How to Name a Business: You Only Get One Chance to Make a First Impression
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It’s tough to succeed as a small business. To establish a new enterprise and keep it alive long-term takes an astonishing amount of work. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, only half of all new businesses with employees survive past the five year mark.
That sobering introduction isn’t meant to dishearten you. It merely serves to underline the importance of every decision a business owner makes. That starts at the very outset of developing a company, too. Long before you consider startup funding stages or even products to stock. It begins when choosing your business name.
Selecting the name of your business is no small undertaking. Adopting the wrong company name is choosing to do all the hard work of getting a new business off the ground with a handicap.
Before you think about products, prices, or promotions, you must devise the perfect name. This comprehensive guide will help you on your way. We’ll delve a little deeper into just what’s in a business name. Then, we’ll take you step-by-step through the process of finding the ideal one for your company.
Why Your Business Name is Just as Important as its Function
Nobody sets out to erect a building on shaky foundations. That’s precisely what you’ll be doing, though, if you don’t give your business the best name. Here are the top three reasons you need to give proper attention to the naming process.
1. It is the first thing customers see.
Your business name is fundamental to your organization. No other asset plays a more significant role in operations. The first thing anyone will learn about you is what you’re called. Both through your online and offline communication.
Your brand name will headline your advertisements. Your domain name is what potential customers must type to check out your online presence. What you’re called defines people’s first thoughts about you – and you only get one shot at a first impression.
2. It sums up everything about your business.
The perfect business name says everything about its owner. In only a few words, your moniker can tell consumers what they need to know about you, your products, and your company. More than that, it can help convince them that you’re the company for them.
3. It is your unique position in your industry.
Unless you’re an arch-innovator who’s invented their own niche, you’re going to have competitors. They’re those pesky other businesses who also have their sights set on your target audience.
Your name is your statement of intent and the first step to establishing your unique position in your field. The best business names help brands stand out from the crowd. They denote trust, authority, and expertise within any industry. They tell consumers in a few short words to expect world class customer service.
5 Steps to Naming Your Business
Now you know why a good business name is a must, you’ll want to know how to find one. The following five steps will give you the best chance of devising a great business name, the first time.
- Brainstorm business names.
- Make a list of the best names.
- Following naming rules for business structure.
- Check if the business name is available.
- Register your business name.
Brainstorm Business Names
The naming process for your company must begin as a creative one. Before you can get down to the perfect name, you need to come up with some options. Sit down – either alone or with trusted advisors – and let those juices flow. There are loads of ways to jog your mind into action:
1. Do a word dump.
Your business name should tell potential customers all they need to know about your firm. So, why not start by jotting down all the words you can think of that are relevant to your brand and industry? Doing so is often known as a ‘word dump’.
Don’t get analytical at this point. Simply write down everything you think of. Give yourself between 20 minutes and an hour, and try not to stop writing in that time. What you’ll end with is a whole host of words and phrases that relate to your new business.
2. Use a thesaurus.
This next step may sound counter-intuitive but stick with us. What you’re going to do now is take your long list of words and add more to it. Doing so ensures you leave no stone unturned in seeking out the perfect business name idea.
Take each of your words and find synonyms or related terms using a thesaurus. When you find any not already on your list, add them. You don’t need to be too picky at this stage, but if there are any that are clearly not relevant, you can leave these out. Now, you’ve got a vast list of words to work from in finding your company name.
3. Use a name generator.
Technology can help you with the next step of the brainstorming process. Trying to find out the best new names isn’t an uncommon process. That’s why there are plenty of business name generators around to help. They exist to help established firms and digital nomads alike, find the labels that will best suit them.
These tools let you pop a few words into a dialog box and create a whole host of business name ideas. Here are a handful of business name generators to choose from:
- Namesnack.com – Namesnack.com is the ‘#1 free business name generator’. You type in your keywords and get more than 100 possible company names in seconds. What’s more, the generator displays the domain names available for each option.
- Name Mesh – Another excellent business name generator, Name Mesh is broadly focused on domain names. You can still use it for your business name, though.
