How to use a business name generator
There's no easy way to name a business – especially if you want a great .com domain name. But, in principle, online 'name generators' offer the most accessible way to get a name.
They certainly have some appeal; after all, they're free, and they can deliver a long-list of names almost instantly.
Various types and styles of tools are available, but broadly they work by a user entering a keyword, word part, or a prefix/suffix on a name generator website, and usually you can also select a maximum letter count, and your preferred TLD. (Tip: ONLY got for a .com – other domains just don't cut it.)
The site then uses a clever algorithm linked to a database, to generate and display a big list of invented words, automatically checking the availability of domains at the same time. Impressive stuff.
But there's no such thing as a free lunch so, as you'd expect, name generators have their shortcomings.
Firstly, whilst a computer algorithm can check what letters could be combined and assembled to make some sort of a word, it can't take into consideration how that word will look, sound or feel to a human. A human like, for example, one of your customers. Just because a domain name is available to buy, it doesn't mean it's the kind of word that could be turned into a brand name. You still have to use careful judgment.
Secondly, any computer programme is only as good as the information put into it. So if you enter obvious, predictable words or letters into a name generator, it's unlikely to surprise you with unexpected results.
Fortunately, we have some tips for using business name generators more effectively:
1. Set clear objectives
Whether you're brainstorming with friends, scribbling in a notepad, or using an online generator tool, before you even START looking, you need to decide what you're looking for. How else will you know when you've found it? You need to ask yourself some basic questions. For example, are you looking for a hi-tec name, or a familiar and reassuring name? Do you want it to sound European, American, British, or none of these? What style of name are you looking for? To help you decide, take a look at our free guide to business name types.
2. Go off on tangents
If you're looking to create a brand in the construction market, naturally you'll type the word BUILD into a generator tool. I tried this, and the results in one name generator included: Buildoper.com, Buildoid.com, Buildsu.com, Suubuild.com, Perobuild.com, and RaiseeBuild.com. Un-brandable rubbish, I think you'll agree. But it also came up with Buildista.com, Structobuild.com and Buildite.com. OK these aren't exactly brilliant either, but I've seen worse construction company names. Anyway, this is how most people use name generators, and it is not a good method. Here's short post on why brand name generators lack that human touch.
A smarter approach is to search using words around the obvious ones – synonyms, other meanings, or sideways references. In the example of our construction company we might search using words like 'room', 'form', or 'structure'. If you do this the results look more like this: Roomward.com, Formenic.com and Corstructure.com. It's arguable whether these would make great brand names, but at least they have character, and feel natural.
3. Break it down
Sometimes you don't need a whole keyword to create a strong brand name. Take Verizon, for example. Someone thought 'horizon' would be a nice association for a communications brand name. So they went an online name generator, typed 'izon' as a suffix, selected 'maximum 7 letters' and bingo ...Verizon.com was on the list. This is, of course, not how the name Verizon came about. But it's exactly the sort of name that could have been created using a name generator. So the challenge here is to identify parts of words so that a generator can deliver you new, invented words that feature it.
4. Filter, filter, and filter again
A big advantage of Name generators is that they can create huge lists of names very quickly. However, the process of filtering, online research and shortlisting is not quick. This process should be done thoughtfully and methodically. If you don't do this you'll find yourself carrying out a ton of searches, with no clear idea if you're making any progress. As well as being a waste of time, it can be pretty disheartening.
Take a look at our handy naming checklist, posted on the StartUpDonut blog.
If used thoughtfully and wisely, it is possible that you can find a great name among the long lists of results. Just make sure it's brandable.
Here's a list of some tools that we've found useful from time to time: