Naming your business

3rd August 2018

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When it comes to starting a business, choosing a name is one of the most important, and often one of the trickiest, decisions to make. When you first have an idea for a business, the name may already be part of that idea, but this is often not the case, and names may change as you develop the idea.

Doing your homework can save time and disappointment down the line. That’s why why we’ve written this blog post to give you a few tips.

Lost for words

Striking the balance between choosing words that create a unique name but also relate to the business isn’t easy. You may also decide on the perfect name, only to find that someone else got there first.

Being unique

Your one-of-a-kind company deserves a one-of-a-kind name. This is not only the case from a brand perspective, but also for registering with Companies House. But don’t worry, if your name changes after you’ve registered, you can alter it for a small cost (£8 online).

The Companies House website also explains that if the names are similar, you won’t be able to register it. For example, if there’s a registered company called ‘Easy Electrics For You Ltd,’ you won’t be able to register the name ‘EZ Electrix 4U Ltd.’

Spellcheck

Replacing letters for numbers or putting a ‘z’ rather than an ‘s’ can also make your name difficult to spell. If someone hears about your business on the radio and wants to look it up, will they be able to Google it?

One of our Starling for Business customers Stephen Kinkaid ran into this problem with his web hosting business. ‘Eaziweb’ evolved from a web hosting service that he set up as Head of the Computing for a grammar school in Northern Ireland. He was searching for ways to break the monotony of the Word, Excel, Powerpoint trio and rented a web server for the after school computer club. In order to fund this web server, which he had rented with his own money, he started selling web hosting on eBay and called the business ‘Eaziweb.’

As the company grew, he began to think about how it would sound if you heard about it on the radio or in an ad. If people searched for Easyweb, Eazyweb or Easiweb, they wouldn’t find it. In the end, he took his lead from other web hosting companies with quirky names, such as GoDaddy and A Small Orange. Sheltering in the pub one day from the pouring rain, he settled on Big Wet Fish Hosting, finding it unique, easy to spell and memorable.

Google it

Over the years, we’ve seen some brands become part of everyday conversations to the point where they become verbs. We’ve been jet-skiing for years; hoovering for even longer. Now we also Whatsapp, Skype, Photoshop and FaceTime. And of course, we Google.

The story of Google’s name has gone down in branding lore. While at Stanford University in California, the company’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin called their search program ‘BackRub’ because it analysed a website’s ‘backlinks’ to understand how popular it was and which other websites were related to it. During a brainstorm session, another Stanford grad student, Sean Anderson, suggested the name ‘googolplex’ which Page countered with the shorter term ‘googol.’ (The word ‘googol’ was coined in 1920 by nine-year-old Milton Sirotta, to describe the number 10100, or ten to the power of one hundred, and written down by his uncle Edward Kasner.)

When Page checked to see if the domain name was available, he accidentally searched for ‘Google.’ And it stuck. Incidentally, the decision to name Google’s parent company Alphabet, during a corporate restructuring in 2015, was based on a combination of factors including that it encompassed everything from A to Z and a desire to have the url abc.xyz.

While we’re talking about Google, don’t just ‘google’ company names when checking for clashes. Remember to check out social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram.

You might also think about other words that relate to your name and use this in your marketing. For example, with Pinterest, you ‘pin’ your favourite photos, websites and products.

Dotcom

For your website, you’ll also need to check which domain names are available. Most of us will want to have a website ending in ‘.com’ as it tends to be the default that people search for.

In the last few years more top level domains have been approved including ‘.art’ and ‘.london,’ aiming to help boost the identity of the industry or the location of the business. Depending on your business, you may find another option that fits better than ‘.com.’ Be careful though - your customers may be so used to typing in ‘.com’ and ‘.co.uk’, that it may seem like a hassle to type in anything else.

Consider too how your name will look as a website. When you put the words together do you read it differently? For social media, do you want to add capital letters to separate the words like we do with @StarlingBank?

People running with Fitbit

Sound effect

It’s not all about looking good. Names must also sound good when spoken out loud. Coca-Cola and FitBit are great examples. You could test this with family and friends (who will often be your biggest critics as well as your biggest supporters). Read out a list of different options to see how they sound and how people react. It’s a great way to test how catchy it is.

Telling a story

So how did you come up with the name? This is a question that many entrepreneurs will be asked, especially if their name is a creative one rather than a descriptive one.

Starling Bank

For Anne Boden, our founder and CEO, the idea of starting a digital bank came first, the name came later. Having ‘Bank’ in our name is important to us - we were granted our banking licence in July 2016 and we’re very proud of it.

During a branding session early on, the name Carrot Bank was suggested. Anne thought she would never be able to get up on a conference platform and be taken seriously if she had to say, ‘Good afternoon, my name is Anne Boden, CEO of Carrot Bank.’

Starling was among the other suggestions. Everybody liked it. The Starling bird is sociable, adaptable, friendly and strong, all qualities we wanted the bank to have. Plus, it is a hugely successful bird, which arrives in huge numbers in each new territory and displaces the old guard.

Keep Talking

Of course, having a story behind the name isn’t essential but it may end up happening anyway and you may grow into your name in a way you didn’t expect. You might be speaking to a friend about how the business is going and they pick out a word you’ve said and say “That’s what you should call it.” Talking about your business to people you meet is key - you never know what might come out of that conversation.

Next

Starling milestones: Summer 2018