As a business owner, you can do many things to ensure the success of your business, from perfecting your product or service to honing your branding efforts. But one of the most important and often overlooked aspects of launching a successful business is picking the right brand and company name.
Your brand name is one of your most valuable assets, and it’s important to choose carefully. A good company name can help you resonate with your target audience, build trust, and establish yourself as a credible business. On top of that, if your product or service is specific enough, you may even become the next Kleenex or Hoover.
Whether you’re shooting for the stars or just trying to get your business off the ground, there are a few things you should keep in mind when choosing a catchy business name.
Below, we explore the importance of a strong brand name and offer a few tips on picking the perfect one for your business.
Why Is Your Business Name Important?
The average person is exposed to thousands of catchy business names and messages every day. In order to stand out from the crowd, your business needs a name that’s memorable and unique.
Your business name should be more than just a label; it needs to reflect your brand identity, mission, and vision. A strong brand name will help you build trust with your target audience and establish yourself as a credible business in your industry.
It Makes the First Impression
When you hear the name of a business, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
A good business name will evoke positive associations in your target audience’s minds, while a weak or forgettable name will do nothing to differentiate your business from the competition.
In other words, this is what makes renowned brands stand out from the rest.
It Helps You Stand Out
Think about a small yet competitive market of local bakeries. When every single one is named after the owner or the product they sell, how do you expect customers to remember yours?
In a sea of sameness, a strong and creative business name will help you stand out from the competition. And so, By The River will be a much better option than another Smith’s or Johnson’s.
It Sticks in Customers’ Minds
The same goes for customers who are trying to recall your brand name. While a more complex name may resonate with your company values better, sometimes the most straightforward names are the most memorable.
Take Apple for example. The name is short, sweet, and easy to remember – perfect for a company that makes consumer electronics even though it has nothing to do with apples, apart from the logo and a few stories made around it.
It Can Help With SEO
If you’re planning to improve your business’s online presence, it’s important to choose brand names that are SEO-friendly. That means coming up with something that includes relevant keywords and is easy to search.
For example, let’s say you’re starting an online store that sells environmentally-aware garden supplies. A good brand name for your business might be Eco-Friendly Green Garden. Of course, you’ll want to make sure the name is what your target demographic is actually searching for.
Brainstorm Business Name Ideas
There are two ways in which you can brainstorm business names: you can either decide to go with the safer option and grab some conservative brand name ideas or venture out on your own and let your imagination and creativity run wild.
Brainstorming isn’t just for school projects; it can also help you solve many issues you may stumble upon in your business. This is a great way to get your creative juices flowing and generate some outside-the-box ideas.
To brainstorm business name ideas, start by making a list of words or phrases that are related to your business, product, or service. You can also use one of the numerous business name generators online.
Once you have a list of potential ideas, start playing around with them and see what sounds the best.
Consider the Niche
Needless to say, your business name should be adjusted to the niche you are in. An accounting business will probably not benefit from a name like Crazy Cat Ladies, while a pet store might. The idea is that you have to keep the formality or informality of the name in accordance with what you are offering.
It may be tempting to go with a little tongue-in-cheek humor, but you have to make sure that your target audience will appreciate it.
The same goes for puns; while they might be funny to you and your friends, they might not translate well to a broader audience, especially when you have to explain them every single time.
Depending on the type of business you are in, a literal name can be a great option. This is especially true for companies that offer services rather than products since it can help customers understand what you do at a glance. Or, you can always complement your creative business names with a literal one.
Keep It Simple
As mentioned above, sometimes simple names make the perfect business names. Indeed, company names like Nike or Apple aren’t the sole reason behind their success, but they do ring a bell for most people.
As such, while you shouldn’t always keep your business name a single word, the way you name your business may benefit from this approach. Just make sure to avoid common words that might be hard to trademark or already in use.
Avoid Using Initials
It may also be tempting to use your initials or abbreviations as part of your business name, especially if you have a long or difficult-to-pronounce term – BMW, or Bayerische Motoren Werke, is a great example. However, this approach can backfire since it makes your business name more cryptic.
Again, you could come up with many real-life examples here, but those are primarily big businesses that have been around for years. If you are just starting out, it would be best to avoid using initials not to confuse your prospective customers.
Choose the Right Business Name Idea
Now, how do you choose the right name idea for your business? You probably have brainstormed quite a few good ones, but it’s essential to be strategic about your choice.
You need to think about how the name sounds, what it means, and how your audience will receive it. If you’re stuck, take a look at your competitors – maybe you’ll find something you know they should avoid.
Follow Formal Structures
Most countries have their own rules and regulations surrounding business names. For the US, the common business naming schemes include:
- Sole Proprietorships: If you’re the only owner of your business, the name will be registered in your personal name. This may limit your business in the future if you plan on expanding.
- DBAs (Doing Business As): You can operate your business under a different name than the owner’s or registered business’ name. Mind the state regulations, as they vary.
- Partnerships: If the business has two or more owners, then your company name should include all partners’ names. Filling a DBA gives you more flexibility if this is the case.
- LCCs (Limited Liability Companies): LLCs are popular in the US as they protect personal assets in case the business faces legal issues, meaning that an LCC is a more formal business structure than a DBA or proprietorship.The company name should include the words “Limited Liability Company” or the abbreviation “LLC.” You should also pay attention to not confuse your business name with that of another company or government institution.
