How to choose a business name that stands out
- Define your brand before you start brainstorming business name ideas
- Avoid business names that are too complex or can become outdated
- Use online databases and name-checking tools to select a business name that’s easy to market and legal to use
When you’re starting a new business, selecting a brand name is one of the first steps you’ll take—and it’s no easy task. Much like your own name, your company’s name will describe your small business for life. The right name isn’t just memorable—it should also fully reflect what you want your brand to be known for. Use the following tips to learn how to choose a business name that fits your brand.
How to choose a business name: Follow these 8 tips
Your business name is often the first brand element that your clients see, which means—for better or for worse—it helps them set their expectations. To help you select the best name for your business, we’ve compiled eight tips to guide your decision.
1. Identify your brand attributes
Selecting the perfect business name requires you to know how you want people to perceive your brand. Before you start brainstorming, work with your team to identify your brand attributes, which are the core characteristics that describe your business.
For example, your brand can be positive, uplifting, and fun, or it can be smart, witty, and thought-provoking. If you don’t have a team of your own, you can pull in peers, family members, or friends to help you out.
As you start coming up with company name ideas, you can ask yourself which ideas best fit those attributes.
2. Brainstorm with word associations
Playing a game of word association can help your team or group of peers come up with relevant words and phrases, which you can combine to create a unique business name. Make a list of simple terms that clearly describe what you do and what you sell. For example, list out the words you’d use to market an auto repair business like “car repair” and “maintenance.” Add your brand attributes to the list.
For each of the words or phrases you list, start writing out as many related terms as possible. If one of your brand attributes is “trustworthy,” you might write down “reliable” and “honest.” Using a thesaurus can help.
Then, start mixing and matching the words you come up with until you have a strong list of great business name ideas to consider.
3. Draw inspiration from a free business name generator
While you don’t want your business name to sound like it came from a generic brand name generator, these online tools can help you get more ideas churning. Namelix, for example, allows you to browse through a handful of business name ideas based on a selected keyword.
They likely won’t be very catchy business names, but the name suggestions you get can serve as inspiration for other ideas. For example, searching “realtors” on Namelix pulls up names like “Realty Specialists,” “Neoalters” and “Homeownero,” which can lead you to more creative ideas like “Ultramod Realtors” or “Hearth and Home Realty.”
4. Avoid complex or long business names
The best business names are usually the simplest ones. If your brand name is too long, it may be hard to remember. Plus, your clients will likely end up shortening it anyway—the same way The Coca-Cola Company is better known as “Coke”—which can entirely change the meaning of your brand name.
That said, a short business name doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best one. Make sure it’s catchy and has meaning. Anything with unusual spelling (like Flickr) should still be intuitive to pronounce. A great brand name is easy to memorize and hard to butcher.
5. Consider your future growth
Understanding how to choose a business name with longevity is crucial for a growing business. If any of the names you come up with can easily become outdated, it’s best to select a different one.
For example, a business name like “$2 Pizza Slices” would prevent you from changing your product pricing in the face of inflation, which could hurt your profits.
Similarly, if your five-year business plan includes an expansion of products or services, it’s best not to focus on your current best seller. Best Buy, which was formerly known as Sound of Music, is a famous example of a company that had to completely change its branding (logo design and all) when it started selling more than just stereos.
A high-quality name stays true to your core brand, not your ever-changing offerings or temporary marketing messages.
6. Get feedback from your target audience
To help you choose a business name, you can enlist the help of your potential customers by doing some market research. You can survey a small group of your target audience members—or friends and family members—to see how they perceive each of your business name ideas.
Getting feedback from others will help you gain insight into what feelings each brand name evokes, how the average person will pronounce it, and what consumers would assume your business offers. If client perceptions of a name aren’t matching your intended meaning, chances are it’s not the perfect brand name.
7. Check legal name availability
Before you officially register your business, make sure your chosen company name is actually available, both legally and for marketing purposes. In many states, business registration costs over $100 in non-refundable fees, and any future name changes lead to additional filing fees and loss of brand equity. Choosing a marketable business name that will get approved the first time around will save you from spending more than needed.
To avoid any legal issues, business owners can use three online databases to confirm their business name‘s availability.
First, use the name search tool on your state business filing agency‘s website. No two businesses within the same state can have similar brand names if you’re selling comparable goods or services. For example, if an Iowa-based startup that sells solar panels is registered as “Solar Energy Co.,” a solar panel installation company in Iowa likely can’t register as “Solar Energy Co.,” “Solar Energy Company,” or even “Solar Energies.”
Second, use the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office‘s trademark search tool. If a company holds a trademark for a similar business name and is a similar type of business, you’ll need to get back to the drawing board—even if that company is in a different state.
Finally, if you’re interested in serving international clients, you’ll want to check the World Intellectual Property Organization’s global trademark search tool with the same criteria in mind.
8. Determine how easy it will be to promote your business name online
A good business name will make your company easy to find online. Ideally, your exact business name should be available as a .com domain—which the average shopper will instinctively search for. Check that it’s available as a username across social media platforms too. Avoid adding extra numbers or letters that decrease your searchability. Tools like Namecheckr will help you cross-check available domain names and social media handles.
It’s also a good idea to look up your business name on search engines to see what’s popping up. While “Mocaccino” could be a catchy name for a coffee shop, it’s unlikely that your website will appear at the top of search engine results pages since the term is more commonly used to find recipes and definitions. Knowing more about small business SEO can help you navigate this part of the process.
To solidify your brand identity online, it’s ideal to choose a brand name that isn’t a competitive search term. You can learn more about capturing online attention for your business with our guide to online marketing for small business.
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Start brainstorming creative business name ideas
Now that you know how to choose a business name, you can start researching and brainstorming to find the perfect name for your brand. Tactics like word association, competitive research, and feedback collection can help you come up with new business name ideas. Don’t forget to use government databases and domain availability search tools so that you can choose a business name and expand your online presence without getting into legal trouble.
Once you’ve narrowed down a brand name, claim it by making your business official. If your ideal business structure is a corporation—which can add credibility to your company name with an “Inc.” suffix—read our guide to learn how to incorporate your small business.
The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.