What’s in a name? A lot, actually.
A critical component of your brand, your business name offers the first impression of your company. It’s the first thing customers see when they visit your website and the first thing they hear when they call your office. As a result, start-ups should pay special attention selecting a name that fits your business.
Oftentimes, people think your business name should include what product or service you offer, but that is not the case. After all, does McDonald’s mention anything about burgers?
Instead of focusing on describing your offerings, choose a business name that is consistent with your brand and that represents the personality of your business. If you haven’t already defined your brand message, do that first as it should be the source of inspiration for your name.
Here are some additional things to consider when choosing a business name:
- Individuality. Choose a name that’s unique to you and your business. Avoid imitating other businesses. You want to stand out and choose a name that reflects what YOUR business is about — not the one down the street.
- Longevity. Think about names that are timeless. Because you are investing time and resources into your name, create one that will last.Avoid names that are too trendy, unless that’s a hallmark of your business.
- Length. Keep it short and sweet. Try to avoid overly long names or ones that are difficult to say or spell. Make it memorable so customers can easily find you.
- Location. If you are a local business, you may want to incorporate your city or part of town into your name.Local landmarks can also be a great building block for your business name. Both of these tactics can help customers associate you with a certain area of town.
- Spelling. While it might be tempting to change how words are spelled, steer clear of that option. Instead of positioning your business as clever or “kool”, it appears clumsy. More importantly, it makes it harder for customers to find you if they don’t know how to spell your business name.
- Personal names. Using your name is a natural choice for some businesses, especially for sole proprietors or family-owned companies. Before you go this route, make sure you are comfortable for your name to be so personally tied to your business. Also, if you want the business to grow beyond you or your family, you may want to explore other options. As you build a company culture, it can be harder for employees to invest in a business that has someone else’s name on the door.
- Legal availability. Before settling on a name, make sure it is legally available. Check with your county clerk’s office and look at the resources on business.gov for specific requirements for each state. If you need help, consult with an attorney to make sure your desired name is available.
- Web domain availability. Check with a domain registrar (such as GoDaddy or NameCheap) to see if the URL for your business name is available. If the desired website address is already taken, consider other words or phrases that may work. While you can certainly use a .net, .org or other extension, .com is most preferable as most web users automatically type that extension.
- Social media availability. Whether you plan to use social media or not, check to see if your desired username or URL is available on sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Namechk is a great tool that allows you to search dozens of popular social media sites in a matter of seconds so you can ensure your brand name is used consistently across the web.
Still need some inspiration? Write down words that you like that describe your business. Use a thesaurus. Doodle on some paper. Get outside. Take a walk. Talk to friends. Talk to mentors. Talk to potential customers. Look in uncommon places. And, when you’re not looking, it might just come to you.
If you’re having trouble coming up with a name, consider hiring a marketing consultant. Your business name should excite you and it is worth the investment to get assistance in choosing a name that you can be happy with for a long time.
What challenges have you faced in choosing a name for your business? What tips do you have for other start-ups?