good but is still easy to spell, or combining two words which indicate what your company does.

Next, does the name work well online; is it easy to spell and type for consumers? It must be as simple as possible for buyers to reach you, so keep it straightforward. Google may correct spelling, but anyone searching organically for your company name – i.e. by typing in www.find-me-a-gift.co.uk – needs to spell it correctly for you to get the hit to your website.

As social media evolves, consider how your chosen company name could be affected. For example, twitter is limited to 140 characters per update, and usernames cannot be longer than 15 characters, so any long company names would need to be abbreviated, which could dilute the brand on these channels.

Think about making Google work for you – more and more companies are beginning to put their lead services in their company name. Google picks up on the name of your domain and your company name, and may well rank you higher than a competitor which doesn’t have the key service in the domain/company name. Taxi companies have done this (albeit accidently) for years and there’s a host of companies setting up similar names to operate online, from winesdirect.com to stationerystore.co.uk.

The Don’ts

Ensure you don’t ever choose:

•Copycat names – it’s complicated online, it’s hard to differentiate yourself and it’s not necessary

•Hard to spell or pronounce names

•Annoying or negative names – you want a positive opinion of your company

•Jargon – besides not being understood around the globe, jargon can go in and out of fashion quickly and could date your company name

Summary

Remember, customers may infer a lot from your business name and first impressions count. Test potential names on focus groups, which could be friends or family. And above all, make sure the name isn’t already in use offline and online!