Choosing a name for your business is one of the most important first steps when getting started on any new venture. Your name is your identity and will influence many decisions on your journey to building a successful and well-known business. This includes your logo and branding, domain name, Google search results and more.
There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing your business name and this is not a decision that should come lightly. It’s important not to make mistakes legally (checking patents, other businesses, etc.), culturally, linguistically, etc. The process can also be enjoyable. Many businesses enjoy the process of selecting a business name due to the creativity involved and the possibility to think out of the box.
We know that the process of naming your small business can seem overwhelming, but in reality, it’s quite simple. Here are the steps needed to choose a successful business name.
How to Name a Small Business
Step 1: Consider the associations and limitations of your business name
In today’s world, many business names have little or zero association with the actual service or product being provided. Google, Yahoo, Uber are all examples of this phenomenon. While this strategy has worked for these companies, we don’t recommend it. We recommend that small business names have some association with the relevant service or product.
On the other hand, a name shouldn’t be too limiting and give you room to expand and grow. Take a Bikram yoga teacher for example. If you name your business, NY Bikram Yoga, you’ll be limited in your scope in the future (adding new types of courses, potentially expanding to other cities, etc.).
Step 2: Don’t overcomplicate
When it comes to choosing a business name, keep it simple. Your customers must be able to remember and spell your business name. This is critical when searching for you on Google, trying to locate your website and recommending you to family and friends.
Step 3: Check availability and other similar business names
Once you have a few names in mind, it is important to check availability and similar business names in the market. This is important both in terms of differentiating yourself from the competition and also for legal purposes. This is one of the most critical steps when selecting a business name.
First, search to find similar business names on the market. If you find names that are too close (or the same!), consider another name. You want to make sure that customers are able to find you easily, be it on the internet, social media or simply searching for your phone number. If your business name is too close to another business, this can get complicated.
Second, search to make sure there are no patents or trademarks on your name. You can run a search on the federal database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. If you’re unsure of the results, make sure to consult a professional.
Lastly, check out domain availability and social media hashtags and handles. If the domain you want for your business is taken, you will have to modify the name somehow such as adding punctuation marks, etc. This may be a good reason to choose a different name.
Step 4: Stay unique and memorable
When naming your business, you want to stand out and make sure people remember you. If you have a unique and memorable business name, it will be easier for customers to remember (and recommend) you.
This step is important when it comes to your small business marketing. When creating your marketing plan, you’ll want to stand out with on-point branding and memorable campaigns. Having a catchy, interesting but appropriate business name will make this mission easier.
Step 5: Think of additional meanings
While you may think you’ve come across the best name possible, it’s important to check that there is no additional meaning to your name, both in English and in other languages.
The most famous example of this is the Chevrolet Nova. The Nova launched in the 1960s and in the 70s sold in certain Spanish speaking markets. Chevrolet didn’t understand why sales were so long in these parts in the world. Until they realized that “No va” in Spanish means “doesn’t go”. After Chevrolet changed the name, sales went up.
This is just one example of why doing your homework is so important. Make sure to check popular languages as well as other potential meanings in English.
Step 6: You should like it
This may seem obvious, but don’t forget it.
You should like your business name. When you hear it, you should feel proud of it and identify with it. After all, your business name is your business identity. If you don’t like the name you’ve chosen, it’s a good idea to try and think of another that you can relate to.
What Else is Important When Starting a Business?
Don’t forget that there are various other factors to keep in mind when launching your small business. For example, you’ll need to set up an accounting and payroll system (if you’ll have employees) and make sure to take out the proper kind of business insurance. Believe it or not, these steps are critical, even for the smallest of businesses.
Sometimes, after choosing your business name you may realize that it’s not for you. This could be because of a change in business activity, problems with the name or a number of other reasons. In these cases, it is certainly possible to change your business name. How? You’ll have to go through several bureaucratic changes including informing your Secretary of State, changing relevant licenses and permits, informing the IRS and changing any relevant documents. You’ll also have to update your customers of course. Don’t forget to reference our steps on how to name a business above when choosing your new name.
How to Choose a Business Name - Final Thoughts
Naming your business can be a long and exciting process. It is the first step in giving your business a true identity, that others will hopefully identify with and remember.
Using the steps we’ve provided, choosing a business name shouldn’t be a difficult task. If you do your research and take time to make sure that your name is well-researched and thought-through, you’ll quickly be on the road to business success.