Road Test a Name

by Norma

How to Road Test Your New Business Name

businessNameWhen you first open a new business, knowing what to call it and making sure that the name you have  chosen works is half fun, half deflating, and 100% hard work. Once the dust settles, road-testing is absolutely essential to a sound and brand conscious start to your new business.

  1. Choose a good, sensible, product or service-relevant name. One of the pitfalls new business owners often make is to assume that people will “get” your in-jokes, or that they’re interested in your personalized name. Naming a business after your first name will only work if you’re famous and interesting. Last names work for professional partnerships such as lawyers, accountants, architects, etc. but are rarely ideal for marketing goods and services nowadays – gone are the days when that was suitable. It’s also much harder to on-sell a business with a personal name, so bear this in mind.
  2. Check that the name is available. Search online and search trademark, patent and copyright associations, in your country and overseas (if you’re planning on expanding overseas later). Get the help of a professional if you’re not sure. Once you have come up with the name, and checked its availability, you’re ready to road-test its viability.
  3. Start road-testing. If you have followed the above suggestions, road-testing should be straightforward and very useful. The first thing is to ensure that your confidentiality is maintained. You don’t want people stealing your name and potentially your ideas before you’ve hit the market and staked your claim over the name. In order to safeguard the confidentiality, only select a small group of testers or people you know you can trust, such as family and friends. Alternately, use a confidentiality agreement to bind people to keeping silent about the name and ideas for a set period of time.
  4. Prepare the road-test questions. The types of questions that should be asked are those that will elicit the effectiveness and desirability of the name, for example:
    • Is it obvious to your test group what your business is, just from the name? Why or why not?
    • Is it easily recognizable, can it be spelled with ease (important for online interactions)?
    • Is it original or does it sound like a business or product they already know of?
    • What do they think of when they read the name?
    • Are the graphics appropriate? (Do you need graphics for your name/logo? See how we can help.)
  5. Ask for general thoughts, opinions, and suggestions as well. Leave plenty of space and time for this part
  6. Assess the comments. Remember that people tend to be overly critical when asked to test something because they see everything from their own perspective and if they’re being helpful, will try and inform you of what would be an issue for them. Take note of criticism and praise but balance both; ultimately you will need to trust the overall messages coming from the testing, as well as trusting your own reactions.
  7. Try again if your overall impression is negative. There is nothing worse than proceeding stubbornly with a business name doomed to failure; the name is the business and faltering at this point will destabilize the whole business. Get it right now and make adjustments as needed.

Naming a new business shares much in common with naming a new baby, some good and some bad, but in the end we do name them and live with that commitment ever after.  Those still considering what to call their new business would like to hear your story.  Please tell us about it with a comment or email

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