- Wordoid – If you’re looking for a distinctive name, you might want to check out Wordoid. The tool helps develop made-up, yet catchy and meaningful terms to use as a business name. It’s also linked to the GoDaddy domain hosting firm, to make it easy to buy a domain name if you wish.
Make a List of the Best Business Names
Using your word dump and a business name generator, you can create a long list of business name ideas. Using more than one of the above tools might get you a more varied selection.
It’s at this stage that you can start using your instinct and taste. If you utterly hate a business name idea, strike it from your list. If an option feels too similar to the moniker of an existing firm, do the same. Then, segment the remaining names based on these questions:
1. Does the name make sense for the business?
You’ve probably got lofty ambitions for your new business. You may be dreaming of world domination or of diversifying into many niches. You might believe that the future of remote work means you can operate internationally. When you start, though, your name must make sense for your brand as it is now. Maybe park those ideas about ‘Smith and Jones Global Enterprise Inc.’ for the time being.
New ecommerce firms usually have quite a narrow focus. Their business names tell potential customers as much. The right name for your organization is one that leaves no doubt in consumer’s minds. If they see you on Google or another search engine, you want them to know in an instant that you’re the brand for them.
2. Is the name easy to remember?
Great names are memorable. You can run the best marketing campaign going, and it will still fail if consumers forget the name of the brand behind it in moments. For a company name that’s easy to remember, you’re shooting for a blend of familiarity and uniqueness.
Make up long, unusual words for your moniker, and they won’t stick in the customer’s minds. Be too generic, though, and your target audience might stumble on a rival instead. That’s especially if they’re searching for you on Google after dimly remembering an ad they saw.
3. Is the name easy for people to spell?
There are any number of reasons small businesses fail. Don’t make the cause of your downfall that no potential customer could type your name correctly in their search engine.
You must make it as straightforward as possible for people to do business with you. Awkward business names make it tough for them to find your website. Not to mention to visit you on social media, send you emails, and much more.
Keep it simple. That may even mean underselling your company somewhat. Perhaps you’re going to specialize in omnichannel recruitment. That’s great, but will all your prospective customers know the word ‘omnichannel’? If not, maybe leave it out of your name.
4. Does it look appealing?
Unless you use different brand names, you’re going to use your company name for many things. It will likely feature on your logo, in your marketing, and on other branded materials. The perfect business name, then, is visually appealing alongside everything else.
Take the name ‘Amazon’, for example. The word itself is visually appealing. It has a kind of symmetry that’s easy on the eye. The company could then build on that to develop their now world-renowned logo.
Follow Naming Rules for Business Structure
So far, we’ve covered the creative side of finding new names for your small business. There are, though, some more practical considerations. These are broadly related to your business plan and type of business.
1. Formal business structures.
How you structure your business determines which naming rules you’ll have to follow. There are stricter guidelines in place for firms with these two formal structures:
- Limited Liability Companies (LLC)
Limited Liability Corporations
Setting up shop as an LLC is a common choice for small business owners. The structure helps protect personal assets if a company faces legal action.
If you do structure your company as an LLC, there are particular business naming rules. They differ from state to state, but there are a few which apply pretty much everywhere.
Firstly, company names must include the phrase ‘limited liability company’ or one of the acronyms ‘LLC’ or ‘L.L.C’. It’s also forbidden to name your business in a way that it may get confused with a government agency. Finally, you may need further dispensation and special arrangements to use certain words. These include things like ‘University’, ‘Bank’, and ‘Attorney’.
A C-corporation is a more complicated entity than an LLC. It goes further to protect a business owner’s personal assets and often has shareholders, officers, and more. Once again, there are state-level rules for naming this type of company.
The most widespread requirement is that a business name must include one of four phrases. These are ‘corporation’, ‘company’, incorporated’, or ‘limited’. Abbreviations of the terms – e.g., corp. – are also allowed.
Once again, your name can’t seem like that of a government body. Finally, too, any moniker must be distinguishable from existing organizations in your state.
2. Informal business structures.
Lots of startups opt for a less formal business structure. If you’re a one or two-person outfit, you’re most likely to set up as a sole proprietorship or a partnership. There are fewer rules for these kinds of businesses. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any, though.
