There are dozens of considerations that entrepreneurs need to keep in mind when starting a new business, from the logo to the product to the packaging. However, the business name can be the most important of all.
It’s over 30 million small businesses according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. That means you have to go above and beyond to stand out. The right name can help you do that.
If you are stuck on what to call your business, or just want to make sure your chosen name ticks all the right subjects, I am here to help.
In this article, I discuss my best tips for choosing a winning business name, give some examples of what an excellent business name looks like, and even let you come in in a sneaky way to get many business name ideas quickly.
10 tips for choosing a business name
Your business name can be almost anything you want. As long as it is legal and not yet in use, it is fine. However, there are some best practices that the legal and marketing experts agree on.
I recommend the following tips to make sure your business gets off to the best start.
1. Ensure that the business name is not under the copyright or trademark
I would recommend going one step further and making sure you can brand your brand. You never know what the future holds. Even if you plan to keep your business small, I highly recommend making sure it is possible copyright and trademark your brand.
If you do not do this, you could end up in hot water for years. Just look at Apple. When Steve Jobs started the company, he chose Apple’s name because he was a fan of the Beatles (their recording label is called Apple Records).
There was initially no conflict because the two companies operated in completely separate industries. That was until Apple introduced the iPod and iTunes Store. When they started working in the same industry, Jobs quickly started working saddled himself with a lawsuit.
2. Ensure that the business name has not already been taken
It does not have to matter, but it is important to mention. Ideally, your business name should be unique and not used by any other business. At the very least, it should not be used by other companies operating in your industry.
A quick Google search can help you here. If there are results or domains that indicate that another company is already using your name, either an industry name or as the name of one of their products, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
3. Ensure that the business name is descriptive
You want customers to have an idea of what your business is doing just by hearing your name. You do not need to know anything about TripAdvisor to know that it’s in the travel industry or that Burger King sells burgers.
Do not be so descriptive, however, that your name is boring. Seattle Plumber Inc. is not exactly inspiring and does not separate your brand from any other plumbers in the city. First Call Plumbing is much more catchy and easier to remember.
4. Make sure the corresponding domain name is available
Coming up with a brilliant business name is just the beginning. Before you can fully connect it, make sure that a matching domain name is available.
If it is, buy it.
If not, consider coming up with a different business name. Having a domain name that exactly matches your brand can be a big boost, especially when it comes to SEO.
If your heart is set on a specific name, all is not lost. There are different strategies you can use if your domain is name is not available. Adding extra words or extending your brand name into your URL is becoming more common.
5. Get creative
This is your chance to embrace your inner copywriter and let your imagination and creativity run wild. Do not be afraid to make something up. Almost three quarters (72 percent) of the best brands use formatted words or acronyms.
There are a few reasons for this. First, existing words already mean something to many of your potential customers. You have to decide if it is a good or bad thing. Second, competitors can use the same or similar words.
6. Do not choose a business name that is difficult to pronounce or spell
You want your brand to be accessible to everyone. It means no words that are impossible to pronounce if written down or easily misspelled.
While the letters may be confusing or seem to remove vowels from ordinary words, it may not help your customers find your business online. If customers can not easily looking for your business after hearing your name phonetically, chances are you will miss clues. You also spend a lot of time writing out your URL to customers.
7. Complete a Secretary of State investigation
One way to make sure your business name is different from everyone else working in your area is to complete a Secretary of State. Most states have a way of doing this easily online, so it’s just a visit to your state’s website and typing in your suggested name.
If in doubt, ask your lawyer for help. I would also recommend it search in Delaware, even if you do not live in that state. Delaware is a haven for business registrations, and the search there helps ensure that no businesses elsewhere in the country have similar names.
8. Get feedback on the business name before making it official
Test your business name on friends and family and get their name feedback before committing to it. Even though you think you looked at your name from every angle, there’s a chance you missed something.
If you are not yet sure of a business name, give people a shortlist of your ideas and ask them to choose their favorite. If everyone agrees on the same one, you may have just found your new name.
9. Choose a business name that is not accidentally offensive
Make sure your business name does not mean something offensive in another language or a slang term.
No self-respecting business owner wants to offend potential customers. Yet dozens of businesses do so without knowing it because of their business name.
Just because your business name is not offensive in your own country does not mean that it is unpleasant everywhere. Any language or cultural issues can bring bad news for companies looking to expand abroad.
Fortunately, it has never been so easy to check if your business name is offensive or not. Just go over to WordSafety.com and enter your suggested name. The website will quickly determine if there are any potential issues.
10. Keep it simple and easy to remember
Long, complicated business names are bad news. The shorter, more catchy and memorable your name is, the better. Try to keep it below 20 characters for the sake of your URL and avoid combining more than three different words.
Examples of good business names
Tips and guidelines are not always enough to make the creative juices flow. That’s why I’ve put together five examples of good business names below, along with a description of what makes them so good.
Hopefully this will give you a starting point.
In a parallel universe, someone is currently looking for something on BackRub. This is the name Google was initially called due to the backlinks it used to rank sites. Eventually, they settled on Googol, a mathematical term for a number with a million zeros in it. Google’s final brand name was the result of a spelling mistake by an employee.
In the end, it worked out great. The name is catchy, creative and random. “Google” is also easier to spell, remember and pronounce than Google.
Whole Foods Market
Whole Foods Market is the most descriptive name on this list, and that’s part of why it’s so effective. It sends subtle signals that attract brand target audience.
Choosing the word market rather than grocery or store was a genius in this regard. Market evokes images of the farmers markets and sets the kind of affluent consumer goals for Whole Foods.
Lego is a simplified version of the Danish words leg godt which means ‘play well’. Brilliant, Lego also means “I composed”, so the name works on two levels.
The name is not only descriptive of the indigenous Danish market, but it also sounds good in other languages and has no additional meanings.
Pepsi inventor Caleb Davis Bradham originally called his concoction Brad’s Drink. Luckily he remarked three years later. Pepsi is derived from the word dyspepsia, which means indigestion, as Bradham helped indigestion.
Pepsi is much more creative and memorable than Brad’s Drink. Most importantly, the new name Coca-Cola did not infringe at all, but only created a handful of years before.
Verizon was founded in 2000 by the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE. The business name combines the Latin word for truth, veritas and horizon to convey the honest and forward-looking nature of the new company. It’s creative, it’s meaningful, and it’s definitely memorable!
Use a business name generator to find your perfect name
If you are still stuck, help is available in the form of business generators. There are many software tools to help entrepreneurs quickly brainstorm business names.
Here are some to try:
Shopify is known for helping small business owners thrive. Coming up with a brand name is no different. Enter a keyword into the search bar, and Shopify will immediately spit out 100 business names that you can create a store from today.
Accounting software Fresh books has a fairly extensive business name generator that fits recommendations based on your industry.
Start your search by choosing whether you work in creative and marketing, legal or business services, commercial and home services, or IT. Enter a keyword, and Freshbooks contains three suggestions. You can ask for more suggestions on changing your keyword to get a different group of names.
Namelix is a free KEN powered business name generator. Enter one or more keywords to get started, then filter suggestions by name, height, and style. There are hundreds of names to browse and a mix of basic and premium names. Premium recommendations are provided with a logo and domain name to make building a brand easier.
The right name can help you SEO, brand and customer perception. Would Google be where it is now if it were called Backrub? I do not think so.
The business landscape is becoming more competitive every day, and an excellent business name can help your brand stand out.
Get inspired by some great business names that are already there, and use a business name generator if necessary. Just make sure your business name enables you long-term growth.
What are you going to call your new business? Let me know in the comments!
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