There are so many questions to ask yourself when considering the name of a new business. Does the name have meaning? Should I name the business after myself? Is the domain name available? Is there trademark protection? Can I shout the name at a bar and not be embarrassed?
With so many questions to consider, we decided to ask 12 small business owners a question ourselves: What is your best tip for someone looking to name their business? We collected the best business naming tips below.
Test the Ease of Spelling
It may sound simple, but make sure the brand’s name is unique but easy to spell! The last thing you want is for someone to hear about your business in conversation and not be able to find it on Google or social media because they don’t know how to spell it. An easy way to test this is to tell someone the name of your company and have them write it down. If it doesn’t match, it may not be the best option!
-Vanessa Molica, The Lash Professional
Allude To Your Industry
When naming a business, you should consider giving it a name that alludes to the industry or work that you do. Our name is Insura, we are an independent insurance company in Ohio. Without knowing that context, someone could probably guess what business we are in just by hearing our name! My best tip is to be creative with how you can incorporate what you do into your business name in an exciting way.
-Vicky Franko, Insura
Connect It to Your Clients
My wife and I run a criminal defense and personal injury law firm in the Seattle area. We work closely together with our clients to defend them in their cases, so we wanted to make sure our company name reflected that. We decided to name our company Will & Will, turning our last name into our business’s brand. We did this so our clients could feel personally connected to us as people and be able to trust us with their cases.
-Court Will, Will & Will
Make Sure It Has a Story
As a company founder, you are going to field one question hundreds of times: “What’s the meaning behind the company name?” Your answer is the key to whether people remember the company name. For example, our company name “Markitors” stands for “marketing + auditors.” I was formerly a financial auditor and founded a marketing company that sought to differentiate by bringing in-depth audits to marketing. Why does that quick anecdote matter? Because people connect with stories. If the business name doesn’t have a quick story to share that supports what the business does, then dig a little deeper for a name that lends itself to a good story.
-Brett Farmiloe, Markitors
Keep in Mind the Company’s Growth
Bring together a group of people you trust — folks on your team, in your industry, and even an outsider’s perspective — for a few brainstorming sessions. Look at keywords and follow rabbit holes down word meanings, synonyms, and related ideas. Once you’ve mixed and matched different terms together, choose your top 3 favorites and spend a few weeks asking for feedback. This can be a fun process as long as you don’t get married to one name too quickly! Once you’ve made a decision, don’t forget to research how it might be perceived in other markets that you may expand to down the line. More importantly, you’ll want to check on any registered trademarks or potential copyright issues that could arise before finalizing your business’s name.
-Amanda Mollindo, The Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation
Do Your Research
Since we now live in a digital world, it is so important to research available domain names. Rather than choose a business name and then search for your web address, it is best to do both steps at the same time. It is becoming increasingly more challenging to find the .com domain name you are looking for and so you should be prepared to get creative and do your research.
-Audrey Hutnick, Smallwave Marketing
Look Into All Your Options
It’s okay to use a name that is already taken. Generally, even if a business has a name trademarked it is for a specific region and use. For example, a business name like "Tiny Campfire" could be trademarked for B2B services, but you could still use it for a clothing store or a restaurant without infringing. Similarly, just because a domain is already registered doesn’t mean it is not available. We’ve bought multiple domains from previous owners to help brand our businesses, and you can do the same.
-Michael Alexis, Teambuilding
Check the SERP
Google any of your ideas and pay attention to what comes up on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Are there tons of paid ads? Is there a personal blog already using that name? Any weird Urban Dictionary results? These aren’t necessarily deal-breakers, but when you’re making a shortlist of potential business names, you want to know the SEO opportunities or challenges that each name offers.
-Ceillie Clark-Keane, Unstack
Choose Clear Over Clever
It may be easier to score the .com rights to a made-up word, but you’ll spend a lot of time, money, and energy on customer education. When possible, select a name that truly represents your offerings.
-Tim Toterhi, Plotline Leadership
Go Back to Your Roots
Brainstorm and write out your ideas. In 2012, I did an afternoon brainstorming session with a friend who spent years in advertising on Madison Avenue. He asked the question, “How do you make your client heroic?” After a lengthy discussion, I was reminded of a blog I started in 2008… the blog page was called “Enjoy Life Daily.” It aligned me to my deeper why, before I even considered a business. My business name and offerings are as aligned today as when I did the exercise. I enjoy seeing the daily reminder as it orients me back to why I do what I do.
-Mark Jamnik, Enjoy Life Daily
Capture the Essence of Your Company
The most important step in naming your business is to clearly understand why your company exists. When you understand your "why" then you have a point of origin that you can start your compelling narrative from. From that point of origin, try to capture the essence of your company in as few words as possible that you can use as a doorway to communicate that narrative. Logos and company names are micro-stories where you want to say as much as possible in the most economical way.
-Lukas Ruebbelke, Briebug
Check With the Kids
There’s an old joke about checking with a group of middle schoolers before naming your child. After all, if any group can come up with a cruel way to make fun of a name, it’s middle schoolers. Well, when it comes to your business, the same applies. When you settle on a name, ask your kids what they think. Ask those in your family with young kids. Ask your neighbor’s kids. Sure, you’ll probably get some pretty lame jokes but you may save yourself a lot of embarrassment later.
-Mark Varnas, Red9