There’s one cardinal rule for naming a sole proprietorship. That’s that your firm must operate under the surname of its owner – i.e., you. You can, however, trade under a separate brand name if you file for a DBA.
DBA stands for ‘doing business as’. It’s how you can trade under an official, legal, brand name that isn’t merely your surname.
Partnerships are similar to sole proprietorships. The only difference is that they have two or more owners, rather than one. Once again, registered partnership names must include the surnames of those owners. Filing for a DBA is how you can trade under a different name.
Check if the Business Name is Available
Things are getting exciting. You’ve distilled your list of good business names down to a few great alternatives. You’ve tweaked them to ensure they adhere to the rules for your business structure. Now it’s time to check the availability of your name choices.
1. Domain availability.
Every company needs an online presence. It’s not just something for ecommerce brands to think about. Ideally, you want your domain name to match your company name or be as close as possible.
That’s why you must perform a domain availability search. There are plenty of tools out there to help you do this. The business name generators we mentioned earlier are a sound place to start. Once you’ve found a business name idea with an available dot com domain, you can move to the next step.
2. Search federal trademark records.
Once you’ve ensured domain availability, there’s one more check to perform. You must find out if somebody else has trademarked your business name idea. Fortunately, this is straightforward.
All you need to do is head to the US Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). Once there, you type in your business name idea. The specialized search engine performs a trademark search and tells you if your choice is available.
Register Your Business Name
We’ve finally reached step five of our five-step guide to how to name a business. That means it’s time to register your chosen company name. There are two principal parts of this process:
- Registering your business
- Getting your domain names
Registering should be simple. That’s as long as you follow the rules for your business structure and check trademarks. Primarily, things get done at the state level. You can file Articles of Incorporation with the relevant state authorities. If you wish to trademark your business name, though, you must file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
As soon as you choose the name of your business, snag as many relevant domains as possible. There are lots of domain registrars to choose from, including GoDaddy, and more. You may end up using only the dot com domain with your exact company name. Owning the other similar alternatives, though, prevents others from buying them.
Guidelines for Business Name Ideas
Follow the above steps, and you’ll land on the perfect business name. Before you set about the process, though, let’s recap some crucial factors to keep in mind throughout.
1. Understand your business.
As with many business processes, naming requires a solid understanding of your company. Your chosen label must be meaningful and convey the benefit your firm provides. Try to keep this in mind at all stages of finding and narrowing down business name ideas.
2. Use descriptive words.
An excellent way to convey that meaning we mentioned above is with descriptive words. Think about including such a word in your business name. Including a term like ‘instant’ or ‘rapid’, for example, might be an option for firms devoted to speedy service.
3. Be literal.
You want to get creative when choosing your company name. Uniqueness is, after all, essential. Don’t make potential customers work too hard to know what you’re all about, though. They should recognize what you can provide simply from reading your name.
4. Choose a name style.
There’s no hard and fast rule for the style of business name that works best. There are a few tried and trusted options from which to choose, however:
- The Literal – The very definition of keeping things simple. This type of business name lays out precisely what a firm does. Think ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken’.
- The Owner’s Name – Some companies stick with using a founder or owner’s moniker as their brand name. This is particularly prevalent in finance, i.e., JP Morgan.
- The Acronym – Choosing a set of initials is another popular business naming tactic. It can help potential customers remember a more extended title, but often gets adopted instead. Think ‘AT&T’.
- The Unrelated – Sometimes, firms choose an entirely unrelated word to adopt as their name. Doing so is risky but has a lot of upsides. Some of the biggest brand names are now more closely related to their companies than the original meaning. Take, for example, Apple, Google, Amazon, and Twitter.
5. Avoid hard-to-spell names.
Potential customers must use your business name. They need to type it in to reach your website or send you emails. Don’t make their lives more difficult by choosing a tough to spell alternative.
Keeping things simpler, too, avoids the danger of future misspellings on business cards, merchandise, and more.
