There are lots of important questions you should ask yourself as you build your new business. Undoubtedly one of the most critical is how to name a business.
The name you ultimately choose will last forever and can help add or detract from its ultimate success. Conversely, choosing the wrong name sets the wrong tone.
For example, I knew someone who named his business “Scratch My Itch” on a whim. He wanted to create the LLC and couldn’t think of anything else so that was his spur-of-the-moment choice.
What do you think the business was all about? Mosquito bite treatments? Sales of unique back scratchers?
Scratch My Itch is actually an in-home nursing care business. Would you hire an in-home nursing service called Scratch My Itch for your ailing relative? Probably not. Yet the founder has to live with that as his business name forever.
How do you avoid making the same mistake?
We have a strategy to answer the question of how to name a business. It involves brainstorming, testing potential names, and how to make your chosen name official.
Brainstorm Potential Names
When you’re in the beginning stages of dreaming up your name, do just that: dream. Let your brain and imagination run wild at the possibilities of your business name.
This is likely the easiest part of the business-naming process, but it may not be something you’re used to doing. Here are a few tips.
Begin by getting out a blank piece of paper, opening up a blank screen you can type on, or setting up an account with one of these online brainstorming websites.
Fill up your idea space with the following.
Write down a few keywords about your business. They can include what type of business it is, what services you provide, who your target audience is, etc.
Jot down some of your favorite things. Have you always had a favorite kind of animal, color, number, day of the week, etc.? Writing them down might inspire you to include your favorites in your business name. (Think “Magnolia,” the business conglomerate of Chip & Joanna Gaines from “Fixer Upper” fame.)
Include values or goals you want your business to have. If you strive for honesty, integrity, top-notch service, friendly assistance, expert advice, etc., write it down.
Write down adjectives that describe your business. If you’re opening a flower shop, you might include adjectives like pretty, delicate, bright, bold, aromatic, etc. If you’re starting a bookkeeping business, you might write words like accurate, exact, excellent, careful, meticulous, etc.
Put your name and initials on your brainstorm list. WalMart is named after the Walton family. Ford Motor Company is named after Henry Ford. Law firms are often named after the founding partner or partners.
The key in brainstorming is not to limit yourself. Write whatever comes to your mind. Editing will come later.
Don’t Be Too Trendy
What’s cool now might very well not be in a few months or years. Names that make sense right now might now make sense in just a few years.
For instance, in the 1980s, the word “dope” meant really great. So if you formed your business back then and named it Dope Appliances, people would know you sold some pretty fantastic appliances.
Fast forward through the 90s and into the 2000s, and the meaning of “dope” has transitioned through the years. It now means drugs. So if you see a business called Dope Appliances now, you might think it meant a place where you cook or store drugs. The obvious moral is not to include trendy words on your list.
Consider Using An Online Name Generator
If after all of the brainstorming you’re still really struggling to come up with a name, there are some online name generators available to give you some ideas. Sites like Business Name Generator, Namelix, and Oberlo are all free resources. Each requires you to put in a word or two that describes your business, then generates dozens of potential names.
We’ve made a list of some pros and cons to using a name generator.
Don’t Be Afraid To Make Up Words
There’s nothing in the rules of naming businesses that say you’re limited to what’s already in Merriam-Webster. In fact, sometimes it pays to stray into the world of made-up words. Take the example GoldieBlox.
When you say the name out loud, your ears likely hear the similarity to Goldilocks, the trespasser at the center of the childhood story staple “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” So you can guess that the company might have something to do with children.
Then you have “Blox.” Since your mind is already thinking about your childhood, “Blox” probably makes you think of building blocks.
In fact, GoldieBlox is a company that makes LEGO-like bricks for kids of all ages, along with other fun crafts for kids. It’s whimsical and playful and definitely not a real word. Yet when you hear it, you immediately have a really good idea what this company is all about.
A great thing about making up words is that you’ll likely be able to get the .com for your website.
Play With Combinations
Once you’ve finished brainstorming, play with combinations of the things you’ve written. Here are three examples.
You’re starting a printing business. You’ve always had a thing for cheetahs and the color red and you’re starting a printing business. You could be Red Cheetah Printing. The name gives a connotation of speed and the red makes it unique.
You want to open a landscaping business. You could name it Budding Beauties Landscaping. The name immediately makes a person think of a lawn punctuated with budding flowers of beautiful colors.
Your dream is to open an eco-friendly store selling items made from recycling. Conscientious Collectibles might work. You’re being conscientious about the earth and you’re selling good people might want to collect.
You can make a lot of different combinations work. Don’t be afraid to play with the words on your list!
Narrow Down Your List To Three Potential Names
After you’ve done all of your brainstorming and written down a bunch of combinations of words and made-up words, narrow down your list to three potential names.
Pick the ones you like the most. If you don’t feel strongly about it, don’t include it in the final three. Any of the three that you put on this list should be acceptable to you as your final business name.
Test Your Potential Names
The next step in how to name a business is testing out your top three. Here’s how you do it. I’m going to use my previous made-up name of Red Cheetah Printing to show how you test your potential names.
You want to get feedback on your three potential names from two main places: the internet, the US Patent and Trademark Office, and a few trusted people.
Type your chosen business names into a search engine. First, make sure they haven’t already been claimed by another business. When I typed in redcheetahprinting.com, there is no website by that name. One hurdle cleared.
US Patent and Trademark Office
You should run your potential business names through the search engine on the US Patent and Trademark Office’s website. It’s a simple and quick step but will keep you from potentially infringing upon another business’s trademark. If you do infringe, you could open yourself up to future lawsuits.
Ask just a few of your trusted friends what they think of your chosen name. You’re looking for reservations people have, things you might not have thought of that make your name a bad choice.
It’s important that these people are honest with you. If they love your business name, they should tell you. But it’s almost more important at this stage to hear any reasons why they don’t like it.
Branding is how you market your business. It’s everything from the website to the logo to the colors and font you use, and it can set the tone for your business. You’ll use it everywhere you market your business, so it’s a very important part of the how-to-name-a-business process.
You already did an informal search of the internet. Now do a search in a domain name finder to see if the domain name you want for your potential business’s website is still available. When I typed it into GoDaddy.com, I see that the domain name redcheetahprinting.com is available for purchase.
If your business name’s dot com is taken, remember you can try other extensions like .net, .co, etc.
Think About Potential Logos
You’ll want to have a logo for your business. You’ll use this on business cards, shirts, stationery, promotional signs – it has the potential to be everywhere. If two of your three names lend themselves to a good logo but one doesn’t, it might be time to get rid of that one.
Here’s a quick sample I mocked up quickly for Red Cheetah Printing. You’ll definitely want to hire a graphic designer to make sure that it’s the right size and pixels so that it reproduces well in all different formats. But something like this makes a statement and could be easily reproduced on different items for branding purposes.
Search Social Media
Do a quick search for your potential business names on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. If any of these major platforms have pages with your proposed names, you’ll either have to find a workaround for that platform or switch to another name.
Once you’ve thoroughly tested your top three choices, it’s time to weigh everything and make your final decision.
How To Officially Name Your Business
Congratulations! You’ve done all of the hard work. You’ve researched and tested and finally settled on a name. How do you make it official?
Register Your Name With Your State
Make it official with your state by registering your business. This article written by the US Small Business Association explains the different ways to register your business and allows you to pick your state so you can follow the rules for where you live.
Purchase Your Domain Name
You’ve already searched it out so you know it’s available. Now it’s time to pull the trigger and purchase the domain name.
Take careful notes on the date that your domain will need to be renewed. If you accidentally lose the domain name because you forgot to pay the renewal fee, you could lose the domain. That could pose significant problems for your business.
Hire Someone To Do A Logo And Design Your Website
We mentioned it before, but it’s worth saying again. Your logo and website are literally the public faces of your business. Don’t believe us? Check out these incredible statistics on client engagement with a business’s website.
- 75% of consumers say they judge a company’s credibility based on their website design.
- 0.05 seconds (50 milliseconds) is all it takes for a consumer to decide if they like your website or not. and if they don’t like it, they’re leaving.
- 94% of first impressions on a website are related to design.
- 46% of consumers determine the credibility of a business based on the look and design of the website.
- 57% of people say they won’t recommend a business if they don’t like their website.
- 63% of all website visits are from a smartphone and 50% of all purchases are made from mobile devices.
We included that last statistic to demonstrate how important it is to hire a web designer who knows what they’re doing. If your site looks stunning on a desktop but awful on a mobile device, you could be jeopardizing a lot of future business.
It’s hard work to give your business the right name, but it’s too important to rush. Take your time and carefully work through the steps laid out above. You’ll end up with an excellent name that can really make your business stand out.