For most entrepreneurs, Choosing a business name or the company name is an important step in the business planning process. All great companieshave a clear, recognizable and enticing name, free of negativeconnotations and legal problems. Not only should you pick a name that reflects your brand identity, but you also need to ensure itis properly registered and protected for the long term. You should alsogive a thought to whether it’s web-ready. Is the domain name evenavailable? Here is a guide to starting a business.
Naming your business can be a stressful process. You want to choose a name that will last and, if possible, will embody both your values and your company’s distinguishing characteristics. But screening long lists of names with a focus group composed of friends and family can return mixed results.
It seems straightforward. Who wouldn’t want to stand out? But Davis explains that some businesses are so concerned about gaining credibility in their field, often those in financial services or consulting, that they will sacrifice an edgy or attention-getting name.
Choosing a business name
When researching business name ideas, start-ups need to think carefully forboth legal and marketing purposes. An effective business name couldprove to be your most powerful branding tool and naming your businessrequires a lot of consideration. Take a look at our articles on thelegalities of business names and the importance of domain names to helpyou choose a successful business name.
The following guide will help you choose a defensible trademark and a search-friendly, recognizable name.
How-to Name Your Business
As a small business, you’re likely willing to be a little bolder in your choice of names.
How-to Name Your Business: Think hard about the type of name you want
When it comes down to it there are only a few categories of company name.First comes the “surname and surname” or place name approach, second are the made up names (Accenture for one) and then you have the moreevocative names from everyday objects (Orange or Apple).
The type of name you will choose will reflect the type of business you are. Safe traditional brands or those wanting to convey that impression like tolean on the heritage of surnames or place names while challenger brandssuch as Virgin go for bolder names which draw on the meaning of the word chosen.
Think about the names of businesses typically you willbe competing with and think about how your customers would feel aboutusing your potential name to decide which type of brand you want andfrom there you can build your shortlist of names.
Here are some ways to turn that instinct into a handle worthy of your brand:
- A strong name should be simple. Make it easy to spell and pronounce for starters, and meaningful to your audience, not just to you. Watkins says, “Any time you have to explain your name or apologize for it, you’re just devaluing your brand.”
- Don’t be a copycat, a popular frozen yogurt chain, has spurred countless imitators with “berry”-studded names, so when a yogurt chain approached Watkins she wanted to help them find a really distinctive name. They ended up calling the company Spoon Me, and the name was such a hit that t-shirts and bumper stickers bearing the brand were flying out the door. “They’re making more money selling t-shirts and buttons and bumper stickers than they are selling frozen yogurt,” Watkins exclaims. When “people are paying you to advertise your brand that’s the ultimate in a good name.”
- Suggestive marks, Theseindirectly refer to the goods and services that they are associated with and require some imagination on the part of the consumer. Thisreference or secondary meaning strengthens the mark. Examples includeGreyhound, meant to suggest speed, and Chicken of the Sea, which makes a comparison in consumers minds between tuna fish and chicken.
- Get feedback. Once you’ve chosen your name, try and get feedback from as many people as possible before you formally commit to it.
A name might sound brilliant to you, but others might spot negativeconnotations, grammatical errors, or simply point out that it soundsrubbish!
Things you should consider while naming your business:
- Niche: Do you wantto be associated with youthful excitement or classical distinction? Isyour brand local or continental? Is it affordable or reassuringlyexpensive? You need to think about what you want your brand image to be, and build your name around this.
- Future development: You need a name which allows your business to expand and evolve; if yourname is too narrow and specific, you’re tying your business down to atiny market and you won’t be able to build on it.
- Brand potential: Can you create a memorable slogan around your name? Does it work well in a logo? Does it fit into a winning tagline?
Your name needs to be malleable and suitable for a wide range of marketingavenues. If it’s not, you need to go back to the drawing board!
Register Your New Business Name: How to Name a Business
Registering a business name is a confusing area for new business owners. What does it mean and what are you required to do?
Registering your business name involves a process known as registering a “DoingBusiness As (DBA)” name or trade name. This process shouldn’t beconfused with incorporation and it doesn’t provide trademark protection. Registering your “Doing Business As” name is simply the process ofletting your state government know that you are doing business as a name other than your personal name or the legal name of your partnership orcorporation. If you are operating under your own name, then you can skip the process.
