Use these 15 tips to learn how to choose a business name that’s memorable, accessible, and aligned with your mission. Make sure you have a company name you’ll love for years to come!
As a wedding PR consultant, I’m often asked how to choose a business name when starting a business.
For many business owners, coming up with a company name is actually the biggest obstacle they face when creating their dream business. It’s surprisingly difficult to settle on the perfect name that accurately represents your business idea and stands out from competitors. For most business owners, this can take months—even years!
Your inner marketing genius may want to do something cutesy and creative, but that can also be confusing for potential customers. On the other hand, if you go too bland, you won’t stand out.
How can you choose a business name that explains what you do? And how can you differentiate yourself from competitors?
To help you learn how to choose a business name, here are 15 tips to consider when picking your company name.
1. Don’t use another person’s name
This may sound obvious, but I’ve seen it done more times in the wedding industry than I can count.
If your name is Lucy but you’ve named your company Victoria Designs, people will assume your name is Victoria. I know you want to honor your grandma by using her name, but you’ve just confused your potential clients and industry contacts.
No matter how much time and money you spend on PR or advertising, people will always think you are someone else. So just don’t do it.
2. Consider you may sell your business someday
Although you may think that you will be attached to your business forever, there may come a day when you want to sell it or pass it along to someone else.
So you may want to avoid naming your business after yourself. Because how many companies do you know that have been sold to another person with the original name of the previous owner?
If you sell products, a company named after you can still work if you have a strong enough personal brand, but for service-based businesses, it really limits you on how to grow beyond the business being about you.
In that case, ask yourself: is your company name easily transferable to another owner?
So even if you’re just a team of one right now, I’d strongly recommend creating a business name that’s detachable from your personal identity. It will add more value to your company in the long term and make it easier to sell (or leave for greener pastures).
3. Make it clear what you do
While many famous brands are ambiguous as to what they sell or what service they provide (Amazon, Ferrari, McDonald’s, Google), you have to remember they’re all backed by multi-million-dollar marketing budgets.
Although you may want to get really creative with your brand name, make sure you don’t miss an opportunity to make it clear what your company does. You don’t necessarily have to spell it out literally, but consumers will always be confused by vague or misleading names.
Netflix is an example of a descriptive company name. It’s a unique, creative name, but it also makes it perfectly obvious what they do: provide movies over the internet. Instagram is a great example too. It’s a portmanteau of “instant camera” and “telegram”, but it’s still snappy and unique.
4. Don’t restrict what you do
On the other hand, don’t choose a business name that’s too descriptive and ends up restricting the growth potential of your business.
For example, if you name your business “Superior Closets,” it’s going to be a challenge to expand your business to anything beyond building closets. “Superior Homes,” while not the most inspired name in the world, would make it easier to expand into other types of home renovations and furnishings.
5. Pick a name that’s easy to remember
While you want to be specific and clear as to what you’re selling, you also have to stand out from your competition. Your business name needs to be so good that people won’t forget it.
What is it about your company name and brand experience that will be unforgettable? How is that reflected in your company name? How does that make you different from your competitors?
Take Zillow for example—a real estate listings website that sells leads to real estate agents. Their name doesn’t tell you much about what they do (they claim it means “zillions”), but it’s memorable enough that it sticks in your head and you remember them the next time you need to look up real estate listings.
However, there is a fine line between being memorable and being so different it turns people off. Create a name that’s easy to remember and that you want your brand embraced as!
6. Make it easy to spell
Can I easily remember your company name? Check!
Once I remember it, is it easy enough to spell where I can Google it and find your website or social media?
When your creativity starts to flow, you may find different ways to spell your company name. For example, “Kreative Krafts.” However, when people look you up, they’ll spell your company in the way that makes the most sense to them, “Creative Crafts”, which won’t turn up your business at all.
That said, many company names have strange spellings (e.g. Tumblr). So if it’s spelled strangely, make sure the spelling is memorable.
Choose a name that people can easily spell and save your colleagues, clients, and inquiries the frustration of bounce backs and lost emails.
7. Keep it short
Keep in mind that your company name will likely be used as your domain name, as your email address, in signage, and other physical or digital locations.
