Choosing a name for your small business is among the most important, yet most challenging, tasks you have when developing your brand. Once you gain a regular customer base, it’s nearly impossible to change your business name — so it pays to get it right the ﬁrst time!
Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing your name.
1. Decide What You Want Your Name to Evoke
Is your brand identity sophisticated? Whimsical? Authoritative? Fun? Exciting? Formal? The attitude and personality you want to express to customers all starts in your name. If you’re going up against well-established competitors, you may want to choose a name that evokes a different sense of business.
Think of how Lyft became the fun, accessible competitor to the more authoritative, business-like Uber. Do some market research to see what names your competitors have, and test your name options among focus groups. See if your testers get the sense of your brand identity that matches your vision. You may also want to test formal additions such as “LLC” or “Inc” to see how those make an impact.
2. Incorporate a Unique Yet Meaningful Word or Words
The business name shouldn’t be so random that people can’t even guess as to what your company is. For example, you may love sun and dolphins, but naming your construction company “SunDolphin LLC” will make sense to only you. Creative enterprises have a bit more leeway, but you should include a word such as “Designs” or “Studios” so that people have a chance of guessing what you’re all about. It’s worth noting that mashed-together names (e.g. “HelloFresh” can be risky choices, but if done well, the name can be more engaging and unique than descriptive alternatives.
Brainstorm words that you associate with your company and aim to combine them with at least one descriptive word. For example, if you’re hooked on “SunDolphin,” at least add the word “Construction” so that people who see your name in directory listings or on social media can immediately identify what you do.
3. Stylize Your Name Accordingly
Should your name be a compound name, e.g. HelloFresh? Pay with capitalization e.g. “iPhone”? Or include the “LLC” or “Inc” on the end? How you space out, punctuate, capitalize, and otherwise style your name makes a big impact on how your target audience perceives you. Note that people tend to associate certain stylizations with certain industries, so do your research and test, test, test before diving in. For example, due to Apple’s famous use of the lowercase “i” to start their product names, it can be challenging to develop a nontechnology business name with a similar construction.
4. Check for Similar Names
It’s happened to the best of entrepreneurs: You come up with a perfect business name, only to discover that someone across the country is already using it. Even if your target customers don’t overlap (e.g. you’re both local companies), it’s best to choose your own name, or at least a variation that you can brand as your own. This will make it much easier to rank on search engines; the last thing you want is for people to search your company name and see a higher-ranked site for a different company in a different time zone! Plus, you don’t want phone calls from annoyed customers who have confused you with a similarly named company. Do your homework and choose a unique name. Even if you share a word in common with another business name, careful choices in style and construction can help set it apart.
5. Make it Easy to Spell and Pronounce
Remember why Geico started using the gecko as their mascot? Too many people were pronouncing the company name “Gecko.” Geico’s brilliant marketers ended up using this mistake to their advantage, but if you have a small business, you likely don’t have the budget to pull this off. Play it safe and choose a name that’s pronounceable (which is important for voice search) and easy to spell and remember. When it comes down to word-of-mouth or customer recall of your advertising, you don’t want to give them any reason to remember their competitor instead of you!
The bottom line is that extensive research and testing are needed to craft an engaging name that perfectly captures your brand identity. Choosing a business name is an important process with lasting results, so take your time to ﬁnd one that works for you!