- Good business names are descriptive, expressive, and simple to understand and spell.
- Before choosing a name, do your homework to make sure it’s available and not too similar to your competitors.
- The best names are concise, memorable, and aligned with your target audience’s expectations for price, service, and experience.
Your business name says a lot about you: what you do, who you serve, and what your brand is like. Choosing a name for your business is usually not easy. Perhaps you keep it simple, such as Lake County Landscaping or Tom’s Computer Repair. Perhaps you want something artistic and inspirational. Perhaps you even dream of naming your business a single word that commands attention, like Apple or Nike.
The reality is, naming is not something to be taken lightly…and it’s not synonymous with your brand. It may not even be what your customers call you! For example, Apple is actually Apple Inc, formerly Apple Computer Company, and Geico is actually the Government Employees Insurance Company, hardly something that rolls off the tongue. How can you be sure that your business’s name is recognizable, compelling, and most importantly, unique?
What’s In A (Business) Name?
There are two types of business names: those that explicitly name their industry and those that don’t. One is not necessarily better than the other. It really depends on your market niche and target audience. Your goal is to find a name that resonates with your potential customers.
Descriptive names are common among traders and service based businesses, where it’s important to instantly explain your offerings. Even then, the type of description makes a big difference. An automotive repair business named “Thomasville Motors LLC” leaves a different impression than one called “Bob’s Body Shop.”
When choosing your name, think about the elements you want customers to notice. In the example above, Thomasville Motors LLC will appeal more to people who want a broad range of services and don’t mind an impersonal approach. Meanwhile, Bob’s Body Shop will attract customers who need specialized body repair or remodeling from someone who’s highly skilled with cars.
Ideally, your name expresses your core values and way of doing business as well. For example, it’s a safe bet that any business with “Discount” in the name will be, well, cheap. Most consumers will not expect luxurious products or exceptional customer service from a business named that way.
On the flip side, businesses with artistic or family oriented names tend to offer personalized service, premium offerings, and a higher quality experience.
Choosing Your Name
The best way to choose your business name is to make a shortlist of the values, brand personality, and offerings you want to project. There are three main elements to consider:
- What you offer
- Whom you’re targeting (and where they are, if you’re a local business)
- The mood or personality you want to express
To start, brainstorm a list of words for each of these elements. Keep them short and simple. Big vocabulary words aren’t appropriate for business names. Aim to include a mix of obvious choices (your name, your city, your industry) and thematic choices (words you feel express or symbolize your business and the brand you want to project).
For example, if you’re developing a yoga studio, the words “yoga” and “studio” can definitely go on your list. You may want to take a personal approach, e.g. “Susan’s Yoga Place,” or choose a grander, more emotional name, e.g. “Lotus Yoga Studio.” In general, the more symbolic or abstract the name, the more that people will perceive it as a luxury business.
Pay attention to the names of your competitors as well. Local SEO matters here. If all your competitors have names such as Jamestown Plumbing Company or Jamestown Plumbers LLC, a plainly descriptive name may make it hard to stand out in the crowd.
Choose a name that expresses your business without sounding too generic. Ideally, you can highlight one of your unique selling points, e.g. Jamestown Express Plumbing or Jamestown Family Plumbers.
How To Make Your Name Marketing Friendly
Even the most brilliant and clever names can flop if they’re confusing or hard to pronounce or spell. Remember, your name is your primary source of brand recognition.
Complex names simply aren’t as memorable. (Nor are they easy to turn into a logo or fit on a pen.) You don’t want to isolate your audience; even if your name is more thematic, you still want to make it easy to say and spell.
Next, check that no other business has the name you want. In a globalized economy, this includes all businesses, not just your competitors. Few things are worse than choosing the perfect name just to find that a business in a completely different industry already has it.
You will struggle to rank in search results and could lose traffic to a business that isn’t even your competitor. Also, existing business names could be trademarked, which could get you into hot water if you try to use it.
Finally, check that domain names and social media usernames are available for your chosen names. You don’t want to risk naming your business and filling out all the paperwork, only to find that you can’t get a website URL or Twitter handle that matches your new name. Do your homework to avoid this frustration. It’s more common than you think!
A Few Final Pointers
Names can change over time (just look at Apple or GEICO), but for most businesses, they should be treated as a fairly permanent decision. Name changes are costly and confusing, and you’ll need to conduct a rebranding effort as well. Spare yourself the agony by choosing an appropriate business name from the start. Here are a few more tips:
Decide whether or not to include “LLC,” “Inc,” etc. As mentioned above, including these suffixes often implies that the business has a decently sized team and a fairly professional brand personality. These abbreviations also describe the type of corporation you form, so make sure you use the correct one if you do include it in your name.
Test your name with friends and family. If people struggle to pronounce or spell the name, or if you have to explain its meaning, it’s probably not a good business name. We can’t all be Pixar or Adidas!
Try out alternative spellings. If you really want a common word as your business name (or part of it), change the spelling. Look out how Lyft and Flickr have become memorable names. They hint at the business’s offerings (rideshare and photo publishing, respectively), yet are still unique and engaging. If you take this approach, don’t go too wild with the spelling changes. One letter is usually enough.
Branding is crucial to attracting and retaining customers, and it all starts with your business name. A good name describes your core offerings, expresses your values, and resonates with your ideal customers. It’s well worth the time and effort to get it right the first time. So, do your research, be creative, and find a unique name that’s perfect for your business.