What’s in a Name That Sells?

You are here:
Module 1: How to Position Your Brand to Sell
Section 2: How to Create Messages That Sell
Post 1: What’s in a Name That Sells?

Steve Jobs and Apple. Richard Branson and Virgin. Donald Trump and…well, everything Trump.

All iconic entrepreneurs who’ve built a brand that sells.

Almost everyone knows who they are. Some people love them while others hate them. But just the mention of their name evokes emotion.

That’s by design. They attract the people they want and repel all the others.

What’s their secret?

A magnetic force field!

Your magnetic force field helps you attract the customers, employees, funders and partners you want.

It originates from your core (which we discussed in the last section) and has two poles, just like our planet.

Messaging is your North Pole. Imaging is your South Pole.

As the three entrepreneurs mentioned above know…

Your brand is only as powerful as your ability
to communicate what you do in a compelling way.

We’ll save our discussion of Imaging for the next section. Let’s tackle Messaging now.

We’ll start with how to choose the name of your business.

Shakespeare was wrong!

William Shakespeare penned one of the most memorable quotes of all time in Romeo and Juliet:

Juliet said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

According to Shakespeare, names don’t matter. Only the essence of things is important.

Shakespeare was wise to stick to writing. Because names matter a lot when it comes to your brand.

Don’t get it wrong – your essence is important too. But you can have the best product or service in the world and fail.

You can take care of customers better than anyone and still lose in the game of business. It’s happened too many times to mention.

You also need a message which breaks through the clutter in the marketplace. It needs to resonate with that certain group of people you want as customers.

Your name is the cornerstone of your message. It’s generally the first impression of your brand in both the real and virtual worlds.

  • A colleague introduces you at a professional networking event. The conversation probably goes something like this: “This is [your first and last name] with [your business name].”
  • A customer pulls up to your office. What’s on the sign? Your business name!
  • Someone visits your website. What shows up prominently in the banner? Your name!

So you don’t just want a name. You want a name that sells!

Your name is even more important in the fragmented media word we live in today. It needs to help you instantly cut through the clutter and “ring a bell” with the people you want to attract.

3 types of names

  • Your name

A lot of entrepreneurs want a business named after them. We can’t think of a better example of this than Donald Trump.

His company is The Trump Organization. His buildings are almost all Trump (e.g. Trump Tower, Trump hotels, Trump casinos). He has a Trump winery and Trump golf courses.

His name is his brand. He stamps it on just about everything he does.

If all goes well – naming your company after yourself builds both your business and personal brands. However, if things don’t turn out the way you want – your name can be affected by your business name.

  • Descriptive name

Your name can be descriptive in some way – it represents a business (Bank of America), the products (Home Depot), a overarching benefit (FedEx), a philosophy (Whole Foods), or some other feature.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Group is an example of this. He uses Virgin like Donald Trump uses his name – Virgin Records (record label), Virgin Atlantic (his airline), Virgin Mobile (prepaid cell phones), Virgin Galactic (space travel service).

Why Virgin? He was an inexperienced entrepreneur when he launched his record label. But it also described his attitude – he was looking for music that was “pure and fresh.” Virgin brings this philosophy to every business they enter.

  • “Nothing” name

You may also choose a name which has nothing to do with anything related to the business, per se.

What does “apple” have to do with computer hardware? Not a thing. So why did Steve Jobs choose Apple? They couldn’t think of anything better. Plus it got them ahead of Atari in the phone book.

What to avoid in a name

  • Mistake #1: A bad combination

Some names are fine on their own, but together they give the wrong impression.

For example – if your last name is “Bland” and you are an interior designer, you probably should NOT call your business…

Bland Design

It’s a great name if you want to be known for boring, dull work. But it sure doesn’t fit the message most designers we know would want to send!

We know this seems obvious. But you won’t believe how often we see people making this mistake. (We’re protecting them by not giving any real examples.)

Take a step back and get outside your own head. Think like someone hearing it for the first time. How might they perceive it?

  • Mistake #2: A boring name (yawn!) 🙂

What a great follow-up to our “bland” discussion, eh? And what a common mistake this is. Whew! There sure are a lot of boring names out there!

Boring names are a killer these days. Back when there were few choices of media, you could pick a couple and drill your message into people’s heads.

But that’s not the case anymore – people are here, there and everywhere. Media is more fragmented than ever and will only get more so. We’ll all have more options going forward.