- C-Corporations: C-Corps are more complex business entities with shareholders, officers, and a board of directors. The name should include one of the four designations: “Corporation,” “Incorporated,” “Company,” or “Limited.”
Copyright and trademark are important considerations when choosing a business name. Once you’ve found the perfect name, make sure it’s not already used by someone else – otherwise, you might find yourself in hot water down the road.
You can use the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) to conduct a federal trademark search or contact an attorney specializing in intellectual property law.
It’s also a good idea to check domain availability for your chosen name. Even if you don’t plan on launching a website right away, it’s wise to secure the domain name before someone else does. On top of that, you may not want to have your business associated with, say, a website with cat memes.
Avoid Inappropriate Meanings
Apart from names that are taken or infringe copyright laws, you should also be aware of business name ideas that might have negative connotations in other languages.
For example, Mitsubishi had to rename its flagship SUV in Spain after finding out that the name – Pajero – is a relatively vulgar term you may not want to use in polite company.
To avoid such embarrassing situations, it’s always a good idea to have your name vetted by someone who speaks the language of your target market.
Consider the Future of Your Small Business
Changing the name after you have already established your position in the market is not an easy feat. You need to notify the IRS and other relevant government bodies, apply for a new EIN, and, most importantly, communicate the change to your customers.
To avoid going through all that trouble, it’s important to consider the future of your business when researching business name ideas.
For example, if you plan on expanding your product line or services in the future, make sure the name is not too specific to what you’re offering now.
The same goes for geographical expansion – if you eventually want to enter new markets, make sure you won’t have any issues with the name in those countries.
Ask for Others for Feedback
Lastly, before you go and register your business and the matching domain name, it’s always a good measure to ask for feedback from friends, family, and even strangers.
You can do this by conducting a survey or simply asking people what they think of your chosen name. Be sure to get feedback from people outside your target market, as they may offer different perspectives.
Register Your Business Name
There are three main ways to protect your company name: by forming a business entity, registering an assumed name or DBA, or trademarking your brand name.
If you want to avoid any legal issues down the road, you may want to register your brand names under more than one category – though not every organization is allowed to do so.
Forming a Business Entity
The first step is to form a business entity. This can be done online or in person, and the process is relatively simple. Once you have selected a name for your LLC, you need to file relevant paperwork with your state’s Secretary of State or equivalent government agency.
This will usually involve submitting an Article of Incorporation or Certificate of Formation, along with any required filing fees. Once your LLC is officially formed, you can start using your company name (assuming it isn’t already taken).
Lastly, it would be best if you considered registering your LLC name as a trademark. This will give you additional protection and help you enforce your rights if someone tries to use your catchy business name idea without permission.
Registering an Assumed Name or DBA
If you’re not ready to form a business entity, you can always register an assumed name or “doing business as” (DBA). This is a less formal way to protect your desired business name and can be done with your county clerk’s office.
Without registering an assumed name, your business must operate under your own personal name – which may not be ideal if you’re trying to expand your small business in the future.
The same goes for DBAs; entrepreneurs operating under sole proprietorships or general partnerships can use them to create a business structure under a different trade name.
Trademarking Your Business Name Idea
The last – and most comprehensive – way to protect your business name is by trademarking it. This gives you exclusive rights to use your mark in commerce and can be used to prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark.
You can register your mark with the USPTO on their website; the application includes a search of the TESS database to make sure your mark isn’t already taken, as well as form with the class of goods or services you plan to use it for.
After your application is filed, it will be reviewed by an examiner who may raise objections. If everything goes well, your mark will be published for opposition and, assuming no one objects, gain federal protection.
The fees for trademark registration vary depending on the type of mark and how many classes you want to register it in, typically ranging from $250 to $750 per class.
Registering a Domain Name
As mentioned above, you want to ensure that your brand name is available as a domain before you start using it. You can do a quick search on GoDaddy or another registrar to see if the .com version of your desired name is available.
If you find domain names that suit your business, but it’s taken, you may be able to negotiate with the current owner. You can also try alternative TLDs (.net, .io, etc.) or get creative with your domain name (e.g., using a hyphen).
Ideally, you should register a few domains under the same name and then redirect them to your main landing page. That way, if someone tries to squat on one of your addresses, you can rest assured that they won’t be able to. It will help your customers too, should they forget the exact link.
However, the name for your business does not need to be the same as your domain name. Consider playing around with different versions of your business name until you find one that is available and feels suitable for your business idea. Your SEO team will take care of the rest.
Now that you know how to choose the right business name ideas, it’s time to get started on your research. Keep in mind that your name is one of your most valuable assets, so take your time and choose wisely.
You may find it helpful to use a business name generator or brainstorm with friends and colleagues. Once you have a list of potential names, start playing around with them until you find the perfect one for your new business.
When in doubt, look for legal documents containing naming rules, requirements, and restrictions in your country. These will help you avoid any legal issues down the road.
When ready, register your business name with the relevant government bodies and trademark it to protect your brand identity. And lastly, don’t forget to register the .com domain name so that your potential customers can find you online!
Manager with experience in leading team of software developers and testers during implementation of internal and external IT projects. Ceo of Brandly360.com.