How-to Name Your Business: The Need to Rebrand
Sometimes companies rename themselves as part of a rebranding effort, which isoften a consequence of a major business screw-up or scandal. Othertimes, it’s simply because the company’s initial name didn’t havesufficient oomph. But chief executives who find themselves with afeckless name for their business needn’t wring their hands.
“Peoplethink that their names have a lot more equity in them than they do, sodon’t be afraid to rebrand yourself,” says Watkins.
One commonmistake that small business owners in particular are likely to make isnaming their business after themselves. There are many upshots to nothaving an eponymous company name.
“It will be easier to sell your company in the future if your name isn’t tied to it,” says Watkins, who also points out that an eponymous company name gives the perceptionthat the business is a one-person show. A name other than your own alsodoes a better job of telling your company’s story. “Alexandra Watkinsmeans nothing to anyone other than my mother and my friends,” she adds.
You also need to be careful not to pigeonhole yourself with your name,which means exercising some foresight about how your business mightexpand. As an example, Watkins says, “if today you’re making belts, butyour company might go into making saddles and other things with leather, don’t limit yourself to a name that only speaks to belts.”
How-to Name Your Business: Consider Your Domain Name
Once you have this short list of names you need to check that you can get awebsite which is more or less in line with the company name.
Youwill also want to defensively register variants of the name. Type in‘domain name availability’ into your search engine and you will find arange of sites which where you can do this.
It’s indisputable that simple domains, particularly single words in the English language, are growing trickier to find, but experts don’t all see eye to eye on how to transform your company’s name into a search-friendly and memorable domain.
Here are some strategies for creating a strong, memorable domain name:
The dot com question It’s commonly believed that if your domain doesn’t end in dot com it’s in some way subpar. “I don’t know how they got this impression,” says Watkins. “An analogy that I like to give is the 800 number. We ran out of 800 numbers, then we went to 866, 877, 888. Nobody cared and nobody even really noticed. If somebody really wants to find you, they’ll find you.”
According to Johnson, many companies will start off with another extension and spring for the dot com once they’re bigger. Unlike Watkins, he believes that a dot com domain “gives a company more credibility and has more ‘Google juice’ than other types of domain.”The Rebranding Game.
How-to Name Your Business: Claim Your Social Media Identity
It’s a good idea to claim your social media name early in the naming process – even if you are not sure which sites you intend to use. A name foryour Facebook page can be set up and changed, but you can only claim avanity URL or custom URL once you’ve got 25 fans or “likes.” This custom URL name must be unique, or un-claimed.
How-to Name Your Business: Should You File For a Trademark?
If you’re operating a business in the United States, Canada, or England, it’s not necessary to file. “You don’t need to do anything to acquire trademark rights other than use your trademark in connection with your goods or services. You automatically get those rights,” says Michael Atkins, a Seattle-based trademark lawyer.
So what’s the point of federal and state trademark registrations? Again, it comes down to looking into your business’ future. Without filing with your state or the federal government, your rights only extend as far as the geographic scope of your business’ operations at any given time. If you’re a local business with plans to go national, investing a few thousand dollars in a federal trademark can save you a lot of trouble down the line.
Are You Legally Permitted to Use Your Chosen Business Name
How-to Name Your Business: Taking Legal Action
It’s like a punch in the gut for a business owner when you come across another business that’s been using a trademark similar to your own and potentially trading on your good name. But there are a few simple steps you can take to get the situation sorted out.
You should “start by contacting a lawyer and having that lawyer consider writing a cease and desist letter to the infringing company,” suggests Atkins. However, before you do that you’ll want to double and triple check your research to make sure you’re the first user of the mark. If it turns out that you started using the mark second, you’re laying out the red carpet for the company you contacted to turn around and force you to change your name.
Even if you do get entangled, the good news is that about two thirds of the time, these disputes can be settled out of court, says Atkins.
So how did I go about it? And what should you be thinking about when you go about choosing a name? Here are the four steps I went through which I think every entrepreneur should think about.