So you want a name that creates excitement and sparks emotion. Then you’ll cut through the clutter, you’ll be more memorable and people will naturally want to learn more about what you do.

  • Mistake #3: A name that limits your future

Define yourself by an area and it’s hard to get people to take you seriously outside that area. You can think of “area” in two ways: geographic and product / service.

Here’s an example which covers both of them: Let’s say you’re a heating and air-conditioning contractor based in Peoria, Illinois. You could call yourself Peoria Heating and Air Conditioning.

People in Peoria will know you’re local. And they’ll know what you do.

But what if someday you want to expand to nearby cities? You won’t be able to leverage your brand name.

Similarly, what if you decide to add refrigeration to your list of services? You’ll be at a competitive disadvantage because restaurants and grocery stores may not realize you do it because your name limits you.

  • Mistake #4: Naming for peer pressure

This mistake is particularly common among professionals. They pick a name which speaks to their peers instead of their customers.

It may be a boring name – you know, it’s a lot like all their competitors. So they blend in, rather than standing out from the pack.

Even worse, their name may contain “industry speak.” They understand the lingo. Their competitors relate to the jargon. They may even think it’s cool.

But who do you want to respond to you name?
a) competitors
b) customers

If your answer is “b) customers,” then make sure you’re picking a name which resonates with them.

  • Mistake #5: Strange concoctions

You see this a lot as people try to find a name with a .com extension. But some people get carried away with it.

For example, we’ve seen names with no vowels. It may be fine to leave out the a’s, e’s, i’s, o’s and u’s in a text message to a friend. But it’s no way to name a business!

Some people asset that you should never brand yourself with a misspelled name. However, it’s worked fine for Digg and Flickr. And it’s worked for us with BIGG Success. There are countless other examples.

But do you notice something about all three names? How many misspellings do each of us have?


Digg adds a “g” as do we. Flickr removes one vowel – an “e.” Note they didn’t spell it “Flckr” – that’s “text message talk.”

We can’t speak for Digg but we’ve had a tremendous amount of fun by spelling BIGG like we do. It sparks curiosity – it’s one of the questions we get asked most frequently.

And because we want people to remember the second “g,” we always have a story about how it came to pass when we introduce ourselves. For example, here’s how we introduced ourselves a recent conference…

“Hi, we’re George and Mary-Lynn with BIGG Success. And that’s “BIGG” with two g’s because we can’t spell.”

You won’t believe how many people comment on goofy blurbs about how BIGG came to have two g’s. More importantly, they remember us!

It also highlights one of our core values – work should be seriously fun! So we don’t take ourselves too seriously. It comes across with BIGG.

3 steps to find a name

1) Think and feel
When we talked about attracting the customers you want, we said it’s important for you to be able to think and feel like them.

You want your brand name to resonate. Here are seven things to consider as you think about an ideal name:

  • Does it highlight your primary benefit?
    A name that sells triggers emotion (BIGG Success) or instantly differentiates you (Overnight Prints).
  • Does it define your place?
    You want people to quickly grasp what you do. Just remember – you don’t want to define so tightly that you limit your future.
  • Do people “get it” instantly?
    When you say the name of your business, you want to see curiosity, not confusion.
  • Is it memorable?
    Made-up words may be hard to remember unless they make sense instantly (Microsoft).
  • Is it short?
    Generally speaking – the shorter your name is, so much the better. We generally recommend no more than two words with four syllables total.
  • Is it easy to spell?
    People may remember you, but not be able to find you if the words in your name are difficult to spell.
  • How does it sound?
    You want a name that’s easy to say and one which may even have a certain rhythm.

An ideal name hits squarely on all seven points. However, you probably won’t find a name which fits all the criteria.

Let’s analyze BIGG Success against this list. We think it hits the mark on only four of the seven:

First, the benefit is apparent. Most people want success. We don’t just help you get a little taste of it. We help you reach BIGG Success!

Second, it’s memorable, primarily due to the second “g” in BIGG. Notice we don’t score well on spelling. Yet it’s the misspelling that makes us stand out!

Third, it’s short – two words, three syllables.

Fourth, “BIGG Success” has a good sound. In fact, people often say it to us in rhythm. And they have fun with it like we do. They’ll often spell BIGG “the right way” (i.e with a second “g”). And in conversations where the word “big” comes up, they’ll often say with a smile, “And that’s BIGG with two g’s!” We love it!