You’ll save yourself plenty of headaches down the road by keeping your business name short enough for any use case. This will make your life easier when you are filling out an online contract or any other documents.
If you absolutely have to use a long business name, make sure it can be simplified to an acronym or initialism (that isn’t offensive).
8. Avoid competitive search keywords
On your quest to come up with a simple, memorable, easy-to-spell name, you may end up with a descriptive name like “San Francisco Kitchens.”
The challenge with a name like that is you’re going to compete with many other businesses for the keyword “San Francisco kitchens”—both in organic and paid search results.
When I perform that search right now, competition includes Houzz, Yelp, and many local kitchen businesses in San Francisco. Funnily enough, there actually is a company called San Francisco Kitchens, and their website doesn’t even show up on the first page of search results.
Don’t choose a generic keyword as a business name unless you’re prepared to fight it out in the search results!
9. Search it on Google
On that note, before settling on a name, search it on Google. What currently shows up for that search?
Your business name should be a free pass on Google—one of the only searches you don’t have tons of competition for.
If it’s businesses in a similar industry, even if it’s in another location that you don’t compete with, scrap it. You don’t want to spend years clarifying that you’re not that company.
If it’s a business in another industry, consider how difficult it will be to compete with them in search results, whether it’s locally or globally.
10. Get a .com domain (if you can)
You should also search your company name on a domain name provider like GoDaddy to make sure a relevant domain name is available.
While there’s technically nothing special about a .com domain—there are hundreds of other top-level domains (TLDs) available, such as .net, .io, or .diamonds—American customers are most familiar with .com.
It’s not a deal-breaker if your company’s .com domain isn’t available, but you should definitely take it into consideration.
11. Do a trademark search
You don’t want to end up with legal troubles because you didn’t research your company name enough. Remember—you want to grow! Even if you wouldn’t be on a big company’s radar today, you may be in the future.
Search USPTO.gov (the US Patent and Trademark Office’s database) to see if anyone has trademarked or service marked your business name.
This will also help you when you are ready to register your business because you will know that your business name is in the clear. Although it is legal to operate as a sole proprietorship without registering, you can’t use any business name until you have registered it as an officially recognized business entity. In order to be legally recognized and employ people, you need to register your business.
12. Make it international friendly and easy to pronounce
Even if you only plan on running a local business, you may still end up with second-language English speakers as customers.
Try to choose a name that’s easy to pronounce for non-English speakers. “Th”, for example, is difficult for many second-language speakers.
We all know the brands we thought were pronounced one way only to be blindsided by a completely different pronunciation. When you are considering how to choose your business name, making sure it’s simple and easy to pronounce can save you many headaches down the road.
13. Get inspired by a company name generator
I’ve listed a ton of requirements here. If you’re really stuck, try brainstorming using a business name generator like Namelix or Business Name Generator. These generators will give you a good starting off point, but it’s best to further develop these ideas into the business name that best suits your purposes. Always keep in mind your target audience and make sure the name is easy to pronounce and easy to remember.
14. Test your name on other people
Feedback is your friend! Bounce your potential business names off your friends and family to see what they like. This is also a great way to test whether your business name is truly easy to pronounce, remember, and spell.
But don’t limit your survey to your inner circle. Try to get feedback from your target audience and customer demographic.
15. Choose a name you love
Ultimately, you have to love your business name. It will represent you for years to come. This name is not just for your target audience – it’s also for you. If you’re not happy with it, then it’s not right.
Keep searching until you have a name that suits you to a T.
Get to business!
It may seem like a lot of restrictions to take into account when you are considering how to choose your business name, but it’s all in the greater effort to help your business reach as many people and gain as many clients as possible.
Be intentional with your company name. It will be how you are searched, referenced, and ultimately remembered. And if you’re thinking now that your brand name may not fit one of these tips, don’t worry! It’s not too late to change and rebrand.
The longer you go with a company name that isn’t helping you, the more limited your options will be to maximize sales, grow your brand, or sell your business down the road.
Learn how to craft and reach the maximum potential for your business by using client management software for small businesses. From simplifying your client communication to tracking every aspect of your business, using the right platform will give you everything you need to get it done!