The Four Phases of Business Naming

When you begin the naming process it can be helpful to break the process into four distinct components.

Those four phases in sequential order are: preparation, generation, evaluation and registration. Each is distinct, calling for different mindsets.

Preparation

Preparation is best performed by creating a naming brief. That is a document normally derived from your business plan. It sets down those considerations from a strategic point of view that will influence the next phase i.e. name candidate generation.

Preparation also includes a definition of exactly what you are naming. Quite often, an entrepreneur will look for the company name to also be the name of a product or service. At this stage, it is important to look ahead to try to determine if there will be any conflicts or confusion as new products and services are introduced. Any taboos or prejudices about names should be documented here as well. And a set of naming criteria should be included.

The point is the naming brief is to give clear direction to those involved in the name generation phase of naming. Insightful input provided at this stage will ensure more relevant name candidates.

Generation

For most folks name candidate generation is the fun part of naming. But for some it is pure hell. I believe it is essential to generate a great number of name candidates, and when you are through, develop even more. Therefore many sources and techniques for generating candidates are recommended. These range from web based word generators to common reference books; from brainstorming to mind map development.

Once you have a basic candidate list you can go over it and select certain words that could be further manipulated. Quite often the best candidates are the last ones generated. They will be found to be more innovative and unique, partially out of desperation and partially out of inspiration.

Once you have a list of at least 200 candidates, you’re ready for the next phase

Evaluation

Part of the naming brief that you created in the preparation phase should contain your name criteria. These criteria can be generic in the form (short, memorable, unique) or they can be very specific to your business. I suggest that each criterion that you invoke should be weighted. Then as you evaluate the most promising names, you apply these weighted evaluators to each name. Below is a sample of a chart which I find find valuable in evaluating candidates.

Assign weights to each attribute, then assign a rating to each candidate and muliply the weight by the rating and add all the rows to score each candidate
Assign weights to each attribute, then assign a rating to each candidate and muliply the weight by the rating and add all the rows to score each candidate

Another aspect of evaluation is determining whether or not the candidates you like are available to you. If you are planning to only do business locally, you must check your state records for your chosen name. This can normally be accomplished by going to your particular state’s website under State Department or Commerce Department. There you can enter candidate names and get feedback as to their availability. A list of those sites is available here.

You will want to check the as well to determine if your name candidate is registered as a trademark by someone else in your particular product classification.

Registration

Once you have chosen a name and determine that it is available for your use, you’ll want to register it. Although it is possible for you to incorporate your business without one, I suggest engaging an attorney or a company whose business is helping small businesses incorporate. There could be a lot to consider, especially if you plan to do business in more than one state. One resource to help you with registrations is LegalZoom. They provide very reasonably priced services (from which I receive a commission if you were to click here and ultimately do business with them).

Summary

So you begin by wearing your strategic hat while preparing your naming brief. Then you put on your creating hat to generate a large list of name candidates. Then you switch to your judgmental hat while evaluating those candidates. The last part of the evaluation phase and for the registration phase, you will want to wear your administrative hat.

There is a lot involved in each phase and I’ll be covering each subsequent posts. State tuned. You might want to subscribe to my RSS feed .

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