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What are the different ways that a business may select a name? What are the implications for domain name investors?

Use A Naming Agency

Startups seeking a name, or an existing business considering a rebrand or naming a new product or service, may engage the services of a naming agency.

I was surprised how many naming agencies exist. There are 5865 naming agencies on the Clutch Naming Companies list. While by no means all are exclusively in naming and branding, many do concentrate mainly on naming services.

Naming agencies meet with the client, learn about the business or product, along with preferences for the type of name desired. After that, typically the agency will go away and generate a list of possible names.

The process of narrowing to a short list varies somewhat, but may involve focus groups or market research, and interviews with employees and clients, if it is an existing business.

Naming agencies often perform preliminary trademark searches, along with domain name availability investigations, as part of the process of finalizing a short list. They may also provide mockups of possible logos and branding graphics.

While there are naming agencies in all parts of the world, many of the listed naming agencies are in New York, California or Texas.

I wondered how much naming agencies typically charge. Information on the Clutch Naming Companies site suggests that minimum campaign charges are usually at least $10,000, and for nearly half of the listed agencies the minimum is $25,000.

As well as a campaign minimum, the final cost will depend on the time spent and hourly charge. Depending on agency, the hourly rate may be anywhere from $25 to more than $300 per hour, although most of the time falls between $50 and $200.

You might think that most clients will be relatively large companies, but that appears not to be the case. One can browse the reviews on the Clutch site that include the size of the client business. Many of the naming agency campaigns were contracted by companies with fewer than 10 employees.

The naming agencies themselves vary in size, with many relatively small, less than 10 employees. However, some naming agencies have 10 to 49 employees.

As well as naming and branding, some of the agencies provide services such as marketing, social media, market research, graphics or web design, among many other possibilities.

Building Connections With Naming Agencies

While domain brokers who regularly handle high-value names may have cultivated relationships with naming and branding agencies, the majority of domain name investors are probably unknown to the naming agencies.

That means it is important to make sure that your names are easily found by the naming agencies. Have them listed on the major trusted marketplaces, and with a functioning lander.

There may well be an advantage to using a lander that allows direct contact with you, and to use your real or registered company name to help build trust.

If you can build your network to include individuals at naming and branding agencies, that may ultimately yield benefits. One way to start networking is to use LinkedIn or social media such as Twitter to follow naming and branding experts, and interact with their content.

In my opinion, outbound of specific names to a naming agency will simply create a negative impression. Obviously there is an exception if a call has been made for names meeting specific parameters and you hold a strong match. Rather, concentrate on slowly getting known, and at the right time they will reach out to you.

Reading books written by well-known individuals in the naming and branding community will provide insights on how these naming experts view good and weak names. Learning what the naming agencies like will increase chances your names will be chosen.

Owners Go-It-Alone With Hand Registration

In many cases a startup owner may go it alone, simply searching for names available to register. They may already have strongly-held opinions about a few names they like. From Google to Airbnb, there are countless examples of companies that have followed this route.

In the case of owners seeking to register a name, the best way a domain investor can try to influence the choice is by having names listed in the registration stream, by getting on the Afternic Premium Network or the Sedo MLS system, or opting on Dan for their extended network. The potential buyer will see your name presented with registrar search results, with a simple click and buy option.

NamePros Blog covered getting on the registration networks in The Many Ways People Might Discover Your Name.

Businesses who want to go to a single site to search for available names may use Dofo. Make sure that your names are listed somewhere that results in them appearing in Dofo listings.

Use A Brandable Marketplace

Businesses who are open to multiple name possibilities, may browse the brandable marketplaces to find a name.

Sites such as BrandBucket, SquadHelp, BrandPa and others make it easy to search from a curated selection of names suited for a brand.

The brandable marketplaces provide resources on what makes a good name, and staff help in narrowing the choice, or answering questions.

As a domain investor, the way to reach these potential clients is by listing some of your names at brandable marketplaces. While commissions are higher than at the general purpose marketplaces, the brandable marketplaces will help your names get in front of potential buyers who are ready and motivated to buy a brandable name.

While the largest brandable marketplaces now have well over 100,000 listings, still the selection is much narrower than the general marketplaces that have up to more than 20 million listings. This means your names have a better opportunity to get noticed.

Actionable advice to domain investors:
  • Search the brandable marketplace listings to see what names get listed. The people running these marketplaces have a good sense of what sells, and this can help you improve your name selection skills.
  • List some of your names at brandable marketplaces This allows you to reach potential clients that go this route.
  • Learn from which of your submitted names are selected. Keep in mind that names rejected at one brandable marketplace may well be accepted, or priced very differently, at another brandable marketplace.

Use A Naming Contest

SquadHelp pioneered the idea of crowd-sourced naming contests. The essential idea is the client starts a contest for naming a business or product, receives ideas from various SquadHelp creatives, mainly domain name investors and graphic creators, and then selects a name from the options suggested.

Staff at SquadHelp will provide support in questions such as a preliminary trademark search.

Naming contests currently start at $299. Read more about how SquadHelp naming contests work at this link. As well as a company name, the contest can seek a logo or tagline. They have package plans for those seeking all three.

Companies who are hesitant of giving an advantage to competitors can require a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before creatives can view the terms of the contest.

