How to name a business

How to name a business

How to name a business. Considerations when you choose a name for your small business.

Words can be powerful and it’s no different when you come to name a business. Your business name is part of your company identity. Choosing a name for your business that resonates with your audience can be a huge boost to your marketing and branding efforts.

The wrong business name can cause insurmountable business and legal hurdles with countless tales of big business issuing cease and desist notices to small business owners in totally unrelated regions or industries.

Beyond that there’s little on how to name a business that all the experts agree on. Some are convinced the best names have no meaning leaving your customers a blank canvas on which to paint their inter-reaction with your brand. Alternatively, others promote choosing a business name that does exactly what it says such as the aptly named “Buy Tickets Online” which is both easy to understand and informative.

There are some industries and circumstances where a name is more important than others.  Apps are as much about the visual as the name. When selecting an App on your mobile as long as you know what the symbol looks like and where it is, then what it’s called only comes into question when there’s a problem.

With all that in mind here are a few factors to consider when you decide how to name your small business.

Using your own name for your business

Unless you’re famous like Victoria Beckham or have significant standing in your niche field, using your own name for your business doesn’t communicate anything about your business and won’t mean much to potential customers. It may even cause problems if you want to sell your business in the future. It can also mean that everyone wants you. Think carefully about this is one of your motivations for starting a business is to give yourself more freedom. Whilst hopefully this will never be an issue also consider the impact that a failed business would have. Your name is yours forever a business may not be.

Avoid hard to spell business names

Unusual spellings may be quirky and fun or get around issues with .com but can cause their own problems when trying to name your small business.

If you want people to find you online in any capacity (i.e. virtually every business today) then hard to spell names or unusual spellings especially may work against you.  Help people to get your email right. Make is easy to find you in a google search. Enable them to quickly check out your website after someone told them about it verbally.

Think about the future and make it scalable

Avoid limiting yourself to a region. Unless the location describes the product such as Chicago Style Pizza Parlour it’s going to make scaling your business more difficult. Even restaurants named after the street or number which can help short-term may find problems if their lease doesn’t get renewed. It’s also worth considering the impact of picking a name for your small business that limits what you might sell. Amazon could be a very different business today if it had been called Best Book Deals.

Should your business name convey what you do?

A quirky, novel name is great, but it can cost more to brand. There isn’t really a right or wrong answer. You need to weigh the pros and cons for your industry. A more straightforward name like ticketmaster.com might give you an advantage in your chosen industry over an abstract one. or limit your expansion such as the Amazon example.  Also consider if your business transactions today, or in the future, are likely to be exclusively on or off-line or a mix of the two.

Empty vessel business names

Empty vessel names are those with little or no inherent meaning for an audience. Mostly they are popular with big name corporations who want to rename themselves or need to pick a name that can get past multiple rounds of internal approval. Or those who have copyright issues in a crowded marketplace. The new company rising from a restructuring or merger may pick an empty vessel name specifically because it brings no connotations with it. The disadvantage is there is no brand story. For unknown companies and smaller businesses, a compelling, consistent brand story is like gold dust for your marketing team. A empty vessel name with no story can cost a small fortune and are probably best left to the big boys with deep pockets to promote from obscurity to household name.

Find a unique name for your start-up business

Whatever you do pick a name to be sure you’re not going to be confused with someone else. This isn’t just for your convenience; in most places it’s a legal requirement when you register your business to make sure that your chosen name won’t be confusingly similar, to that of another business even if they are in another city. Don’t confuse the name of your legal entity with your domain.name they may or may not be the same.

Your new business name sounds weird

When you settle on a name for your business make sure it sounds as good said out loud as it does in in writing or vice versa. Also, it’s worth checking that it doesn’t unintentionally mean something offensive elsewhere. You never know the direction your business may grow in. Even if you stay local odds are if it means something rude in another language it won’t take long for someone to figure it out. Many a business large and small have been caught out this way and rebranding is a lot more expensive than taking the time to check now.

Make it memorable

Everyone wants to create a business name to remember. A name that stands out from the crowd and sticks in people’s minds. Known as the stickiness factor this is branding nirvana. The catchy, relevant and memorable name that stays fresh over time. Obviously, this is a challenge because fashions change and that includes naming trends.

Keep your business name short and simple

Ideally keep your new business name as simple, short and easy to say as possible. Avoid using hyphens or other special characters. There are arguments for and against preferring names that alphabetically are closer to A then Z and some will argue for it being a verb as in “Google” me.

Don’t get tied up in SEO

You can easily tie yourself up in knots considering the pros and cons of your name to SEO. Remember first and foremost your name needs to resonate with you and your customers plus SEO changes rapidly and your business will hopefully be around for generations to come.

To .com or not to .com

These days most people will assume that your company name is your domain name minus the suffix “.com” or the standard suffix for your country. If these suffixes are not available for the name you prefer, think carefully about how important this will be to your business. You may be wiser to pick a new name for your small business, than settle for an alternate suffix like “.net” or “.info.” Alternatively, it may work to your advantage. Again, think about the relevance of these issues to the industry you are entering and any potential scaling limitations it may place on your business.

And of course always check the name you’ve chosen is available.

Ask the people who really count

Don’t forget to ask the people who you want to use it, your customers. They’ll give you the best possible.  Speak with a range of people who match the ideal customer you’ve identified. Suggest several names. Ask questions about the impression the names give that might be relevant in your market. If you’re in Finance, then you may be looking for trustworthy. If you’re in marketing, then creative might be what you’re looking for. Does the audience respond to the name in the way you intended? Don’t include your best mates, mother or spouse even if they are a clear example of your exact target market they know too much and knowing you will inevitably influence their feedback.

More than anything this is name you’re going to have to hear the name you choose every day and hopefully live with it for a very long time so make sure you’re happy with it now. Tune into any lingering doubts you have, what’s the basis for them? Once you’re confident you can live with it and as confident as you can be that it’ll resonate with your customers decide and leave it. Don’t go back and double guess yourself; at the end of the day the name can be helped by marketing and whilst it may attract them to begin with if your product or service is crap they won’t be back and if the product is amazing and they like everything else about it then even if they think the name sucks odds are they’ll be back.



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