We'll spare you the over-quoted Shakespeare line and get right to it: Names carry a lot of weight, especially when it comes to business. But picking the right one can be frustrating and cause hair loss (see: How we came up with "ZOZI").
Plus, there's more to it than whipping up something creative or witty and calling it a day. A name can significantly impact the long-term success of a company, which is why it's important to understand what separates the golden eggs from the duds. Before pulling the trigger and ordering a year's worth of business cards, here are nine tips on how to pick a great name for your tour, activity or rental business:
1. Make It Stand Out, or "Stick"
“Stickiness” is a term experts use to measure how memorable a business name is. If your tour, activity or rental venue is located in an area with a healthy tourism economy, standing out from the pack is inarguably one of your biggest ongoing challenges. When brainstorming, think beyond titles that simply tack your name onto the beginning (for example, "Annie's Tours") or could easily be confused with a competing business.
Tip: The better a business name sounds out loud, the easier it is to remember. Bonus points for alliteration!
We're already getting ahead of ourselves, though. First, do some serious reconnaissance and get a lay of the competitive landscape. You don’t want to face the repercussions, legal and otherwise, of being the second Dan’s Camping Rental in town. On top of this, think about how your name can differentiate your brand from similar nearby businesses. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, 90 percent of businesses choose names that sound the same as their competitors. Don't make that same mistake!
2. Use Online Tools
Before settling into some serious spitballing, check to see if a domain and/or social media handles already exist for any of your favorite candidates. This will eliminate potential names before you plunge into the brainstorming process. Here are two things to keep in mind:
.com is King
It's best to stick with a .com domain name. Why? It's what people are used to, and keeping with the status quo (in this case) is an indicator of the credibility of your business. A .com name is easy to remember and eliminates the guessing game, so get creative and exhaust all your options before considering the alternatives.
Tip: Even if you do get the .com name you were hoping for, it's smart to buy up a few other generic top-level domains as well if they're available (namely, .org, .net, .info and .biz). Conduct an instant domain search with Domainr to see what's available and what's taken.
Get a Handle on the Social Media Situation
Ideally, your social media handles will match or closely match the name of your business. If you're in love with a certain name, but most of the related social media handles are taken, maybe go back to the drawing board. Remember: It's all about making your business easy to search and discover online. Use Knowem to check availability of social media names.
3. Keep It Simple
Know your target audience when formulating a business name, and aim for something that's easily shared, looked up, or found via voice recognition through intelligent assistants like Siri, Alexa, Cortana or Google Now. Shoot for a title that doesn't require a lot of guesswork when it comes to spelling or pronunciation, and is memory-friendly (meaning, no acronyms, no puns with awkward or misleading spelling, and nothing too long). Also, it can't hurt to start with a letter that puts your business at the front of alphabetical listings.
Another preemptive measure that will save you some serious copywriting strife? Think about where your business name will have to fit. If you haven't experienced the singular joy that is cramming a bunch of important details into an email subject line, a 144-character tweet, an advertisement, or any other type of promotional marketing material where space is limited, trust us: Future you will thank present you for picking a product name that's not overly complicated.
4. Be Careful With Quirk
Don't get us wrong—we love a little wordplay and alliteration. But while you may be excited by the prospect of using a buzzy, made-up word for your business, it’s probably best to be more straightforward within the tour, rental, and activity industry. Be careful with puns, too, as they don’t always translate well in other languages. If you are considering the whimsical, punny, or alternative spelling route, ask yourself: "Would this appear on a TV sitcom parodying Silicon Valley companies with ridiculous names? Would it appear on a Business Insider list of company names with hilarious double meanings?" If the answer is yes for either, maybe think it over a little more.
However...we also want to throw this out there: None of the tips in this article are absolute, so keep that in mind and don't be discouraged by general guidelines that put a damper on your brilliant idea. For example: Take one of our clients, KitTea Cat Cafe in San Francisco. Sure, it's a quirky pun, but it's very fitting, fun to say out loud, super memorable (sticky!), and gives you an idea right off the bat as to what the business is about: A cat cafe with tea! Every business is unique, and there's no one-size-fits-all equation to coming up with the perfect name.
5. Consider SEO
What is SEO again, you ask? (Hey, this is a judgement-free zone). Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of taking certain steps to help your website show up higher on the search engine web page (a.k.a. Google). One of the best ways to get your business to rank high in organic search is to give it a unique name that sets it apart from similar businesses. We like these practical tips from CEO Phillip Davis of Tungsten Branding:
Avoid acronyms and initials ("ABC Party Rentals)
Avoid superlatives ("Premier Tahoe Tours")
Google your name choices to see how many results are returned. If the results number in the tens of thousands, think again.
Don't worry about building a business name around keywords. For example, if you want your business to rank high for the keyword phrase, "Awesome Kayak Rentals," you don't want your name to be awesomekayakrentals.com.
Ideally, your brand name will also be your domain name (or they'll be very similar)
6. Make Sure it Makes Sense for Your Business
When it comes to naming your company, make sure it actually works for your business. Can someone looking for the services you provide ascertain as much from hearing your business name? If not, you may need to rethink it.
7. Take a Cue From the Big Guys
Entrepreneur and startup advisor Peter Gasca cites the 5-10 Rule, which postures that many successful companies in recent history have five to 10 letters in their name; at least one hard consonant; and (often) repeating lettering: For example—Google, Apple, Exxon, Yahoo, Starbucks, FedEx, Amazon and Hasbro, to name a few.
However...we know that comparing tour, activity and rental businesses to tech giants like Starbucks or Google is an apple-to-oranges scenario. It's not exactly easy (or logical) to cut "Bayou Boat Tours" or "Crème De La Crème Culinary Classes" down to 10 words. We do agree, however, that simplicity, uniqueness, and memorability are great qualities to aim for when coming up with a name.
8. Consider the Future
You don’t want to limit yourself with a name, so choosing one with a specific place or product may not be the best choice. Be hopeful/mindful of your future goals, and consider picking something that allows for expansion and growth. At the very least, apply this advice when selecting a web domain.
For example, let’s say a business named Peddling Pete’s Bike Tours opens in Hudson, New York, with the domain www.peddlingpetesbiketourshudson.com. Down the line they may want to expand, and open multiple locations throughout the upstate New York area—leaving them with a name and domain that are no longer reflective of their broader business model.
9. Reach Out for Feedback
OK! So you’ve come up with a few solid options and it’s time to test them out. Take whatever you’ve been working on and put it in front of your closest, most trusted advisers. Potential customers, investors, collaborators, and co-workers are all excellent sources when looking for a second (or third or fourth) opinion. A fresh set of eyes always bears the potential of bringing new insight, and can draw attention to things you might have otherwise totally missed.
Taking all these factors into consideration can pay off when it comes to brand recognition, long-term growth, and making your business easy to find online. But at the end of the day, it's your call to make, so go with your gut. Your business is your baby, after all!