Starting a new business can be a daunting task. There is a massive list of tasks you need to go through, as well as having to undertake detailed planning to ensure that your business idea is going to be viable. When compared to everything else you have to do, coming up with a company name might appear to be a quick, simple task. However, don't underestimate it. A strong business name is essential for your future success, and it can be surprisingly hard to come up with the right name that rolls off people's tongues.
It makes more sense to put sufficient effort into coming up with the perfect business name before you commit yourself to a name you may come to regret.
How to Choose Your Business Name
Free Business Name Generator
Once you know some relevant keywords for your industry, you can use our new business name generator tool to help provide you with some ideas. Enter your keywords in this tool and see what results it generates.
Sure, many of the tool’s suggestions may be irrelevant for your needs, but you may find a few gems in the list it provides that you should put aside for further consideration.
Steps to go Through When Selecting Your Business Name
You can't underestimate the importance of having a sound business name. Therefore you need to put sufficient time and energy into coming up with the right one. Don't just rush ahead and name your business with the first name that comes into your head.
If you're unsure how to brainstorm, MindTools has an excellent guide on how to go through the process, both individual and group. One of their key tips for individual brainstorming is to choose a comfortable place to sit and think. Minimize distractions so that you can focus on the problem at hand, and consider using Mind Maps to arrange and develop ideas.
Begin by listing all the relevant keywords that you could feature in your business name. Once you have a series of words, you can mix and match to see how well different word combinations go together. What do they look like on paper? How do they sound when you say them out loud? Do they mean anything?
If you're stuck, take a look at your competitors in your industry. Could you use any of the words in their names (without making it a blatant copy)?
Make a Shortlist of Your Best Ideas
Hopefully, the combination of your brainstorming and the results you have received from our business name generator tool will give you a good-sized list of possible alternatives. In this stage, you are going to want to narrow your choices down.
You should take some time on this step. Don't rush things; if need be, think things through for a couple of days before moving on to the next stage.
Remove any names from the list that would not make sense for your business. You don't want to confuse potential customers. Any business names that suggest you do something you don’t will clearly be wrong for your future business success.
You should also resist the temptation to use a pun or play on words. You may think it smart, but many potential customers will scratch their heads and fail to understand your meaning.
You will also want a name that is both easy to spell and to pronounce. You want it to be easily rememberable, but not too similar to your competition firms. If your name is too close to other business names in your area, potential customers will always get your firms mixed up.
You should even avoid picking a name that is too similar to other types of businesses, or even popular TV programs. This is particularly the case for generic names. Imagine trying to compete in Google searches if you select a name like Castle or Arrow, and don't add additional words to the title. Sure, some firms with single-word names, like McDonald's, have succeeded. But it definitely limits the success of small and start-up businesses.
Some businesses deliberately pick business names that use creative spelling. This sometimes works, but it can be risky if people continually misspell it. Even McDonalds took a risk on this. It had the potential to misfire because people could have been confused over whether they should use Mc or Mac in the name.
We’ve talked about avoiding being too generic, but being too specific can have its problems also. You don't want to have to rename your company in the future, simply because you've expanded into a niche not covered by the existing business name.
A related consideration here is whether you use any geographic terms as part of your name. Sure, using a geographic word or phrase helps make your business sound local, but it could become limiting should you opt to expand the business into another area later.
Finally, you might want to consider how the name will look when you write it down, particularly if you break it up. The residents and local businesses of Scunthorpe in the UK have had to be careful of how they write their town name (and there has been more than one therapist who has broken his name up unfortunately when sign-writing in the past).
Gain Feedback on Your Ideas
You don’t want to develop your business name as an island. The more feedback you can get on your ideas, the better.
Begin by asking the people who you respect and trust – probably your friends, family, and any customers for your existing organizations. Try and avoid telling them your preferred ideas, as your friends may think they are supporting you by agreeing with you, regardless of how right the name is. Instead, you want to show them the whole shortlist in random order.
You can also ask for feedback in a more neutral place, such as on Reddit. There’s a subreddit where you can post your business name ideas, and fellow Reddit users will happily give their opinions and feedback.
Ideally, you should try and gain feedback from your future customers. You could perhaps include this as part of your business idea validation process. Ryan Robinson has written some excellent articles on the importance of business validation, including 9 Steps to Validate a Business Idea in 30 Days with Less Than $500.
Check Availability and Register Your Business Name
Once you've decided on a probable business name (and possibly a couple of back-ups), you need to check on the availability of the name. The exact requirements here will depend on the legal requirements in your country. In some cases, your name registration requirements may depend on the legal structure of your business. For example, you will probably have to go through a formal company registration process, but you may not have to do so for a sole trader or partnership. Check your country (or state) business registration rules for more details on this.
Even if you intend to operate as a small sole trader in a region that doesn't have any formal registration requirements, you should still check to ensure that there aren't already competing businesses using that name.
You may even have to consider large companies based overseas with similar-sounding names. For example, a menswear shop in small-town Otorohanga in New Zealand (population 2,750) called Haddad's received a cease and desist notice from the sizeable London-based department store Harrods in the late 1980s, simply because Harrods believed that Haddad's has a too-similar name. The two firms operated in different markets on a very different scale. Haddad's was named after its owners, the Haddad brothers. Otorohanga became incensed about what they considered bullying, and the town changed its name to “Harrodsville" for part of 1986. Virtually every shop in the town renamed itself to include the new name. The town even issued commemorative stamps using the Harrodsville name. Eventually, after much lampooning by the British tabloid press, then Harrods owner, Mohamed Al-Fayed, dropped the legal action.
Nowadays, you will also need to have a highly visible online presence, so you will want to check whether you can still easily buy an appropriate domain for your new business name. You will also want to claim pages for your business on all the major social networks and online directories.
You may also want to consider registering a trademark if that is relevant for your organization. If you wish to do so, StartupBros has detailed instructions on how to do this in the USA and Canada.
Create Your Brand’s Look
Once you have finally decided on your business name, registered it, and claimed all relevant online addresses, you will want to begin deciding on the visual look for your business. This is the point when you start to build your brand.
You should begin by designing a logo unique to your business. You are going to use this as an integral part of your marketing, so it is not something that you will want to rush.
You might be able to design it yourself, using one of the many websites that assist you with this process. Alternatively, you might opt to pay a designer to create your logo and come up with a suitable consistent color scheme and set of typefaces.
Launch Your Business
Finally, you’ve picked your business name, registered it, and designed and purchased all of your relevant brand assets. Assuming that you have already written a business plan, and validated your core business idea, it is now time to launch your hopefully successful business.