How to Come Up With a Business Name
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The name of your business makes all the difference in the world. Branding, products and business values should all relate back to the name of the business. Your business name is an important part of your business itself, so it’s important to pick the right name.
A lot more that goes into naming a business than you might realize. Once the name is chosen, it stays with the business for a long time. So pick it right! In this article, we’ll discuss the process of selecting a business name, give suggestions for generating good ideas, and talk about the process. Here’s what you need to know.
Choosing a business name is a creative process that begins with a blank piece of paper and a pencil. Some start by making a list, others begin by writing a paragraph or jotting down free-form thoughts. Some are able to generate ideas without prompts, but many people need help to get the creative juices flowing.
If you’re full of ideas and don’t need prompts, start with a blank piece of paper and pen, sit down in a comfortable, quiet place, and start writing your ideas down. It’s important to write down many ideas before making a final decision. Remember, your business name affects your client interactions, including what kind of clients your business attracts. Going through several lists and rounds of possibilities may be necessary. If you need help generating good ideas to come up with a business name, try some of the suggestions below.
Look in the dictionary.
Spend some time with a dictionary, looking up words that relate to your business. Write down those words that jump out at you. Don’t think too hard about the words that you’re attracted to – there may be good reasons, or not! This is just an exercise to get started generating possibilities. Once you have a list of words, start looking for connections between them. Assemble your favorite words in phrases and in an order that is personal and meaningful for you.
Play with words.
Play on words exercises can make some of the best business names because they’re clever, funny and they show that the business owner put thought into the name of their business. You might choose a play on words that refers to a popular book (example: Life of Pie pizza shop), a famous movie (Back to the Fuchsia flower shop), a well-known song (Tequila Mockingbird bar). These are the kind of names that people like to stop, think about and chuckle over.
Business names that play on words are also smart because they can reveal something about the business owner’s personal interests. You wouldn’t name your buffalo wings restaurant “Lord of the Wings” if you weren’t a Tolkein fan, would you? Showing something about yourself through your business name is one way to make a personal connection between yourself and your customers, and that’s good for business.
Spend some time playing with a keyword generator online to create lists of keywords. There are many keyword generators onine, some of them free. Keywords make smart business names because they’re the words that people search for when they’re conducting online searches. Using keywords in your business name can help generate online traffic, which can contribute to the success of your business over time. This is especially important if your business is an online retailer or an online service. If your business is a brick-and-mortar store, this may be be less important.
Tell a story.
Make a list of business names that tell a story about what brought your business into existence. One example: a roofing business named “Dad and Four Sons Roofing” tells clients that the roofing business is a family business. The name also reveals the personal nature of the business, and describes the business owners in limited detail. This helps clients make a connection with the business and could present a reason for clients to contact that roofing company over others. The name of the business makes the business more personal and meaningful to the business owners and potential customers.
Make up a rule to follow.
Make up a rule or trick to follow when writing a list of business names. For example, you might write a list of business names that only start with verbs or names made up of words that are only one syllable. The rule doesn’t have to be a meaningful rule to you – it’s just a way of getting started with your list. Pick a rule and use it to make a list of four or five business names. See where this takes you!
Still having trouble? Try these exercises.
If you’re still having a hard time generating a list of ideas for business names, it could be that you need to solidify some of your business goals before coming up with a name. Take a step back and give some thought to the business itself. Put your business goals in writing, then answer some of the questions below:
- What will you sell?
- Who are your intended customers?
- What do your intended customers value?
Write as much on these topics as you can. Once you’ve fully answered the questions, review your work and start circling descriptive words and phrases that stand out in your business descriptions and plans.
Another way to approach this exercise is to talk about your business plan with someone you know. Record the discussion in your smart phone or in a video recorder. During the discussion, answer the questions above. Later, listen to the recording and pick out your favorite phrases and words mentioned during the discussion.
Follow some basic tips.
When you’re crafting your list of possible business names, keep in mind some of the following tips and rules.
