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How To Name Your Business

Pile of scrabble tiles spelling out Flickr

Image - Taro Taylor (CC BY 2.0), via Wikimedia Commons.

Making a good first impression is important. So choosing a name for a business is not something to be rushed, as the name you choose will be one of the first things to make an impression on potential clients. It's not something to be intimidated by though. Approached in the right way it can be a rewarding endeavor, so let's consider how to tackle it.

Think Before You Start

Downer Funeral Home Site Banner

You chose poorly. Image - Downer Funeral Home Inc.

Think about what's appropriate for your industry. If it's serious and sombre then choose a name that reflects that. Conversely, if you're providing a fun service, something lighthearted or dynamic will suit you better. Have a look at what others in your field have gone for to give you an idea of what's expected. But bear in mind that a name which goes against convention can attract attention, as long as it's not too wildly inappropriate.

Also beware of puns. As a man of a certain age I like a pun, but a business name that's essentially a joke can wear thin over time. If you're determined to go for one, choose wisely.

Think Of A Name

Brainstorming Meeting

Brainstorming is a bit of a cliche, but it's a cliche because it works. Grab a pen and pad, get some coffee/beer/snacks, or all three, and brainstorm. If you're part of a team, brainstorming as a group might be a good way to come up with something interesting, or you might find that producing individual lists before you collaborate with your colleagues works better for you. Don't be too hard on your teammates if you're not keen on their suggestions, as being encouraging will lead to more creative ideas.

If you're not feeling inspired, ask friends, family or even reach out via social media for ideas. Even if they don't suggest anything you like it'll help to get your thought processes going.

Don't despair if it's hard going. You might find that your best ideas come to you in a flash of inspiration while you're in the shower, or the supermarket queue, or walking the cat (some people do). So have a notepad or device handy for making notes.

Check It's Available

Fake Google Shop

Probably won't find any cat videos in there. Image - lalalila.

A recent web client of ours had chosen a name for his business that he totally loved. He waxed lyrical about how much it embodied what his business stood for. We watched his face fall as he finally Googled it and discovered it had already been taken, quite some time ago. The moral here is if you've come up with a killer name, don't get attached to it before you've checked if it's available.

Geography comes into play here too. If your business is highly localised, then it might not matter that another business trades under the same name in a different area or country. And in some areas many businesses trade under the same name. 'Phoenix' (which also happens to be my surname) is used by many without incident. Be sure to comply with local laws to avoid problems down the road. If there is an official register of business names in your locale, such as Companies House in the UK, check potential names against it and find out what your position is if the name you want is already in use. However, it's usually better to go for something as unique as possible.

Finally, make sure that the domain name is available with a service like hover. If the one you want is taken, don't be tempted to mangle your name to get something close. If you can't get awesomename.com, choosing something like awesomename123.com will immediately tell your customers that you couldn't get the domain name you wanted and that you couldn't think of another one.

If your chosen name is available and the industry you're entering is growing rapidly, don't delay too long before claiming it. Also, under some circumstances it might be wise not to share a good name with too many people. It's a terrible fate to pick the perfect name and have someone snatch it from you.

Check Your Name And Domain Aren't Rude Or Weird

American Scrap Metal, an example of a bad domain name

Americans should maybe think about changing their diet?

Your name is made up of words. But when the spaces are taken out, as they will be in a web address, they make new words. Sometimes they make terribly embarrassing and inappropriate words, as American Scrap Metal should have realised. So take a good look at your potential web address and maybe ask some others to check it, just to make sure it's okay.

Also, meanings of words change. Terms considered innocent in the past may now be inappropriate. So run your name past a few people and search the internet to see if your name has any unfortunate associations.

Your name might also have an unfortunate meaning in another language, which is particularly important if you're planning to trade internationally. You can search for unwanted meanings in other languages with Wordsafety.com, or try running your name by native speakers of groups you're particularly interested in targeting.

Another good reason to run a potential name by a few people before you decide to use it is that a name that sounds good to you and passes the above tests might just sound weird, unintentionally funny, or be so obscure that it needs to be explained to others. If that's the case, a rethink is necessary.

What's In A Name

A Rose

That which we call a rose... Image - slgckgc (CC By 2.0).

A good name is important, but it's by no means the most important thing for a business. Many of the most well known and successful businesses in the world have rather unexciting names. Apple, Walmart and Disney aren't show stoppers, but we think of them as we do because of their reputations. It's more important to offer a great service and be good to your customers. Your business name is just one of the hooks that your reputation will hang on. So if you're struggling to choose, get a pad, some snacks/beer/coffee and brainstorm, or take the cat for a walk and don't sweat it too much. It'll come to you.

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