There's no doubt that coming up with a name for your startup is not easy but it's one one of your first big decisions when you're getting started. Last week, I talked about some key attributes to consider when you select a name but probably more important is to avoid the three pitfalls I'll outline below: not securing the domain name, not spelling the name correctly, and using your name inconsistently.
There was a time when naming involved doing a trademark search to make sure someone else in your industry was not using it as well. But now there are so many more searches you need to do as you want to make sure you can legally use it but also make sure the online identity is available.
Pitfall #1: Not securing the domain name
Getting a URL that's available is probably the hardest part today in selecting a name for your company. Most are taken but it's absolutely critical that you pick a name where you can get the URL, as your website will be the cornerstone of your business. Equally important though is to make sure you can get the name on the social media sites you plan to use.
Even with all the new extensions coming out, .com still reigns suprime so I would think long and hard about a name if you can't secure the .com. Even better, if you can come up with a name that has most of the extensions available then grab as many as you can afford but definitely .net and some key country ones if you plan to do business in multiple geographies.
Pitfall #2: Not spelling the name correctly
Because so many URLs are not available, the standard shortcut to take is to choose a name that is misspelled so they can get the URL or to settle for some variation on the URL that is long or difficult to remember when looking for the site. This happens time and time again.
While it may not be an issue in online communictions such as emails or on social media sites where you can link directly to the site, if you have a name and URL that are not spelled in a standard way then your prospects won't get to you site when they directly type in your URL and it may also not come up in search. You need to get found easily so a name and URL that are spelled the correct way are absolutely critical in my opinion.
At the same time, you also need to be careful if using a person's name or word that is difficult to remember or is not always spelled correctly. Even though you are spelling it correctly, if the general population has problems then you have the same issue outlined above. One potential solution here is to also secure the misspelled variations for the URL, if you have the cash and they are available.
Now I will admit there have been some notable successes that have not followed this rule but I would argue that they are the exceptions and would have had an easier time if they had picked a name that was spelled correctly. My primary school teachers are going to be so proud of me for harping on the value of correct spelling.
Pitfall #3: Using your name inconsistently
Sometimes a descriptive name, which I believe is a good thing, can go too far and become quite long. There is no doubt that this can help when you secure a URL as the longer ones tend to be available. A long URL is far from ideal for a number of reasons but the bigger pitfall here is that the name is often shortened in other communications.
For example, acmeheatingandairconditioning.com (still available) is the URL selected but everyone calls the company Acme or Acme Heating in general conversation and that's the name on their vans and in all their communciations. In this example, I'm not sure anyone would be able to find the company online as the URL is quite different from what the company is known as by its customers.
Or even worse, what if the URL was acmehvac.com (not available but no website) but everyone called the company Acme Heating? This has the issue I outlined above in using a URL that's different from the name but also uses an acronym that may be understood in the industry but may not be well known by its customers.
My point here, which I hope the examples illustrate, is that your corporate name, URL and social media identities need to be consistent and then used that way. If you have a long name, shorten it officially rather than using different variations in different areas. If you can't get a short URL that matches your name then keep looking for a name.
This is not easy, I know, but your name is your identity and will ultimately be the cornerstone of your brand. The name doesn't need to be perfect but it should be distinct, meaningful and memorable plus it's crucial that you avoid these pitfalls.