Why Audience Testing is a Vital Step in the Business Naming Process

After days or maybe even weeks of brainstorming and crossing off every possibility, you have finally found the perfect business name. Or, at least you think so.

When naming your business, you must think beyond what you as the business owner think of the name.  It’s great if you like it, and it’s wonderful if your team likes it, but at the end of the day, it is best if your target customer is interested in your business name too.

If your business name does not generate enough buzz and interest with your target audience, all of the effort you put into developing your business name was wasted. Our ultimate guide for coming up with a business name will help you maximize the time you put into choosing a name for your business.

Come up with a bunch of great names

This is when it’s time to pull all the creative levers in your brain. Jot down every business name suggestion you come up with, even if you are not yet sure that it’s a good fit.

A good name is easy to say, spell, and remember. You should also do a quick search to make sure a suitable URL is available so you don’t fall in love with the name before discovering that it is already taken or the domain is way out of your budget.

Create a shortlist

After you have collected a variety of names, begin crossing ones you don’t think are a good fit off the list. The goal here is to narrow your options so you have a list of about five or six possible names.

Consider not only what you think is a good fit, but who you are trying to appeal to. Millennials may not gravitate towards a classic, preeminent name the way previous generations would.

Get feedback from your target demographic

Once you have a solid shortlist, it is time to bring in outside opinions. Target your audience based on gender, age, and region. Set the stage of your question to allow people to make a relevant decision, something that you want them to make with regard to your business. Slow your target audience down. They should have to pause to think about your question as well as your name in the context of your brand.

The biggest mistake you could make in this process is to ask anybody, especially friends and family, “Which one of these names do you like?” That’s an esoteric question because your business name could mean nothing out of context. What does it mean to like a name? Do you like how it looks on the page or how it sounds? Is the name descriptive of what you do? Or do you simply like a name because it reminds you of your best childhood friend? Your questions must extend beyond the simple, subjective territory of “like.”

Here are some examples of what your questions should look like:

  • Which one of these investment apps are you most interested in learning more about?
  • Which one of these toothpaste brands are you most likely to try?

These questions are strong because they force the target audience to slow down and consider your brand in a rooted context.

You can also try questions that are based around value or benefit propositions. For example:

  • Which one of these names would be the best fit for a revolutionary payment process company focused on individuals and global usage? (PayPal)
  • Which of these bank names do you feel most embodies prestige and trust?

Offer your test group a few dissimilar options. Otherwise, offering two names like “Nexo” and “Nexol” will skew your results–if only one of these options had been available, people who voted for “Nexol” may have liked “Nexo” best out of the list.

When testing your audience, avoid comparing your new brand to pre-established brands, especially major established brands such as Nike, Lexus, Merrill, or Amazon, even if you want to be associated with these brands. Because these brands are pre-established, they will always win in a poll. You cannot expect a word on a page to be more appealing than a brand that people have had hundreds of encounters with throughout their lifetime. Instead, focus on creating ethos with your own name ideas so you don’t skew your results.

Analyze your results

Look at your result and determine which name will be the most successful. Maybe the result will surprise you, and maybe they won’t. Over and over again, in the thousands of name tests we’ve now performed with our customers, we see “the one,” the name that our customer simply loves perform terribly with their audience. And this is the type of reality check that makes the testing process critical.

However, the results don’t have to seal the fate of your name. Audience testing is a good way to gain perspective on what may or may not work.You don’t have to marry the results – there are always factors that you cannot test such as metaphoric meaning, story elements, and buried emotional slants – but it is important to note when a name performs poorly. Question using a poorly-performing name, as there may be some hidden meaning that you missed.

There is no perfect testing method that will give you a clear, precise answer as to whether or not your brand name will succeed. However, audience testing adds another level to your validation process. It can help you choose a business name that is not cringey or embarrassing. With feedback, you can determine which is your strongest option to move forward with.

Audience testing is not a failsafe, but it is a great way to get out of your own mind and see how others respond to your ideas. Although you can’t control or foresee everything, you can try to see if your ideas align with your audience. Gathering feedback can grant peace of mind and help you choose a business name with confidence.


Grant Polachek is the Director of Marketing at Inc 500 company Squadhelp.com, the worlds #1 naming platform, with nearly 20,000 customers from the smallest startups across the globe to the largest corporations including Nestle, Philips, Hilton, Pepsi, and AutoNation. Get inspired by exploring these cool company names.