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Many entrepreneurs question how to name a business when just starting out. Trying to find a name for your business can be a complicated process. After all, a business name is a critical part of branding your business, so it should be catchy, memorable, and unique. It is also likely your business’s legal name and trademark, so it has to be a name not already taken by any other company. Therefore, naming a business can be tricky considering you want it to be eye-catching and encompass the mission and vision of your brand. In fact, some consider a company’s name to be a make or break for its success. So, why is it so important to create a business name that fully represents your brand?
Read on to find out how to name a business and how to protect your business name by registering it with the appropriate entities.
Why is Naming a Business Such a Big Deal?
Presumably, your company will interact with many entities and customers in its lifetime. When you create a business name you are in a sense determining how it will succeed or fail. Consider this scenario, you name your business some highly niche name that only a certain audience understands. While you may draw in this crowd, is it enough to sustain you? What about reaching the general public?
How you name your business can mean the difference between attracting or repelling potential customers. Here are three reasons naming a business is so important:
Establishes your brand
Before you even begin thinking about a name, it is essential that you think about your brand and how you want your business to be represented. Customers quickly decide how they feel about your organization based on the impression they get from your name.
- What do you want people to think of when they hear or read your brand name? While consumers won’t always understand or appreciate the meaning behind a business name there should be a definite feeling or idea that is universal. Example: Apple is known for technological innovation and evolution. Steve Jobs felt like an apple represented Sir Isaac Newton’s idea process and the Garden of Eden.
- Will your brand support a specific value or cause? Your business name should reinforce the values of your business. The more meaningful your title is, the easier it will be for you to create an identity that resonates with your audience. Example: Nature Made Vitamins’ business name reflects the company’s commitment to using natural ingredients.
Don’t forget to factor in how your company name will look on a mobile app icon. A friendly-sounding name like “Shopify” lends itself better to mobile users than a three-letter acronym like “SHP” that doesn’t convey anything about your brand.
Reflects what your business is about
One of the biggest reasons naming a business is a big deal is because it tells the story of who you are. Visualize how certain words or terms will make your audience feel about your business and what it does. What is your service or product? What issue does your service or product solve for your customer?
Some of the best-known businesses have used unique strategies for naming a business:
- Coca-Cola was named after coca leaves and kola nuts, which were used to flavor the original soft drink.
- Betty Crocker is the baking product company named after its founder.
- Xerox is the copy products company whose name was made by shortening xerography, the dry copying process, and adding an x at the end.
- NIKE, the sports equipment brand, was named after Nike, the goddess of victory.
- DKNY stands for Donna Karan New York, a designer clothing and accessory line representing the initials of the namesake designer and state.
Sets you apart
Think about your company’s market, what makes your company unique, and what your value proposition is. Consider your business offering and why consumers should choose you over a competitor. Think about what will make your company different from the rest in your market. Consider creating a target market analysis of potential customers and go from there.
For example, Dollar Shave Club envisioned a subscription-based business where men could receive inexpensive razors and shaving products every month. Hence, they capitalized on “inexpensive” through the “dollar” in Dollar Shave Club.
How to Name Your Business
Now that you understand why naming a business is important, it’s time to go through the step on how to name your business! While each business varies, these next steps should at the very least help you in getting started. Let’s begin!
1. Create a business name, or two
This is your brainstorm time. Jot down a few contenders in case your favorite is taken or doesn’t pass the next few steps. Here are other general reminders to keep in mind:
- Keep the name simple, short, and easy to remember.
- Avoid commonly overused words in your name. “MotorsandStuff “ isn’t very imaginative and doesn’t differentiate you from other motor supply sellers. When you’re creating your business name, you’re setting a precedent for the type of products or services your customers can expect.
- Make sure it encompasses everything from an indication of your offerings to a taste of your business’s personality.
2. Consider your business structure regulations
Rules for creating, reserving, and registering a business name vary depending on your business structure. If you are a sole proprietor, you should register your business name as a “doing business as” (DBA) with the state or county clerk. Limited partnerships should register the name as a Limited Liability Company (LLC). A Corporation should include “Incorporated” or “Corporation” in its name registration. For more information on business structures, click here.
3. Check availability for your selected name
The next step of naming a business is to narrow the list of possible names down to a few. Then, search the Internet to check if the business name is registered or trademarked.
However, acquiring the rights to short web domain names can be pricey, if not impossible, so be sure to check the availability of your desired URL first. Sites like GoDaddy can tell you whether the name you’ve chosen is free.
Make sure your company name will be easy to find by search engines and on social media. Search engines need to be able to read your business name and identify what your business is about. The better able search engines are at reading your business, the better the search engine optimization (SEO) for your business. Beware of using odd spellings or hyphenated names, as they may make it harder for search engines to recognize your business.
4. Register your business
The final step is to register your business name!
It’s not unusual to find similar, or even identical, names in different industries, but this can confuse customers and suppliers. If your competitors use the same name, you’ll open yourself to the possibility of litigation. You will also likely be unable to obtain trademark protection for your company name. Look for one available for registration as a domain.
5 Tips for Naming a Business
You’re now equipped with the right tools for how to name a business. However, it’s best to consider lots of advice before you take the plunge and register that name. Here are some general tips that can help you choose the perfect business name:
Brainstorm name ideas
Brainstorm a list of keywords that could describe your business. Think of words that describe your brands and your products, without ruling any idea out. Sort the names into groups of similar ideas. The largest group of similar concepts will be those that are likely to be most representative of your brand.
Once you have a list of ten or so keywords, you can use a few online tools to help come up with a name.
- Thesaurus.com will give you synonyms for your keywords. For example, say you are planning a software development business. A synonym for development is evolution, something that could work for your company.
- LeanDomainSearch.com is a website domain name generator. Enter one of your keywords in and see a list of domain names. By typing in software, you could find domain names like “SoftwareAppeal.”
Say it out loud
When you’re naming a business, you want to make sure the name you choose is easy to pronounce. Pronunciation is just as crucial as being memorable because if people can’t pronounce it, they won’t remember or spell it.
When you say it out loud does it evoke any emotions or bring to mind anything memorable? If not, you might want to go back to the drawing board. Likewise, if it has any negative connotations it might be time to scrap it.
Don’t limit your business
Pick a name that doesn’t pigeonhole your company to one specific product or service. The goal is to create something broad enough to intuitively answer who you are, which speaks to your core customer base and also gives you room to grow into other areas.
Beware of naming your business after geographic locations. 3M was initially called Minnesota Manufacturing and Mining. As they grew beyond their state’s borders they changed the name to 3M to remove the limits.
Get feedback on your choice
You can gather helpful feedback by observing the initial reactions of your most honest family, friends, and colleagues. A name you like might be the right choice, but what does it evoke in the hearts and minds of your customers?
Be careful not to try to get feedback from too many people in the choosing of your name. Trying to get a consensus among a large group of people could leave you with a safe and boring name.
Make sure you can trademark it
A trademark identifies a service or a product and distinguishes it from competitors. Trademarks can be granted on distinctive names, logos, and slogans.
A business has exclusive rights to the trademark approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The trademark prevents someone else from using it. When you apply for a trademark, expect to pay $275 per class. Processing time can take six to twelve months. The trademark process costs more and is more involved than just registering the business name, but provides you with exclusive rights to the name in all 50 states. Overall, you should create a business name you feel represents not only your business but also your brand and mission as a whole.