Cezary Pietrzak is a New York-based creative marketer and growth strategist. He currently runs marketing at tech incubator QLabs and previously co-founded travel site Wanderfly. You can read his thoughts on startup marketing at www.cezary.co.
This article is the first in a three-part series about naming your startup; on Thursday, we'll discuss creating names, and on Friday, we'll discuss testing names.
[More from Mashable: 16 High-Tech ’90s Gadgets That Are Pretty Lame When You Think About It]
Naming can be one of the most difficult challenges in the early stages of a startup. But while many people have written about the topic, few have actually codified the process to help entrepreneurs succeed in the endeavor. This guide breaks down naming into individual steps with detailed, practical suggestions that can be applied to almost any industry. It’s based largely on my personal experience naming several tech products as well as the themes I’ve noticed in great startup names. You’ll find numerous examples to bring each concept to life and inspire your creative side -- something you’ll need to get to the finish line.
In this first article, I provide a general overview of naming. Specifically, I examine the challenge of naming companies, the importance of creating a good name and pre-naming preparations.
[More from Mashable: 5 iPhone Cases to Keep Your Earbuds Tangle-Free]
The Challenge of Naming
Naming on the web is difficult because it’s a multiple-step process that’s a mix of art, science and pure perseverance.
First, you must create a name that is short (ideally, two syllables and
Then, you must find a domain that’s available. This is where things get really tricky. Given that most good .com names for $10 are already taken, it’s likely that you’ll spend at least a few hundred dollars on a good name, or risk forgoing some of the best options. You may also be subject to the availability and interest of a third party who may not be interested in selling the real estate.
If that’s not enough, then you’ll probably be naming your company as you juggle dozens of other responsibilities, such as building and testing your product, recruiting new team members or developing your go-to-market strategy. If you constantly put the process on the back burner, you’ll find that it takes time to get back in the groove and that naming can ultimately become a huge roadblock to other parts of the business.
That doesn’t sound like too much fun, does it?
The Importance of Naming
While the naming process requires a lot of time, patience and focus, doing it well is ultimately worth the effort. That’s because a name has a big impact on your entire business.
The name is first thing that people hear when you tell them about the company. At best, it signals maturity and relevance; at worst, a lack of vision, attention to detail and creativity. Before you can even finish your pitch, people are already making judgments of your company, and bad names can be a real distraction to important conversations.
The name is important for discoverability, whether in Google searches (10% to 50%+ of site traffic, depending on the category), the App Store (especially painful in iOS6) and other text-based discovery channels. If it’s too hard to spell, or too similar to something that already exists, chances are that people won’t find you, and you’ll lose a good chunk of your potential business.
The name is also a conduit to an emotional connection with your users. Good names -- like good logos -- evoke strong passion for your brand, while bad names elicit distaste and indifference. Using the former can be a competitive advantage for your company, especially when feature sets are roughly the same.
Generally speaking, a name is more valuable to a B2C (marketing-driven) company than a B2B (sales-driven) counterpart, so allocate your efforts accordingly. But whatever the case, there are simply no excuses for having a bad name. It represents your company and should always live up to image you want to project -- both internally and externally.
Part of the secret to creating a good name is laying the right groundwork. Before you start naming your company, follow the steps below.
Set a goal and deadline. Your goal should be finding a name that is solid and presentable, rather than something perfect. Your deadline may vary, but always have one, otherwise the process will drag on indefinitely and there won’t be any urgency to finish. A few weeks of organized effort should be enough time to develop a name and gain consensus among your co-founders, but if you’re on a tight schedule, it’s also possible to do in just a few days.
Create a Google spreadsheet. This will help you organize and keep track of your ideas in one place. Best of all, everyone can collaborate on the project in real-time, and there is no chance of overlapping efforts from different parties.
Set up a brainstorming session. You’ll eventually do many of these brainstorm sessions, but try to have one (usually the first) with a larger group. Invite people from outside of the tech world to bring a fresh perspective, and also invite folks from the creative professions -- writers, designers, artists, etc. Cap the number of participants at 8 people to keep the brainstorms from getting out of hand.
Research startups with great names. This will help you get inspired and understand what a great name looks and sounds like. It will also give you an insight into the word tricks used to craft the names. Browse companies on AngelList, Made in NYC, Startup Genome and your local co-working spaces and create a short list of the ones you like. Then, start spitballing.
Stay tuned for the second part of the startup naming guide, where I’ll focus on actionable steps to help you create a compelling name.
This story originally published on Mashable here.