You’re probably thinking, what’s in a name anyway? Well, when it comes to business, the simple answer is – everything!
A weak name can hamper business success, and whilst a strong name won’t make up for serious deficiencies in your operations, it can help you stand out in the marketplace, give your customers a good reason to choose you, and make the branding of your company far easier.
Naming your business is one of the most important things you need to do when starting up so take time out and give it some thought. Here are 8 tips to help you create a winning business name.
1. Stay On-Brand
Any name you select will create that vital first impression so choose wisely and make it a good one. Your company must project the correct image for your brand, and its positioning in the marketplace.
Think about the attributes you want your company to stand for e.g. fun, conservative, trustworthy or luxury. And don’t forget who you are targeting – is it young people, parents, women?
When choosing a business name you need to think about who you are marketing to not just what you are selling. Your target market will have a bearing on your name. How can you incorporate these aspects into your business name?
2. Don’t Get Lost In Translation
Yes, everyone wants a memorable name but being too cute or too clever could backfire. Make it easy for your customers to remember you but don’t turn them off before they’ve even hired you.
Avoid choosing a name that is msleading, offensive or has negative connotations. Do some research to check that your name means what you think it means in other languages or countries. A simple oversight may end up costing you dearly and even big brands have been known to get it wrong.
Who can forget Nokia naming its new smartphone “Lumia” – Spanish slang for a prostitute!
So when you are thinking about a business name, choose words that have positive connotations that you want people to associate with your business – and make sure these connotations are a good fit for your business. How do you want your business to be perceived?
We often hear stories of first-time entrepreneurs jumping into business and getting carried away with their branding without first checking to see if anyone else is using their chosen name.
I hate to be a party pooper but it’s no fun if you’re on the receiving end of a costly lawsuit that leaves you with sky-high monetary damages and legal fees, not to mention the embarrassment and emotional rollercoaster that comes from having to rebrand.
In short, don’t use, borrow, or modify an existing famous brand name.
Once you’ve come up with a potential name, search for as many permutations as you can on Google to see who else may be using the name. You should also search the trademark database in your key markets to see what marks have already been registered. If nothing shows up, then it’s probably safe.
To be absolutely certain though I still recommend using a trademark attorney to search for any potential threats you may have missed and to help you register your name with the trademark office.
4. It Isn’t Always About You
This can work very well in certain industries where the founder is also the creator behind the brand. Mary Kay, Estee Lauder, Alexander McQueen and Georgio Armani are just a few famous examples.
But there are also some less well-known equally successful company names that are a spin on the founder’s name such as Bloomingdales (Joseph and Lyman G. Bloomingdale), Adidas (Adi Dassler), Bacardi (Facundo Bacardi) and Barnes & Noble (William Barnes & G. Clifford Noble).
A word of caution though should you decide to go down this route. If you are planning to one day sell your company, a company named after the founder may be less attractive to a prospective buyer than one built on a neutral name.
5. Don’t Use Acronyms
As tempting as it may be to use abbreviations like IBM or KFC for your new business, in general acronyms do not make great company names because they rarely describe what the business actually does or is about.
What’s more, as a small business owner you most likely don’t have the resources and marketing muscle to educate your market on what your acronym means.
So unless you’re already well-known beware of using initials for a company name. With so many acronyms out there you can never be sure that the abbreviation you’ve chosen isn’t already in use in which case you’re likely to add to the confusion rather than branding your company.
Give your potential customers or clients some clues about what you actually do. That’s why you see so many hair styling businesses include words such as “salon” or “hair” in their names.
What information about your company could you include in your business name to make it easier for potential customers to find your business both off and online?
6. Expand Your Horizons
The majority of small businesses operate in local markets so it’s only natural that your first thought may be to call yourself something that reflects the initial services you offer or that align you geographically with the town, city or region you live in.
That’s fine if you only want to serve the local market but if you plan to expand your business in the future choose a name that will not limit your growth. You may be starting small but you don’t have to think small.
What does the name “Bob’s Painting Services” conjure up to you? That’s right. It reflects the start-up nature of the company and that it’s a one-man band. Of course, this works right now but it wouldn’t be suitable if the business expanded.
The Internet has made it easier than ever to reach global markets so your name doesn’t have to reflect your humble origins or be geographically based. Think big and choose a name that will grow with you as your business expands.
7. Be Internet Friendly
Your job as a successful small business is to make customers remember you so avoid hyphenated web addresses where possible and if your company name is not available, try using keywords that best describe your service.
Use Google’s free keyword tool to check what your customers are typing in when they search for your services e.g. puppy training if you can’t get a brand name such as www.Pooches.com.
And don’t forget your social media presence! Use a service like http://namechk.com/ to ensure that your business name is available across the main social networks but especially Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Youtube and G+. This will ensure you have a consistent and professional presence in the online space.
8. Keep It Simple
This may seem like a small issue but the more obscure your business name, the harder it will be to remember. Many businesses still rely on word-of-mouth to get new customers so using a name that is difficult to remember, pronounce, or spell may affect your marketing success.
Having a unique or creative name may be a good idea in principle, but it’s counter-productive if no-one can spell it and may confuse potential customers.
Put your business name through the spelling test and ask others to spell it. Or visit www.YourDictionary.com and check out the top 100 most misspelled words. These are the ones you need to avoid. If your business relies on one of these words then try thinking of a way around it or use an alternative word.
Final words: Think up at least two winning business names, three if possible because once you’ve chosen a business name, the next step is to register it and you may find that your first choice has already been taken.
It’s also a good idea to ask people you trust what they think about your shortlist before you decide on the final name. Remember, you’ll be living with the name for your new business for a long time so you want to be 100% happy with your choice.
What about you? Have you made any bloopers when it came to choosing a business name? What helped you decide on the name for your business? Please share your comments below.