Do-It-Yourself Naming: 5 Must-Read Tips

Naming. We know it's tough for companies: Budget constraints, ever-changing deadlines, and fickle managerial whim all make it difficult to run a smooth marketing or branding project. Here are five essential things to know if you try it yourself. The more information you have, the better prepared you'll be when it comes time to name your company or name your product!

Naming Tip #1: Allow ample time for creating your new brand name
You didn't create your product or company overnight, so don't expect to name it overnight either. Naming is a process that works best when ample time is spent exploring the vast creative possibilities. Plan ahead and allocate up to six weeks for a full naming process. You'll need that time to assemble your team, create a naming brief, work through several cycles of brainstorming, and then check your best names for availability. And don't forget the time at the end of the process for full legal screening by an attorney!

Naming Tip #2: Include all important decision makers in the process
You should involve all key stakeholders from the very start of your naming project. Ask yourself, "Who has veto power?" Then include them on the naming project team. Even if it's the CEO, do your best to include her/him in as many stages of the naming process as possible.

One easy way to head this off is to include these higher-ups from the start. If they don't have time to be involved in every meeting, consider scheduling a 15-30 minute phone call between them and your naming team at the beginning of the process. Then when the exec sees name candidates several weeks later, they'll know their opinion was considered during the naming exploration. Psychologically, it will help the exec be more receptive to the names and logistically it will help prevent a last minute back-to-the-drawing-board situation.

Naming Tip #3: Know your target audiences
You'll always have multiple audiences for your product or company name. At the very least you have your customers and your internal staff (from CEO to Admin Assistant). And at the very most, you may have a diverse and multi-tiered customer base to consider, a board of directors, industry analysts, etc.

But it's crucial that you identify the single most important audience for your new name. This is likely to include some element of your customer base—the people you do business with. For this reason, try to put yourself in your customer's shoes; live a day in their life. What's the most important aspect of your business to them? What naming message is going to appeal most to them? What naming styles are going to fall flat for them?

Don't be blinded by your personal preferences. Remember that it's not always about what you like, but what is going to get your customers to notice and engage with the new name.

Naming Tip #4: Don't get hung up on dot-com availability
Everyone thinks they need the exact dot-com URL for their company name. Some are right, but many are mistaken.

Online consumer brands may well justify this prime Internet real estate, because there's no question that the average consumer will first try the exact dot-com domain. However, with the rise of deliberately misspelled company names, dot-net domains, and a host of other factors, search engines are becoming the consumer's best friend. And, if your audience it extremely tech-savvy, you may have more freedom to explore domain names that require some modification (like adding the words Inc, Co, Tech, etc.). A relevant and exciting name that requires domain modification is often a better marketing decision (CatchwordBranding.com for example), than a Dr. Seussian jumble of meaningless letters chosen for sole purpose of having an exact dot-com domain (i.e., MoloGogo, Zimbra, Asoboo).

B2B companies, service companies, and non-retail sites in particular may be able to do without exact dot-com domains. High-tech business customers are much more adept at using search engines to find the web site they're looking for. Additionally, well-executed SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can offset and even drive more traffic to your site than just owning the exact dot-com domain.

Very few real-word and pronounceable dot-coms are immediately available today. Sometimes you'll get incredibly lucky and stumble on that real-word dot-com that is completely available. That's rare. So what can you do if you really really want an exact dot-com domain? You have three options: A) Be prepared to spend money for a real-word dot-com domain, B) Be willing to adopt coined or made-up names which are more likely to have immediately available domains, or C) Modify your name with a descriptive phrase (Tech, Inc, Company, Systems, etc.) to help acquire a relevant domain.

Domains sale sites (Sedo, BuyDomains, etc.) are becoming more useful in the name game. If you are convinced you need an exact dot-com dom, you should include a budget for purchasing a domain. You should be prepared to spend a minimum of $2,000 to buy a domain from one of these sites. The closer to a real-word and the more desirable a name or metaphor, the pricier they get. Expect to pay anywhere from $2k to $15k for a relevant dot-com domain, possibly much more for a highly-desirable word.

Negotiating the purchase of domain name can range from the quick and easy, to the difficult and complex. You never know who is hiding in that WHOIS!

Naming Tip #5: Keep a handful of name candidates under consideration
Everyone loves an epiphany. Unfortunately, expecting an epiphany from a naming process is usually a bad idea. It's common to want to fall in love with a single name candidate that communicates all of your desired messages, that is legally available, and that has an available dot-com. But expecting this to happen on your first viewing of any name can lead to heartache and disappointment. Murphy's Law of Naming says that if you fall in love with a name before the lawyers have given their nod of approval, that name will be unavailable to you.

The solution is simple: Keep several promising names under consideration. Once your lawyers give you the green light, and the dot-com issues have been settled, then you can pick your final name candidate. Choosing before you know all the facts can be dangerous.

The problem with falling in love with one name, or even with ranking a few names in order of preference, is a psychological one as much as it is logistical. If, for some reason, you've ranked your names and your lawyers rule out the top "favorite", you may be left with a name that you consider to be "second best." Naming specialists see the fall-out from this misguided strategy all the time. In order to distinguish between a first, second, and third ranking, clients often find (or create) unjustified or unfair concerns with names. Then, if the second name gets the nod, it just doesn't seem as good anymore.

The rule of thumb is to always keep a group of names under consideration and on a level playing field, until after the lawyers have given their nod of approval. Once you have the all-mighty legal blessing, then, and only then, can you pick your favorite final name candidate!

And if all this doesn't help, give us a call. We'll take care of you.

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