You only get one chance to get it right
Naming your business is not as straight forward as you think.
Your business name is its core identity. It’s not just something you slap on a letterhead and above your door, it’s the primary keyword on your website and the public label you apply to your company: so you need to get it right.
Even if you think you have the perfect name for your start up, it’s worth taking time now to run it through this checklist, rather than realising you need to change it later on.
Step 1 – Deciding on a naming style
Before you start thinking about specific names, consider the type of name you want.
• Descriptive names include people or place names, and descriptions of the product or service on offer. These are great if you’re running a local service you don’t plan to expand, or if your name has the right ring to it. McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken. They’re safe, traditional and practical, so if that’s a good fit for your business, this could be a good choice. However, if your name doesn’t fit the business, or if there’s already a business with the same name, you might have to give this category a miss.
• Evocative names take an object and transfer it to a business or product. Examples include Apple and Blackberry, but the object doesn’t have to be ordinary, or unrelated to the business. Take Amazon, for example, it’s the perfect name for an online bookstore. Evocative names are good for bold, young businesses.
• Invented names might take parts of two words to create a new business name. Verizon, Uhu and Accenture are examples. Invented names are good for businesses in less than glamourous industries, and are common in finance, infrastructure, manufacturing and distribution.
Think about the response you want to generate when customers see your name, and choose your category accordingly.
Step 2 – Brainstorm potential names
Have a brainstorming session and list every possible name you can think of, however silly or unsuitable your think it is. Sometimes these terrible names prompt the perfect name later on.
Don’t get attached to a name, however much you like it. Get feedback from friends, family, people in the industry and potential customers on your potential names, and weed out any that create a negative impression.
If you’re using multiple words, check for unfortunate acronyms. Also look for ways to shorten or twist the name in an unflattering way.
Step 3 – Be unique
Check Companies House for businesses with your potential names, and get rid of any that already exist. Check you’re not using a restricted name.
Do an internet search for other companies with the same name globally. Also check the results that come up. Are there any unsavoury connections you were unaware of? Discard any names that have.
Finally, check the availability of domain names. Email is essential but at some point your business will eventually need a website. If you have decided on a unique name for your company then chances are you will have the freedom to buy a domain name which matches, not so if your name is more generic.
Step 4 – Choosing a name
If at any stage you eliminate all your potential names, you’ll have to go back to brainstorming and start again with a new batch of company names. Once you’ve narrowed your list down to suitable potential names for your business, it’s time to make your choice.
So how do you choose between names that all create the right impression, have no negative connotations and no legal implications? Consider the potential for expansion. Does the name tie you to a technology that will become obsolete? Does it lend itself to a phrase or saying you could use as a slogan or tagline?
If you find yourself in the enviable position of having multiple business names that pass all these tests, congratulations. Go with the one you like best.
Author: Dean Williams is a social and business commentator working for Print-Print Limited, promoting business and building your brand through quality printing. If you’re passionate about small business marketing then please get in touch [email protected]