How to Name Your Small Business

Your funding and capital are in place, your business plan is complete, and you’re ready to open up shop and start your new small business. But have you picked a great name?

What you choose to name your business is crucial to your brand, your business’ longevity and growth potential, your ability to attract customers and employees, and much more. As the saying goes: Your customers only get one first impression. It will also be frustrating (and potentially expensive) if you have to change your name down the road.

If you’re wondering what to call your new venture, use these tips to choose a great name for your small business. The first time.

Be Unique

This goes without saying, but choosing a unique name is crucial to distinguish your brand and business from others, avoid infringement, and attract customers. And if your business isn’t overly unique—or there’s a lot of competition in your market—a unique name becomes even more important.

To develop a unique name that fits the brand and image you want to project, start by identifying your company’s strengths and what differentiates you from your competition. Will you be offering new, innovative solutions? Is something like customer service, speed, or value your top priority? Write up a list of the attributes that best describe your business, and get a list of terms and options using a site like Power Thesaurus to get some ideas flowing.

It’s good to be creative—even humorous or tongue-in-cheek—but there’s a fine line between having an effectively funny business name and one that borders on being a bit too suggestive or over the line.

For example, Wok This Way, Sofa So Good, Sew It Seams, Pain in the Glass, Tree Wise Men, and Lawn Order are real business names. They’re in good taste, speak to their customers, outline what services and goods they sell, and don’t cross any lines. But names like Knobs ‘N Knockers, I Feel Like Crepe, and Curl Up & Dye—while clever—could turn some customers away.

You want staff to be able to quickly, easily, and proudly state where they work, and you want customers to share your business’ name with their friends and associates. If in doubt, it’s a good bet to lean on the side of clarity and restraint, and ensure your name reflects your industry and appeals to target customers.

Keep it Simple and Easy to Remember

Just like any communication, you want the key message to be as simple and memorable as possible. With a business name, this requires making it easy to say, find online, and remember.

You want customers to be able to find your business online as fast as possible if they can’t remember exactly what’s it’s called. And, just as important, you want it to sound nice and catchy when it’s said aloud.

Keeping names simple and clear also means being careful with spelling, initials, and acronyms. If you name your new cleaning business Cleaners4U or City Kleeners, customers might not recall the exact spelling, which is the last thing you want to happen.

Similarly, businesses like IBM, KFC, AT&T, UPS, and 3M are massive multinational corporations, some of which have been around for over a century. None of them started with initials, but they eventually simplified and streamlined their business name and brand over time. Avoiding initials and acronyms (unless it’s part of your actual name and you’re using it in your business name) is generally a good idea.

Be Specific

You want your small business name to demonstrate what you do and how customers can take advantage of—and benefit from—the goods or services you sell.

Avoid being too general in an attempt to appeal to everyone, and steer clear of names that link or limit you to a geographic area, like Springfield City Design.

For a basic example, Greg’s Goods is specific about who owns and operates the business, but a customer with no knowledge of the store might wonder what, exactly, Greg sells. Instead, Greg’s Hardware Solutions narrows down what’s being sold and how the customer can benefit.

Too often, businesses try to be everything for everyone, when a focus on exactly what you do and sell is the best approach.

Get Feedback

While it’s your business (and you can name it whatever you’d like), getting some ideas together and seeking feedback, or outside opinions, is a wise idea.

It’s fine to ask close friends and family, but it’s more important to seek feedback from sources who will be critical and honest. You want opinions from people you don’t know personally, because you probably won’t know most of your customers personally.

Most importantly, you need to be happy and completely satisfied with your business name. You want your new venture to be successful, and if it is, you’ll be saying it for a long time. You don’t want to be forced to change your name down the road, so it’s the type of decision you want to be confident you get right the first time.

Follow the Rules

A common legal issue for startups and new businesses is the absence of federal trademark protection. Starting or changing a name or launching a product or service might seem easy and straightforward, but it can be tricky from a legal standpoint if a trademark search hasn’t been conducted.

It costs money to do a trademark search, but ignoring the importance of protecting your business name could put your company at risk. If you’re found liable for trademark infringement, your new product might have to be removed from the market.

Any logos, brand slogans, and taglines should be reviewed with a trademark lawyer to make sure they have not already been taken. Trademark your name if your state requires it, and find out if you’re required to file a DBA (Doing Business As) with your state, county, or city. Use the United States Patent and Trademark Office or Trademarkia to search for trademarks.

You’ll also want to check for available website domains and social media accounts your business could use, since you’ll probably want to promote your business online. There are all kinds of domain search services available, and you can search individual handles or account names on each social media platform.


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