6. Tell a story.
Your company name can present an opportunity to tell a tale. In a few short words, you can share something about your firm’s ethos and origins. You might think about a name like ‘Ma’s Old Fashioned Pizza Company’, for instance. Although probably not that corny.
7. Get feedback on the name.
Feedback is critical in many areas of business. As much as you need to take ownership of naming your firm, outside input is still vital. When narrowing down your company name ideas, seek as many other opinions as you can. Don’t limit that to friends and family, either. Try to perform some proper market research on your target audiences.
8. Do not be too narrow.
Your chosen label must tell potential customers what you offer. You don’t, however, want to sell yourself short. Avoid choosing too specific or narrow of a title. If your name suggests you only sell one product, no customers looking for anything else will consider you.
9. Be careful about geographic names.
It’s fine to be proud of your hometown or state. Be aware, though, that including those places in your business name is risky. It could put off possible out-of-state customers who may wrongly assume you won’t serve them.
10. Choose a name that is scalable.
Scalability isn’t something that only applies to cloud migrations or other digital transformation. It must play a part in your choice of name, too.
Finding a name is about the future as well as the present. Select a moniker that can grow with your business. Something like the ‘12th and 3rd Bakery’ is excellent for a company with one outlet in that location. It makes far less sense if you expand and open more stores, though.
4 Interesting Ecommerce Business Names
We’re drawing to a close of our in-depth guide to how to name a business. By now, you’ve learned what to think about and what steps to take to develop the perfect name. You may also feel like you’re suffering a bit of information overload.
To help you clear your head, then, let’s leave the theory behind. The following are some real ecommerce businesses with great names. Looking at these company names and what makes them unique, should give you some final inspiration.
1. Bon Bon Bon.
Bon Bon Bon is a confectionery company in Michigan. Their brand name is an ideal example of how a simple title can hit many of the marks we’ve discussed. From one quick read of the name, you know what the company sells. What’s more, anyone with some basic French also thinks their products will be ‘good good good’.
Both alliteration and repetition are used well, too. That helps make the name memorable and means it looks excellent as part of a logo or branded material, as you can see above.
Our second example shows how a seemingly unrelated word can make for a great name. At first glance, ‘Burrow’ doesn’t seem an obvious label for an online sofa company.
Drill down, though, and you’ll see the genius. The brand’s ethos is about offering the ideal furniture for the modern home. They’re all about providing the items to let customers build a cozy, safe place to live.
Kind of like an animal’s burrow, right? You might not realize it immediately, but that’s the idea that the name evokes. It’s terrific branding that works subtly and effectively.
Not every great name begins with B, but our third example does too. Bliss is a face and body skincare brand. Their company name speaks volumes about the firm in just five letters.
Buying skincare products is often about pampering yourself. The word ‘Bliss’ conveys that immediately. What’s more, the simple moniker also marries well with the fact that all products made by the brand are cruelty-free.
Finally, the word ‘Bliss’ is also an attractive one in of itself. It looks good written down. What’s more, when you hear it, it makes positive connections. Bliss, sounds like kiss, maybe I’d get one with glowing skin.
4. Solo Stove.
Solo Stove is a perfect business name thanks to how well it tells a story. By reading only two words, you know what the company sells and which problem it solves.
You’re not looking at a firm selling ovens for your kitchen; their stoves are ‘solo’. You know instantly that this is where to turn if you want a camp stove or outside grill.
Being able to convey your brand’s raison d’etre in two words is the dream when finding business name ideas. What’s more, Solo Stove does it with a moniker that’s also satisfyingly alliterative and visually attractive.
So, what’s in a name? As it turns out, a hell of a lot. Your company name is your initial point of contact with potential customers. It’s the first thing they’ll learn about you. Make a poor first impression, and it’s tough to recover.
A great name speaks volumes. To find the right one for your business, you need to give the process the time and effort it deserves. Brainstorm every term and phrase related to your brand. Use a thesaurus, feedback, and business name generators to devise a shortlist of ideas.
From there, consider business structure rules, existing trademarks, and domain availability. That will show you the business name ideas you have to choose from. Make your ultimate choice, register it and its related domains, and you’re in business – literally.
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