Avoid names that limit your business. While it’s smart to tip-off customers to the kind of products or services that you sell, if you’re too specific, it might be harder to branch out your business later. For example, if you choose to name your business “Smithville Women’s Apparel,” it will be much harder to start selling men’s apparel later.
Avoid hard to spell names. Hard to spell business names are hard to look up online, which makes them hard to find. Although some hard to spell business names have found success (Häagen-Dazs, anyone?), most companies are better off if their customers can easily spell and look up their business online. This is a good reason to avoid spellings that are unconventional. Avoid naming your window installation business Winston’s Wyndows, for example.
Check the translation. Are you planning to sell your product in other countries, or to international audiences? If so, know what your business name translates to in relevant languages. You might check an online translator or just run it past someone you know who is fluent in that language. You may not have plans to make your product available to international consumers now, but you may change your mind in the future. Choose a name that you can market to everyone, even people in other countries.
Once you’ve crafted a list of business names, share your list of ideas with others. Ask them to choose their favorite business names and provide feedback. Some other things to watch for:
- Do they pronounce the names correctly? Ask the person who is looking at your list to read the business name aloud, without any help or prompting from you. It’s very important for your target audience to pronounce the name as you had intended. If they don’t pronounce it correctly, then you may need to change the spelling until you’ve matched the phonetic pronunciation.
- What does this business name say to them? Ask the person reviewing your list to discuss associations they have with the business names you’ve suggested. What do they think of when they hear your business name? Who do they imagine would buy products from such a business? Do their associations match your branding ideas?
Sit on it.
After you’ve crafted a list and had a friend look at it, sit on the list for a while and try not to think about it. When you do come back to the topic, the list should look fresh and different from the first time that you looked at it. This will give you a new perspective on the names you’ve selected, which will help you decide which names are right for your business.
If none of your business names make sense or sound quite as good as they did when you made the list, go back to the drawing board and start the process over again. Remember, it’s important to choose a business name that gives you confidence! If a business name isn’t quite up to your expectations, then it’s better to try again.
Conduct an Internet search.
Once you’ve got a list of contenders, or maybe a top-choice for your future business name, conduct an Internet search to see if other businesses online share your name. Finding a business with the same name doesn’t have to mean you can’t have that name for your business. Factors to consider include:
- Is the business near your business?
- Will you be competing with this business, or share customers?
- Is there any possibility your customers will accidentally find this business instead?
One more thing when conducting an Internet search: be sure that the domain name, or an acceptable alternative domain name, is available. Many businesses have an online presence, and if you would like your business to have an online presence, it’s important to ensure that the domain name you want is available.
If the name you have chosen overlaps with other business names on the Internet, or if the domain name is not available, then you may need to choose an alternative. For this reason, it may make sense to make a list of back up names when crafting your list of potential business names.
Search for the name with your Secretary of State.
In many states, the Secretary of State is the state agency that registers business names. Business owners are required to register with their Secretary of State under a variety of circumstances, so it’s important to check with your Secretary of State to see if your business name needs to be registered. Because businesses are required to register at their SOS, this also means you can check for other businesses with the same name through your SOS registry. Do a search online through your Secretary of State. If your SOS doesn’t have a searchable database that you can find, call them.
If your SOS has a record of a business close to you with the same name, it’s a good idea to switch to an alternative business name. Check back with your list and consider some of the other choices.
Register your business and domain name.
The final step of choosing your business name is actually registering the name with your Secretary of State and registering your domain name online, if you plan to keep a website. It’s important to do this quickly to ensure that the name you’ve chosen doesn’t get picked by someone else with a similar idea. Your Secretary of State may have forms to fill out and a fee to pay before you can choose your domain name. You may need help from an accountant, tax professional or lawyer in order to get your business up and running, including the business name.
Registering a domain name is fairly simple. You’ll have to find an online domain name registrar, and pay a minimal fee for the registration. Once this is done, this doesn’t mean you have a website! Only after you find a host and put up a page will your business have a website.
Choosing the right business name helps your business start off right, so take the time to ensure that your name says something about your business products and priorities. Good luck!