How to Name Your Business

How to Name Your Business
What’s your business name?

Customer recognition is the key to success, and nothing makes you more immediately memorable in the eyes of consumers than your business name. You want customers to form a positive association with your business, right away. This post focuses on a few tips to help you choose a name for your business that will set you apart from the crowd.

Look ahead.

What do I mean by looking ahead? Some entrepreneurs caution against making your name too specific, which could limit your future growth.

Here’s an example: every time I visit my hometown, I see a sign for the local (and excellent) pizza joint at which the gang used to congregate on Friday nights. When I got into town this past Thanksgiving, I was amused to see that Village Inn Pizza had commissioned a new sign to promote their new addition to the menu—“Welcome to Village Inn Pizza. Try our steak!

Obviously, a pizza place also selling steak isn’t much of a stretch. However, when you’re naming your business, look to the future of your company. If your business is successful, would you consider adding new services sometime down the line or offering new products? Even if the current plan doesn’t include expansion, you might paint yourself into a corner if you’re too specific with your name, either with your location (does it make sense for Twin Cities Trucking to use its name in Des Moines?) or your specific services.

While it’s certainly possible to change the name of your business any time you wish, you’ll lose any positive associations your customers may have with your name. (That said, if you own Bob’s Windshield Repair and have since expanded into auto body repair and custom detailing, you can always file a DBA and call your spinoff Bob’s Auto Body or Bob’s Custom Detailing.)

Be creative.

Get creative with your business name -- try using Latin word endings to create your own words!
Get creative with your business name!

Fight consumer fatigue by coming up with something attractive and meaningful—whether you’re going for wit, strength, alliteration, or a combination of impressions, make sure you find something that’s going to make you stand apart from the competition. Would you rather buy a donut from Krispy Kreme, or from Mary’s Glazed Donuts?

Feel free to make up or alter a word, if you feel that it gets your point across. Take a look at partial words or Latin derivatives and their meanings that you can combine with other words to engineer new words.

There are practical reasons to get creative with your name, too. If your name is quite common, it’s going to be difficult to trademark (if that’s something you plan to do) because it’s likely someone has gotten there first.

Additionally, infringement issues could crop up if you end up with a name that someone else has the rights to; depending on the type of business you form, you may be ineligible from using that name in your county, state, or anywhere—and the last thing you want is for your business’s rapid growth to be nipped in the bud by a lawsuit or to lose any name recognition you may have accumulated by springing a new name on your customers.

Do your research.

Do a name search for businesses registered with your state or county government. Check trade name and trademark listings. Do some searches on the Internet. If you plan to start a website (or at least consider it a future possibility), check that any obvious domain names derived from your business name aren’t already owned—you don’t want some other company benefiting from all of your marketing and hard work!

Remember: there are many places people can register a business name. Just because it hasn’t been registered one place you looked doesn’t mean it’s available everywhere.

Be pronounceable.

Remember the original name of the band in the movie That Thing You Do? It wasn’t clear if the Oneders should be pronounced “won-ders” or “oh-need-ers.” Don’t put your customers in a quandary over how to pronounce your name. Word of mouth is free marketing—don’t inadvertently miss out on it. If your customers don’t know how to say the name of your business, they won’t.

One other point: customers also won’t say your name if they’re embarrassed to do so. Channel your inner 13-year-old boy, and think about your name from all angles to determine if there’s anything that might induce snickering. Think about how it’s going to look on a sign if the words were stacked vertically, how any business abbreviations or acronyms will turn out based on the layout of the letters.

Of course, you’re free to call your business “Paul’s Military Surplus,” if you don’t mind that customers (or their children) might giggle at the acronym—after all, publicity is publicity, right?

If you’ve chosen your business name, it’s time to start your business!

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