However, BIGG Success as a name also has some shortcomings:

Our name doesn’t define our place. We create content and coach. Do you think of that when you here “BIGG Success”? Probably not. So we don’t score well on this point.

Do people instantly get it? They seem to have some sense of it. It definitely raises curiosity. But we’re sure there are names which would do better. So we give ourselves a negative on this one.

It’s not easy to spell “big success,” let alone “BIGG success.” We lose on two fronts here – we spell BIGG wrong. (But we’re glad we did!). And “success” is hard to spell – it’s really easy to leave out a “c” or an “s”.

Like us, you probably won’t hit on all seven. We’ve created a pecking order in the list above. They’re all important. However, we think things are relatively less important as you move down the list.

Furthermore, you can probably think of all kinds of amazingly successful ventures who would perform terribly against this list. We sure can.

Do you remember the first time you heard the name “Google”? Based on that memory, how would you score them?

We’ll be generous and give them a three out of the seven. It’s memorable, short and sounds kind of cool. But obviously, it worked out great as a name.

But here’s something to remember – you probably don’t have the same kind of backing that Google had. It generally takes longer and costs more to build a brand with a non-descript name like “Google.”

You probably should be more practical. By that, we don’t mean boring. We just recommend you be closer to the ideal.

So with this framework, brainstorm for names. Just think and write. Don’t edit. Record everything that comes to mind. (You may do this over several sittings.)

Then review your list. What do you like?

Finally, put yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes. Think and feel like them as you “try on” the names on your list. What will resonate with them?

Try to narrow your list down to five or so names.

2) Check for availability
With your inventory of potential names, it’s time to do a little research. There’s no point in getting excited about a name somebody else is using! So you want to make sure it’s fully available.

  • Trademark search

Start by doing a trademark search. You won’t learn for sure if a name is available. However, you can quickly learn if it isn’t available.

The governing authority in the United States is the Patent and Trademark Office (uspto.gov). For our friends outside the States, search “[country] trademark office” (e.g. Canada trademark office).

Besides searching for your potential names, these offices are an excellent resource for understanding how to protect your intellectual property, including your name.

We created a short video to show you how to search for trademarks. View the video.

NOTE: Someone else may be using a name, but not in your business. In that case, you’ll want to consider a number of factors:

How large are they? You probably don’t want to compete for attention with a national or international brand, even if they’re in another business.

How well known are they? Closely related for sure, but you could have a brand which hasn’t cracked the national scene yet. But they’re really popular in a particular region. It’s probably best to avoid these too.

Where do they operate? If your paths will almost never cross, you may be okay.

What’s their reputation? You don’t want your reputation to get sullied by their misdeeds.

As we said earlier, don’t assume a name is available just because you don’t see it in the trademark search. You’ll also want to search for it online.

For example, a direct competitor may not have actually registered (®) a mark yet. But when you go to their site, you see the trademark (™) symbol. You’ll need to stay away from that name to avoid a legal battle.

This is a good place for us to add a disclaimer: We highly recommend that you work closely with professional advisors. Of all places to skimp, this is not one of them.

For example, we suggest you work with an attorney to protect your intellectual property. Talk with your insurance broker about coverage for “errors and omissions.”

  • “Local” registration search

You’ll also want to check with your state, province, territory, etc. You want to find out if there are entities in your state incorporated under the name you want.

For example, let’s say a person wants to start or rename a business in Illinois. A simple search for “Illinois corporation” will get them the web address for the office which oversees corporate filings.

They can search the database for the names they think they want to use in their business. They’ll quickly see if other firms are using that name. A follow-up can reveal enough information to know whether the brands would bump into each other.

  • Domain search

A brand is only as good as its domain. Does your brand name need to match your domain name exactly?

No. But we’ll also warn you not to rely on gimmicks.

We recommend that you use Bust a Name. You can search names with them without it “registering.” So no one else sees it. Plus this tool suggests alternatives which may help you find a name you like even better!

  • Social media

Next, you should see if your name is available on social media. We’ll talk a lot about social media in Module 3 – Promote Your Brand Online and Off.

For now, we recommend that you search the following phrases (without the quotation marks) for the names you’re considering:

“[potential business name] facebook”
“[potential business name] twitter”

Look at these two at a minimum. You can do more if you want (e.g. Google+, Pinterest).

