The name that you choose for your business can make a major impact on your brand image. Selecting the perfect name sometimes requires finding a balance between the practical and creative elements. Then once you have the perfect name in mind, you need to make it official and protect your brand.
How to Create a Business Name
If you’re just getting started with your business journey and are in search of the perfect name, here’s a guide ranging from the creative to the legal aspects involved.
1. Choose a Name That’s Creative and Memorable
The best business names always stand out from the competition. That means they need to be creative and unique. There’s no magic formula for this. But basically, your name should be different enough from other companies in your industry that customers won’t confuse your business with others.
However, there are also some advantages of having a business name that clearly and directly describes what you do. For example, including “plumbing” in the name for a local plumber tells people exactly what type of service you provide. So they’re not left guessing. And it can help you with things like SEO for your website. You can still get a little creative with the other aspects of your name. But in certain industries, people don’t expect anything too out-there.
No matter what style of business name you choose, it’s essential that the name you choose is easy to remember. It should be pithy and simple enough so that customers can commit it to memory after doing business with you just once. Ideally, it should also be something that’s very easy to read and pronounce. And if there’s some kind of hook, like a pun or an element that you can tie into your logo or branding, even better.
If you’re not sure where to get started on your naming journey, you might consider using a name generator or list of name examples that are specific to your industry. You still need to make sure that the names you come up with aren’t taken. But these tools can sometimes help business owners find that spark of inspiration that leads to an original idea.
2. Check the Availability of Your Business Name
Even if you find the perfect business name, it won’t do you any good if someone else is already using it. This can lead to confusion for your business and potentially even legal issues.
To avoid this, check the U.S. trademark database and your state’s database of business names. Additionally, you need to look into the rules regarding business names in your state and/or city. Some states have outlawed certain words, often those that might imply you run a government office, school or financial institution. If you meet these qualifications, then you should be good to go legally.
However, there may still be other businesses using your preferred name without having a trademark registered. Even if you can lay legal claim to it, a company that has been using the name for years may create headaches for your business. And the whole thing can seem confusing for customers. Do some online searches to make sure your name isn’t in use unofficially. You may even want to search for names that look especially similar to avoid confusion.
3. See If the Domain Is Available
Ideally, your business name will also be available as a website domain. Using your name, rather than a tagline or combination of other words, makes your site easy to remember. So customers can quickly find you online and make purchases or interact with your business.
Before choosing a name, it’s a good idea to check the availability of the domain you want. If it’s taken, you may want to rethink or adjust your name, or reach out to the owner to see if they might be willing to sell. You might also look to see if the corresponding social media handles are available.
Once you have your eye on a domain that corresponds with the name of your business, try to register it with the .com extension, since that’s what people are used to. You can also purchase the .net and .org equivalents and have them redirect to your main site. There are actually lots of new extensions available today, including things like .tv and .design. But these aren’t usually as easy for customers to remember.
Here’s what to do if you find your chosen name is unavailable:
4. Do a Legal Check
Before finalizing your business name, it’s imperative to ensure that there are no legal impediments to using it. This involves a few crucial steps:
- Trademark Search: Begin by checking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s database to ensure no other business has trademarked the name. This is a critical step, as using a name that’s already trademarked can lead to legal complications.
- State Business Database: Each state maintains a database of business names registered within its jurisdiction. Ensure your desired name isn’t already taken by another entity in your state.
- Legal Structure Implications: If you plan on forming an LLC or Corporation, there might be specific naming conventions or requirements you’ll need to follow.
5. Consider the International Implications
When launching a brand or business, especially in our globally connected world, it’s paramount to consider international implications. The name you select might sound perfect in your native tongue, but could carry unintended connotations elsewhere.
For instance, the automobile Chevrolet Nova had to reconsider its name in Spanish-speaking countries as “No va” means “doesn’t go.” Beyond literal translations, cultural nuances play a significant role.
A phrase or word that might be benign in one culture could be offensive or inappropriate in another. Furthermore, even the way a word sounds can have inadvertent meanings.
For businesses planning to venture into global markets, it’s prudent to conduct thorough research, perhaps even engaging local experts to vet names in their cultural and linguistic contexts.
Here are some more things you should consider:
- Ease of Spelling: A business name should be straightforward to spell to avoid confusion. Simple spelling aids in online searches and makes it easier for customers to share your business through word-of-mouth.
- Visual Representation: Consider the aesthetic implications of your business name. How it appears on logos, business cards, or storefronts is essential. A name’s visual appeal can be as influential as its meaning or sound.
- Avoid Limiting Names: Choose a name that allows your business the flexibility to grow or diversify. For example, a name like “Just Pencils” can be limiting if the business later expands to sell other office supplies.
- Positive Associations: Names that evoke positive emotions or associations can be powerful. Selecting words or phrases that suggest trustworthiness, reliability, or any other positive trait relevant to your business can be very effective in attracting customers.
6. Reflect on the Name’s Longevity
The business world is replete with trends, but naming your venture shouldn’t be a fleeting decision. Reflecting on your chosen name’s longevity is crucial for several reasons:
- Future Expansion: Today, you might be selling artisanal teas, but what if you expand into coffee? Ensure your name can encompass potential growth areas.
- Timelessness Over Trendiness: While it might be tempting to choose a name that’s currently in vogue, it can seem outdated in just a few years.
- Ease of Pronunciation: Names that stand the test of time are often easy to pronounce and remember.
7. Ensure It Aligns with Your Brand Identity
A brand name isn’t merely a title; it’s an embodiment of the brand’s essence, values, and narrative. It should be a mirror reflection of what the brand stands for.
If your brand is about sustainable fashion, a name that evokes nature, authenticity, or green practices might be apt. Alternatively, a tech company would want something cutting-edge, perhaps alluding to innovation or the future.
The alignment should be such that when customers hear the name, they instantly associate it with the brand’s core message and ethos. A misaligned name can create confusion, diluting the brand message.
8. Feedback and Testing
Before finalizing your business name, it’s prudent to solicit feedback and conduct testing. Gathering impressions from potential customers, stakeholders, or a focus group can provide invaluable insights.
Sometimes, a name that resonates with the founder might not have the same effect on the general public. Saying the name aloud, as simple as it sounds, can also be an effective test. How does it roll off the tongue?
Is it catchy? Memorable? Conduct online polls or use social media to gauge reactions.
Remember, the objective is to choose a name that not only you love but that resonates broadly with your intended audience.
9. Register Your Business Name
Once you have the perfect name, it’s time to make it official. In the U.S. you can register your business name with the Secretary of State office in your state. Outside the U.S., find the relevant local authority that deals with businesses and ask about their process.
Additionally, if the business name that you use on a daily basis is different than the legal name for your business (like if you’re a sole proprietor and your business name is technically your own name) then you can file a DBA to register the name you use for business matters.
You might also consider protecting your brand name with a trademark. This is different than registering your business name, even though your brand and business names may be the same. This would give you legal protections if other companies attempt to use your brand name in any of their materials. And it can also help you protect multiple brands under the umbrella of one company.
How to Create a Business Name Checklist
|Steps for Creating a Business Name||Completed|
|Choose a Creative & Memorable Name||[ ]|
|Check Name Availability||[ ]|
|Domain Availability||[ ]|
|Legal Check||[ ]|
|Consider International Implications||[ ]|
|Ease of Spelling||[ ]|
|Visual Representation||[ ]|
|Avoid Limiting Names||[ ]|
|Positive Associations||[ ]|
|Reflect on Name's Longevity||[ ]|
|Align with Brand Identity||[ ]|
|Feedback and Testing||[ ]|
|Register Your Business Name||[ ]|
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