How to Name Your Business

I’ll always cherish the time when I adopted my pup, Opie. I spent countless hours scavenging through lists of baby names and blog articles. (I know you may be rolling your eyes, but I’m not joking! Her name needed to be perfect, because she is!)

Eventually, after many many lists of names I decided on Ophelia, or Opie for short. To this day, when I tell people her name they always ask where I got it from: The Lumineers song? Shakespeare fan?

Your name is your legacy, it should spark conversation — or at least have a story behind it.

If you’re like me, your business is your baby. I’m sure you will put similar effort into naming it. A great name will make your business stand out. It helps potential customers connect with your company faster, and it forms relationships faster. Your business name creates an image for your consumers, and it will establish your identity for the long haul.

Here are my suggestions for getting started naming your business.

1. What Do You Want Your Business Name to Embody?

Naming your business is one of the most important steps you’ll take to launch your brand. And it’s not easy. Sometimes it’s actually not fun at all. It’s hard to come up with a word or phrase that defines your business and what it does — a name that will stick in customers’ minds and stand out from the competition. A name that no one else has declared as their own.

To start the journey, look internally. What are your business’s core values? Trustworthiness? Reliability? Quality work? Customer loyalty? When you know what your business stands for, you can identify what your name must embody.

2. Start the Fun of Brainstorming Names!

Epic names — like Amazon, Apple, Nike and Coca-Cola — often use stunning visuals to trigger your gut instincts and to develop feelings of nostalgia.

So, will your business name be thought up one night, head spinning, after a few too many glasses of chardonnay? Not a chance! Brainstorming is going to take hours — more commonly days. Especially if you don’t have an effective naming process.

If you want to take the pain away from naming your business, pick up a copy of Brand New Name. It is a proven, step-by-step process to create an unforgettable brand name:

  • Plan: Define how you will create a brilliant name.
  • Sprint: Generate lots of potential names.
  • Select: Test and select the right name.

In the Sprint, you will get a series of exercises that guide you to brainstorm and come up with lots of potential names. But you can get started today.

Get out a blank sheet of paper and a pen. Use a timer on your phone or find a song that’s about five minutes long. Set the timer, press play, and write down every naming idea you have for the next five minutes.

Your goal? Fill up that sheet of paper.

Let the ideas flow when you are brainstorming. No idea is a bad idea!

3. Is Your Name Memorable? It Better Be!

When I started my blog I had such a hard time deciding on a name. I spent countless hours brainstorming and still had a list of over twenty names. I called my best friend one afternoon and gave her my top five. Every single one was nixed because it was too cutesy or too abstract.

My friend eventually said, “Why don’t you name your blog after what you preach?”

All of a sudden the fog lifted, I scribbled on my sheet of paper and snapped a picture of it: “BeBelle Be You!!!” It was so obvious!

The companies you admire typically have names that are short, simple, easy to write and easy to remember — like Adidas, and Lexus.

This is a problem for most small businesses, because word-of-mouth advertising is one of the best forms of marketing. If your customers can’t remember your name, can’t spell it, or can’t properly pronounce it for others, it will make it difficult for them to promote your business.

Two questions you can ask to qualify if your name fits:

  • Is it memorable? Will it carry you through the next ten to thirty years?
  • Is it easy to spell? People really don’t like to feel stupid.

I can only imagine how much business companies lose because their consumers can’t find the website or remember how to spell the business name.

4. Can You Own the Name?

What makes naming your business so hard isn’t coming up with interesting names, but finding available ones. We are experiencing a naming drought!

As you get started with naming your project, here are a few more things to consider:

  • Can you get the trademark? You can’t use a name if someone else already owns the trademark. Protecting your name is important, and being forced to rebrand a name can be a huge burden.
  • Is the domain available?
  • Do you need a .com domain or is there another domain extension that is a better fit?

5. Can Your Name Grow with Your Business?

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, is a genius when it comes to naming. When Amazon first hit the market, its purpose was to sell books online. So, why use the name “Amazon?” When you think of the Amazon, what comes to mind? The largest river in the world? What on earth does that have to do with books?

What if Bezos had used a generic name, like “Books on Books on Books?” Would it have been as successful? Probably not.

Do your products or services need to be included in your business name?

  • Johnson’s Landfill
  • Greg’s Fitness

These straightforward business names immediately alert potential customers to the type of products or services you offer, but do they leave room for growth?

Think about where you see your business in five or ten years. Will the name you have in mind still work if you expand your product line or service area?

6. Can You Describe Your Business Without Losing the Interest of Potential Clients?

Generic words make it very difficult to differentiate your company from your competitors. For example, my media studies professor from college started her personal shopping business in the early 2000’s. Back then there was only one other competitor in her area, so she didn’t think her business name mattered.

Her favorite brand was Chanel, so she named the business, “Chanel’s Closet.” Super creative? Questionable. Limiting? 100%!

Now “Chanel’s Closet” has grown into one of the top companies in the state. She even buys inventory from local stores and sells it at a reduced price in her stores instead of always shopping unique retail pieces. This is challenging, because she has outgrown her business name.

As a result, she has two websites geared towards her different business models: services and product sales. In this case, her generic name doesn’t help define what her company is all about and hasn’t grown with her.

There are exceptions to this rule, but it’s something to keep in mind.

7. Can a Seven Year Old pronounce Your Name and Find Your business online?

Branding and naming expert, Jeremy Miller says that the best business names are simple! He writes in Brand New Name, “Simple names are more successful… If a name is easier to remember and easier to say, we’re more likely to use the brand.”

A good business name is easy for customers to find and type online.

Think of the car brand Acura. Although the word is an invented word, it expresses that their engineering is accurate and therefore trustworthy. It gives you an indication of what the cars are like.

Having a creative or outside-of-the-box name seems fun — in theory — but if your audience can’t recall, say or spell it, you’re in trouble. So it might be smarter to take a more straightforward approach if you’re working with a smaller budget.

8. Work with Others to Test Your Names, but Make Sure the Final Decision Is Yours

Involve friends, family, employees, and customers when selecting a name for your business. Co-creation makes the process fun, but you need a leader.

To involve others in the selection process of naming a business, pick a small group of people who understand you and your business. Bonus points if the group includes your potential customers, because they will be your real-life audience.

If you aren’t able to approach potential customers, ask your group to pretend they fit the mold of your customers. Paint a picture for them, so they can empathize and envision themselves as prospective buyers of your products and services.

Share the names with them, and ask them questions like:

  • What feeling does the name evoke?
  • Is it easily recognizable or easy to remember and type?
  • Does it create an instant impression?

Tip: If you’re looking for a guide, Brand New Name can guide you and your team to the finish the line with the 5-Day Naming Sprint.

Here are some of my bonus tips for naming your business:

  • Don’t pick your name based on current trends. Be unique and choose something that will stand the test of time.
  • Have a list of a few backup names. It’s possible someone else might have already had the same idea.
  • Check for domain availability. Once you’ve figured out how to name a business, head on over to your favorite domain registrar and snag your domain name.
  • Research your business name and confirm its availability. A poorly researched business name could cost you. Be mindful of trademark and copyright laws.

Your business is your baby, and you want to set it up for success.

Have a question? We’re here and happy to chat!