By doing this, you make sure your user name can be the same as your brand name. Then you’ll get more “Google juice” from your social networking efforts. So you’ll show up better in search results.

  • Phone number

You may or may not want to do this. But if it’s important to you, check with your phone service to see if you can have a “vanity” phone number.

For example, our toll free number is 888.455.2444. We show it in our signature lines like this: 888.455.BIGG [2444].

It’s something we have fun with – Batman has the Batphone. We have the BIGG number!

But unless your business relies heavily on incoming calls, we don’t think it’s as much of a consideration these days – especially since the Blackberry doesn’t have the same system as other phones. But we threw it in just in case it’s a factor for you.

  • DBA filing

We’re also including this, but not because it’s a part of choosing a name. It’s just something you should be aware of.

DBA is an acronym for Doing Business as. For example, our corporate name is Wynn Bigg Corporation. As you know, we do business as BIGG Success. You’ll often see it like this:

Wynn Bigg Corporation, DBA BIGG Success.

In general, it’s our understanding that you don’t have to file for a DBA if…

You use your name and the product or service you provide (e.g. Jane Doe Designs) OR

You corporate name is the same name you use when doing business with the public.

However as we said before – check with your attorney for the regulations under which you operate.

3) Test
You started all that checking with around five names. By now, you’ve probably narrowed it down to two or three.

It’s time to test. We suggest you ask anyone and everyone. However, we also urge you to put the most weight on people like your ideal customer.

Family and friends are great. Get their impressions. It’s a fun activity. It will get them excited about your business.

But make sure you get the really important feedback. Ask your target market what they think. Then follow up with:


Then let them go! Listen intently. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn.

You’ll not only walk away with insight on your name, you will be learn about hot buttons, pain points, wants and needs. Listen carefully and they’ll tell you what your messages should be.

After considering so many ideas our heads were spinning, we filtered it down to two names when we were at this point: BIGG Life or BIGG Success.

We started asking. Here’s the funny thing: It was about 50/50. But we realized our ideal customers were mostly voting for BIGG Success.

By the way, sometimes it’s a slam dunk. We asked people about naming this program. Build a Brand That Sells won overwhelmingly!

So when you’re ready, start asking people about your names. It’s an incredibly simple way to start marketing your business.

What if I already have a name?

This question could mean two things, so we’ll tackle them both. First, are you a startup with a name? If so, did you go through a process similar to what we’ve described here? If so, great! If not, we highly recommend you do so. You really have nothing to lose and a WHOLE lot to gain!

Second, are you rebranding? If so, you certainly don’t have to change your name. There may be good reasons not to. But there may be good reasons to do so. We recommend you look at your name through the lens of the process we’ve mapped out here. If it stands up to it, don’t touch it. If not, you might be surprised at the difference a new name can make.

Sample name

Here’s an example of a rebranding with a new name. But it’s also instructive if you’re a startup entrepreneur.

One of our coaching clients was an alternative health clinic. They came to us because they wanted to attract more patients.

After conversations, observations and research – we suggested a rebranding with a name change and a new website. They agreed to it.

So we got started. We walked through differentiation. We started working on a name. We did exactly what you’re seeing.

Their name was…The Center for Health, Renewal and Longevity.

It was very descriptive. But it was too long.

It was “clinical” so it was safe. But it didn’t spark an emotion. It didn’t showcase a benefit. It was hard to remember.

So we suggested they change it to…The Enliven Health Center.

Enliven.com wasn’t available. But EnlivenMe.com was!

Think about it – you a man or woman in their 30s or up. You just don’t feel as good as you used to. You feel like something is missing.

You see an ad talking about these things. It tells you how to feel better. Simply call and say, “Enliven me!”

We’re happy to say their business is booming. They provide a great service. They care deeply about their patients. They just needed a brand that sells!


Need help coming up with a name? Here are some resources you may find useful:

GlobalNaming is a FREE web tool which helps you analyze names, understand what the words mean and suggest alternatives.

If you want a professional service to help you, check out Namella. They offer packages starting at just $97.

Next Step

With this background, you can either go through Part 1 of the Create Messages That Sell Guidebook or go on to the next post. (You probably know what we recommend!)

Also note – if you have any questions, email us at bigginfo@biggsuccess.com with “BTS QUESTION” in the subject line.