Helping business owners with mental health issues, Start Small but Dream Big
8 tips for finding your perfect business name
Finding the perfect business name can be tough. If you’re anything like me, choosing a name for anything is an almost impossible task. My mind goes blank. I start to panic. I was grateful that my dog was an adult and already named when we got her, otherwise she would have been ‘Dog’ for months.
Much as I love my dog, naming a business is far more important. It needs to reflect what you do, what your positioning is, and be relevant for the foreseeable future (and beyond). You also need to consider whether you will want to register your business name as a legal entity now, or possibly in the future. If you do intend to, you will need to check the relevant register in your country (Companies House in the UK, and state agencies in the USA), as names cannot be duplicated. (Although it is worth remembering that, in the UK at least, the name that you register with Companies House does not need to be the same as the name you trade under.)
So, what should you consider when choosing your perfect business name?
What’s in a perfect business name?
As the cliche goes, you never get a chance to make a first impression. Your business name is the is likely to be the first contact that a prospective client will have with your business. It will be the foundation of their opinion. It needs to convey the right image. Are you aiming at the high-end market? Or will you be focused on wholesale? If you’re a lawyer or an accountant, then you’re unlikely to choose a name that sounds flippant. Likewise, a fancy dress shop probably won’t choose a name that sounds too serious.
Does it communicate what you do?
The perfect business name needs to communicate what you do. While a few companies have made it big despite their name not referring to what they do – for example Google and Apple – the truth is that this is unusual, and requires major marketing spend.
Even if you don’t opt for the obvious John Jones Plumbing, the name should indicate what services or products it provides. For example,Wag and Bones would be a good name for a dog related business. Try to avoid cliches, however. We probably all know a hairdresser’s called Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow, or A Cut Above.
Avoid names that might seem aspirational, but communicate nothing. Think of the kind of names usually picked by teams on The Apprentice. For example, Summit or Zenith, or the name of an ancient god whose skills you wish to emulate. They’re massively overused already, and say nothing about your business.
Don’t choose a name that could limit your future growth. You don’t want to be hemmed in by a name that refers to your locality or one or two product lines. What happens if you want to expand into the next city or county? Or if you decide that you want to sell wotsits as well as widgets?
Keep it simple!
Don’t go for fancy or ‘cool’ spellings. Don’t substitute ‘z’ for ‘s’, ‘k’ for for ‘c’, or ‘ph’ for ‘f’. If people have heard your name but not seen it written down, it’ll be harder for them to find you. Equally, choose words that are easy to say and spell. Make life easy for your prospective clients.
Get thinking. Write down words relating to your business. I prefer writing them dotted about on a piece of plain paper. Then think about words that might relate to those words. For example, dog equals canine, people relate spruce with clean and tidy. Ask other people for words that they relate with your business type. They may have other ideas. As well as friends and family, online business forums and Facebook groups are often useful sources for finding your perfect business name.
Every business needs a website. Many people now check out businesses online before contacting them. They want an idea of what the business stands for first. Use a domain site to check whether your preferred name is available. If not, many will make suggestions. Personally, I like the site bustaname.com. It’s not the prettiest site, but it has great functionality. You can either add a list of words or your preferred domain name. It will make suggestions, tell you if the domain name is available, and the cheapest place to purchase it.
If you can spare the money, consider using a professional branding agency. The cost can be considerable – thousands usually – but this will not only include the name; they will also develop logos and an overall branding concept. This will usually include designs for the company literature and paperwork, and all the information that the printers would need to produce it.
Don’t be afraid to change
Sometimes we have to face the truth and admit when things aren’t working. If, after an appropriate length of time, there are signs that it isn’t the perfect business name, and it isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change it. Indications that may suggest that the name isn’t working may include lower website hits than expected, less business than expected, or people asking what your business does when they hear the name.
If you’re unsure whether or not it’s working, ask your clients what they think. Go back to the business forums and Facebook groups and ask again. Test out new names with them. Hard as it can be, don’t be afraid to let go.
These eight tips should help you find the perfect name for your business. One that will stick with you and your business as it grows. But if, over time, it turns out that it’s not quite right, don’t panic. Change can be a good thing. Embrace it.