As mentioned, creating a name is much like the cornerstone of a building. However, different buildings require different types of cornerstones and different materials. In order to find out which is the best type and material for a structure engineers and architects have to do testing for what works.
In this same way, you have to test your names with your audience. Make lists of names that you think describe the main characteristic of your business or its unique proposition. Then test each list with different audiences and compare the results. Make another iteration of the list and test it again. Test it against another audience group and see what they have to say. It may take a while, especially if you are eager to start selling, but believe me it is worth your time when you finally come up with the name.
Keep in mind that you are not choosing a name, you are creating a brand. Much like a person, a brand has a personality of its own and should be named accordingly.
You can use a lot of methods to choose your business name, but in the end, I believe it is the audience who will choose your brand.
The ideal business name is (a) simple and memorable, (b) descriptive but non-limiting, and (c) evocative.
The way to keep the name non-limiting is by using a tag line as well: take the Marines. For years their slogan was "We're looking for a few good men." When they started actively recruiting women, they changed it to "The few, the strong, the Marines." Their name (The Marines) and logo remained unchanged and kept all of their brand equity, but by changing the tag line, they redefined themselves.
Contrastingly, when McDonalds (a simple and memorable but not descriptive name) started serving fancy coffee like Starbucks, nothing in their name limited their ability to do so. Meanwhile, who wants to buy a $4 coffee from a place called "Burger King" (too descriptive/limiting).
As for "evocative": think Victoria's Secret and Maidenform, or UnderArmor, and Spike TV. All use words dripping with connotative value that reflect the spirit of the products.
Beyond that, use common sense...run your top name ideas past some potential customers to see to which one(s) they respond most favorably.
What's in a name........well everything.
If you are running or intend to run a proprietary business; and for many proprietors the business is an extension of their personality, then a family name could be used as a business name.
But a common sense approach would have your business name either be synonymous with your intended business activity or be a verb which encapsulates your business positioning statement.
You will also need to evaluate how your business name can be leveraged across social media platforms so as to break through the clutter, and the availability of the domain name in the social media space.
If you intend to trademark your business name, you will need to check with your regulator on the availability of that name for registration.
Here's some simple steps you can follow to get you started on your way to choosing a name for your small business....
1) Brainstorm words that describe your business's services or products, or even your company's mission and goals (look in your business plan as a place to start). Over a period of a few days, immediately record related words when them come to mind.
2) Then, plug some of your favorite words into an online thesaurus and see if you find more possibilities. Search for descriptive verbs, nouns, and adjectives.
3) Begin combining some of the words to see if the phrases reflect who you are as a company. Keep verbs as active as possible -- avoid being verbs like "is" and "be".
4) After you've chosen some favorite names, search for them online to be certain that your name choice will not be easily confused with another, existing company. Search for names registered to businesses in your state to ensure that your favorite names are not currently in use by companies that offer similar services/ products to yours.
5) Once you've narrowed the list down to a few finalists after taking the previous actions, create a survey using a free online survey tool (such as Survey Monkey) and ask a group of professionals and potential or existing clients in your network what name they prefer.
6) Use the results to help you choose your final name!