Domain name investors can benefit at least three ways from naming contests.
  1. They can submit suggestions for names, and if selected be compensated for suggesting the name. If new, you will need to build up a record of highly-rated submissions prior to having more freedom for multiple submissions and entering all contests.
  2. The feedback on your submissions can help you get better at proposing names.
  3. Premium listings from SquadHelp can be proposed. This means if some of your names are accepted for premium listing at SquadHelp, these can find more eyes through contests, if appropriate to the search criteria.
Those with graphical skills can also participate in logo competitions.

BrandBucket operate name contests as well, through their BrandNewName site. Pricing is very similar to SquadHelp, and they offer all three of business name, logo and tagline.

Brandmo have buyer requests that work somewhat similarly. The business outlines what they are looking for, and domain name investors can propose names from their portfolios.

Launch An In-House Naming Process

The expertise to find the right name can be hidden right within the company. With a little outside help to foster the naming process, a name that is the perfect fit can emerge. Jeremy Miller, in his books Sticky Branding and Brand New Name promotes helping companies to name themselves.

The multi-step process starts with specification of the naming task and parameters, followed by brainstorming ideas, gather testing data, and make the final decision. The Miller approach draws heavily on ideas from design thinking and sprint methodology, and typically from start to finish just requires a few weeks.

At the end of the search process, the company may use the services of a buy broker to secure a name that is already registered. Elliot Silver at DomainInvesting maintains a list of the main domain name brokers. Most brokers are very selective, and will only deal with names with obvious worth of $20,000 or more.

It seems to me that certain domain investors could quite easily pivot to offer company naming consulting services. It could provide an additional revenue stream and help smooth the fluctuations in domain name selling. You may find the ideas in the NamePros Blog article Naming As A Service helpful.

Final Thoughts

I wrote this article with two goals in mind. One was to lay out options for businesses about to embark on a naming, or renaming, process. The second was for domain name investors, on how to leverage this information to give their names a better chance of being noticed.

While I divided the various options into sections, of course many times a business name process will involve more than one. For example, a company might use an in-house rename exercise to come up with a list of possible names, or at least terms they like as part of a name, and then go to a general or brandable marketplace to search for available names containing that term.

This article is intended as a follow-up to the post from a few weeks ago on What Makes A Good Name.

In researching and writing this article, I was struck by how distant the naming and branding community is from the domain name community. I don’t think that is in the interest of either. It will be a slow process, but building professional bridges will make us all stronger.

It also occurred to me that the major brokerages and large portfolio holders have a distinct advantage in forging links with naming and branding agencies.

I welcome your input on any aspects of the topics in this post.
 
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The views expressed on this page by users and staff are their own, not those of NamePros.

Charybdis

Established Member
Impact
536
Is it worth submitting my domains manually to all these naming contests (where they allow submissions by users)? Or is the ROI negative? Time is money after all.
 

URLU

Top Member
Impact
3,168
Thanks Bob for your contribution to help everybody understand the domain industry in a clear and detailed way, appreciate your research and dedication, cheers.
 
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karmaco

Top Contributor
Impact
11,054
Would love a list of naming or branding agencies we should follow on Twitter and LinkedIn if anyone has that.

I agree with Bob they should NOT be spammed with names but rather from a research only standpoint watching what content they create on the platforms to gauge naming trends and the general market. Another tool if you will for info gathering.
 
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ultradog

Established Member
Impact
668
I'm making my coworkers read this. You've written about marketing aspects that I haven't seen discussed here before. Thanks.
 

topdom

Top Contributor
Impact
1,513
I think it is stupid to use a branding agency. It is like making someone else brush your teeth.
They can find a good brand, but also secure the domain for it, give you the .xyz for free, and keep .com for themselves, until you fully establish your business under that name.
 

Lox

_____Top Contributor
Impact
8,404
I was struck by how distant the naming and branding community is from the domain name community.

- Brand agency

Attending industry events/conferences, accolade shows, consumers shows, online events ... this opens opportunities to network with potential clients - build relationships = establish credibility (or building awareness of brand agency), while at the same time expanding your own knowledge base/discovering new ideas. Paying the ticket price, which can range from $100 to over $2,000

- High % Domain name flippers (aka sellers) / no offense /

Doing a bit (5-10 min) of research, chasing a weird domain names or TM names ("notflix" wtf?)... + unsynchronized extension, ... wondering how domain names are sold, spa**ing Twitter, FB, Internet etc, counting stars in the night sky & waiting for the dream to come true.

"There are many many faint stars/domain names but only a few bright stars/domain names."
Focus

Thx @Bob Hawkes. Great Article!

Regards
 
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Sjpals

Established Member
Impact
234
I have never come across naming agencies, so thanks for that new information (to me). I wrote a blog post on choosing a business and domain name and tried to ensure that the two are seen as synonymous www. wpwebsites. net/ business-name/
 

Willjoe

New Member
Impact
-13
7 Tips for Choosing a Business Name
  1. Follow Your State's Naming Guidelines.
  2. Don't Pick a Name That's Too Similar to a Competitor's Name.
  3. Choose a Name That People Can Spell and Pronounce
  4. Make Your Name Web-Friendly.
  5. Be Memorable But Not Too Unique.
  6. Pick a Name that's Consistent With Your Brand.
  7. Don't Limit Yourself.

Regards,
Willjoe