Throughout the entire life cycle of your business one thing is constant – your business name. And this means getting it right, the first time.
Why? Consider this – assuming you optimize your Web site, post your business on local online listings, develop a social media strategy, and deliver a great service, your business name and all that it represents will go viral (and hopefully in a good way).
And, of course, once it’s out there – there is literally no going back. The impact on search engine rankings of changing your business name and the necessary efforts to re-brand all of your online and offline materials and update your domain name, can incur troublesome and time- consuming business penalties.
So back to our first point, getting your business name right the first time – is critical. Once you are happy with your choice, it’s also important that you take steps to protect your name against trademark infringement and register it with the right regulatory bodies for the purposes of taxation, incorporation, licenses, and permits.
Here are four tips to help you choose and manage your business name throughout the lifecycle of your business:
1) Choose a Name that Reflects Your Plans for your Business
How do you intend to use your business name? Many start-ups (especially freelancers, sole proprietors and family businesses) operate their businesses under their personal name. However, if you want to present a professional image you might want select a business trade name that can scale with you and this means doing some research. Consider how your potential name will look (on the Web, with a logo, etc.), sound (make it easy to pronounce), what connotations it will evoke, and how it distinguishes you from the competition.
2) Conduct a Trademark Search
While a quick Google search will help you avoid picking a name that implies association with other business entities, you should also conduct a trademark search – this Business Naming Guide from Business.gov walks you through the process of checking for potential trademarks infringement.
3) Pick a Name that is Web-Ready
There are several aspects to selecting a business name that will work on the Web – and you should do all these before you finalize your business name. Consider the following:
- Search for a Domain Name – This will help you identify whether you can actually set up a Web site with a domain name (essentially your future URL) that is clearly affiliated with your business and is keyword rich (e.g. www.virginiadecking.com is better than www.psmithcarpentry.com). To determine whether your preferred domain name is available, do a quick search in the WHOIS database. If it is available you will benefit from claiming it as yours early in the business naming process – long before you get around to creating a Web site. To learn how to do this is, read this quick Register Your Domain Name Guide from Business.gov.
- Is your Business Name Social Media-Ready? – In addition to checking availability of domain names, take time to conduct a search of Twitter and Facebook to ensure that no other businesses or brands are operating in the social media-sphere with your preferred name. Even if you don’t intend to use social media marketing to promote your business, any defaming or controversy that can arise online may potentially tarnish your brand.
- Don’t Overlook your Email Naming Policy – There is nothing worse than a lengthy and hard-to-spell business email address. So take some time to determine your email naming policy. Should you abbreviate your company name for email purposes? Will email addresses contain first and last names? There is no right or wrong answer, as long as you make it easy for your customers to communicate with your business.
4) Take Care of the Legalities
Once you have chosen a business name, you will need to register it with the right regulatory bodies and protect it against trademark infringement.
If you are operating your business under a trade name you are required by law to register that name with your local government and obtain a “Doing Business As” (or DBA) permit from your local government. Until then, the legal name of your business essentially defaults to your given name. Find out how to register your business name in your state.
Trade marking your business name, logo or other mark is optional – but it can be your most valuable business asset. If you only do business in one state you can register for a trademark at the state level; if you operate in more than one state you can register for a federal trademark via the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. To understand more about trademark protection refer to this Patents, Trademarks and Copyright Small Business Guide from www.business.gov.
- Changing a Business Name
- Trademarks: Legal, Financial, and Tax Points You Need to Know
- Protect your Business Name or Risk Losing It
- How to Legally Protect Your Business Name on a Local, State, National, and International Level