If you don't think the name of your company is critical, think again. You have only one chance to make a good first impression, goes the saying, and a confusing or unmemorable name doesn't help. "Be choosy," advises marketing guru Jack Trout, "and remember, the best names are locked directly to a product benefit or a selling proposition." We asked Trout to consider a number of company names. Here are his comments, in light of his own strategies:

Simply describe what you're selling. "Your name is the first thing consumers know about you, so capture the idea in very simple terms, as Toys 'R' Us did. Guiltless Gourmet is memorable, and it says you can eat this terrific stuff and feel guilt-free."

Connect the name with the strategy. "A descriptive name like Lens Express tells consumers that the company is offering speedy contact-lens services. It isn't exactly clever, but a name like that can be effective if the company further defines it by, say, promising delivery within a certain time frame, as Federal Express did with 'Absolutely, positively overnight.' Just remember that you're committing yourself to whatever you say."

Steer away from generic names. "Having a big idea with a great name isn't enough. Although I like the name The Kichen Works, it's more like a 'welcome to the club' name. To compete, a company has to give customers a sense of why they're going into its store instead of someone else's."

Don't limit yourself. " Musical Chairs Ticket Service is a clever name, but it's focused solely on music and not on sports. While a brilliant name is important, it has to line up with the strategy."

For more advice, see Trout's latest book, The New Positioning (McGraw-Hill, 1996, $21.95) . It offers tips and shares case studies about well-known companies. Or, the free checklist "The Naming Guide: How to Choose a Winning Name for Your Company, Product or Service" offers advice and lists resources. For a copy, write to the Namestormers at 4347 West Northwest Highway, Suite 1040, Dallas, TX 75220-3864; or call 214-350-6214, or fax your request to 214-350-7617.

Guiltless Gourmet: Manufactures low-fat snack foods in Austin, Tex. Former president Doug Foreman came up with the name in a moment of inspiration.

Lens Express: Provides mail-order contact-lens replacement in Deerfield Beach, Fla. Chief executive Menderes Akdag uses the slogan "We guarantee great savings, fast service, and convenience" to reinforce the company's name.

The Kichen Works: Sells specialized kitchenware out of York, Pa. When advertising proofs came back with kitchen misspelled, CEO Stephen Barnett left it alone, thinking that the error quaintly resembled the local Pennsylvania Dutch spelling. "It was a fluke," he says, "but now it's a pain. Vendors always spell it wrong and can't find us in their computers."

Musical Chairs Ticket Service: Brokers concert, theater, and sports tickets in Brentwood, Calif. President Brad Schy brainstormed to get the name. "When I started, I just wanted something clever."