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Business Management

A Step-by-Step Guide to Naming Your Business & Maintaining Your Sanity

How to Choose the Perfect Name for Your Business: Golden Rules and Pitfalls to Avoid.

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I t pushes the fledgling entrepreneur to the brink of madness, and forces the most business-savvy veteran to question her instincts.

Few tasks are more agonizing (or important) than naming your startup. That’s because choosing the right name for your new business is more than a labeling exercise—it’s a foundational decision that profoundly influences public perception, brand identity, and marketing effectiveness. A well-chosen name can set the stage for business success, while a poorly chosen one might lead to legal hurdles and lost opportunities. (Hey, no pressure!) But don’t worry, we’re here to help. The comprehensive guide below pulls together expert advice to ensure that your business name is not only appealing but effective and legally sound. And adding some process to the naming process can salvage (some of) your sanity.

The Golden Rules of Business Naming

1. Easy to Pronounce and Remember

This is the most obvious yet frequently overlooked rule of thumb. Sure, you have several names racing through our brain that you’re certain kick total ass. But remember: you’re not the target audience. Keep your ego in check and keep the name simple and straightforward to ensure it’s easy for customers to remember and pronounce. And avoid acronyms and complex names that might confuse your audience.

2. Unique Yet Timeless

Aim for a name that stands out and remains relevant over time. Fad-proof your name, Hipster! Conduct thorough research to craft a name that’s both unforgettable and broad enough to accommodate future growth.

3. Simplicity Wins

Opt for short, impactful names. Avoid hyphens, special characters, and being too close alphabetically to competitors. Remember, simple doesn’t mean generic. Uber? Powerful name, four tiny letters.

A woman smiling holding a pen and some papers.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Naming Your Business

1. Complicated Spellings and Pronunciations

Difficult spellings can frustrate potential customers trying to search for your business online, directing them to competitors instead. Inclusivity Is a great thing, but putting umlauts in your url is bad for business.

2. Being Overly Descriptive or Narrow

Names that are too specific, like “Jim’s Donut Shop” can limit your business’s ability to expand into new markets or product lines, potentially necessitating a costly rebrand. That means naming your business AGAIN!

3. Following Trends and Fads

Trendy names may not age well, quickly dating your business and making it seem irrelevant as trends shift. Just ask Radio Shack.

4. Neglecting Legal Checks

This is a bigee. Skipping the crucial step of conducting a thorough business name search can lead to trademark infringement and serious legal complications. Running a trademark search is easy. Vet ALL of your potential names before giving them serious consideration.

5. Ignoring Online Availability

Failing to secure a corresponding domain name and social media profiles can impair your digital marketing efforts and online presence. This is another common yet easily avoidable mistake. Do your homework early, and don’t assume you’ll come up with a workaround later.

6. Using Purely Functional or Generic Names

While descriptive, names like “Appliance Repair Shop” lack distinctiveness and are difficult for customers to remember. You can’t bore someone into remembering your name.

7. Tying Your Name to a Specific Location or Trend

This can severely limit your business’s ability to expand geographically or adapt to market changes. 3rd Street Day Spa is great for now, but not when you expand into a bigger space on 4th Street.

8. Using Personal Names Without Consideration

Unless your personal brand is already well-established, using your name can make it harder to sell or scale the business later. When it comes to naming, think long term, not quick fix.

9. Choosing Names That Could Be Controversial or Offensive

Always consider cultural sensitivities to avoid alienating potential customers. There are many notorious blunders through history, including Chevrolet’s Nova, which literally means “doesn’t go” in Spanish.

A well-chosen name can set the stage for business success, while a poorly chosen one might lead to legal hurdles and lost opportunities.

Step-by-Step Guide to Naming Your Business

1. Brainstorm Keywords

Start with a session to jot down words that reflect your business’s mission, values, and offerings. Free associate, don’t self edit. Then group the names into categories and add to them.

2. Evaluate Your Options

Screen potential names for trademark availability, domain name status, and overall suitability. Walk around with them for a bit and see if they have staying power.

3. Gather Feedback

Consult with stakeholders, potential customers, and unbiased third parties to gauge the marketability and appeal of your chosen names. You’re likely to get overwhelmed with input at this stage and begin to doubt your ideas. Be patient with all that feedback. Walk away and come back to it later.

Legal Considerations and Trademarking

Securing a trademark is crucial for protecting your brand. Be certain no existing trademarks could conflict with your name and register to safeguard your business identity. Naming your business involves strategic considerations that extend beyond mere creativity. It requires understanding the market, foreseeing potential growth, and ensuring legal protection. By following these guidelines, your business name will resonate with your audience and support your long-term business goals.

Rest assured, you’ll lose sleep over this. Everyone does. Fact is, few tasks are harder than boiling everything your business does and stands for down to a few measly characters. Take it step by step, put in the work, and trust in yourself. And then you can move on to a logo!

Disclaimer: Bizee and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.

Key Takeaways

  • Naming a business is very, very hard. Here’s a step-by-step guide to ease you through it.
  • Your business name influences public perception, brand identity, and marketing effectiveness.
  • Golden rules of business naming.
  • Costly mistakes to avoid.
  • The importance of ensuring your name is legally available, then trademarking it.
  • A simple process for the naming process.

Todd Alley is an independent writer based in Austin, TX. Todd honed his skills in the ad agency world as a copywriter and creative director, and dedicates himself nowadays to telling uncommon stories in unexpected places. He can most always be found running, cursing the Texas heat (the two go hand in hand), and catching a live blues set around town. Read more


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