Something as small as a business name can have a monumental impact on your success. The right name can bring in more customers than you thought possible, whereas the wrong name can effectively shut you down. Read on to discover how to come up with a business name that sets you apart from the competition.
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How to Come up With a Business Name In 13 Steps
Coming up with a business name can be a daunting task. Use these 13 steps to simplify the process and uncover the perfect name for your company.
Step 1: Create Your Brand
Before doing anything else, you must first paint a mental or physical picture of what your brand is going to be. Can you envision your company’s logo, your storefront, or your online site? Do you know the look you’re going for and the style your business conveys?
Make sure to fully consider the scope of your business and all the products or services you plan to sell. Even if you’ve yet to take the first step toward making all this a reality, the vision you cast plays a crucial role in how to come up with a business name.
Step 2: Brainstorm New Ideas
Now that you can see your business in your mind or on paper, what does it say to you? Start writing down any words or associations to the images you’ve conjured up that speak to your brand. These don’t need to be complete thoughts at first, just new ideas beginning to take shape.
With your word art, start linking ideas together into actual names for your business. Don’t worry if they sound silly at first glance; one idea may spawn another or grow on you with time. There’s nothing definitive about this step; you simply want a list of names befitting what you hope to represent.
Step 3: Try Out a Name Generator
For some extra help, try out a name generator. You can type in one or more keywords from your brainstorming list and see what pops out the other side. Some sites may ask additional questions to hone in on a more specific theme.
Shopify’s name generator gives up to 100 ideas from a single keyword and can walk you through the rest of the business setup process should you find one you like. Add any names speaking to you to your list.
Step 4: Say Each Name Out Loud
You’ve seen each name on paper, but how does it sound out loud? Take the time to say your ideas out loud and hear how they sound. Do they flow well, or is your concoction too hard to say? Could your potential title be misconstrued as something else that you don’t want to associate with?
Even if names sound good to you, getting feedback from others is a good idea. Grab some unbiased friends or family who will provide truthful feedback and say your names to them. Make note of the top picks among your focus group.
Step 5: Screen Out the Bad
It’s time to cast aside some of the bad names that aren’t up to snuff. In addition to names that don’t sound well out loud, stay away from monikers that may not resonate with customers for other reasons.
For instance, hard-to-spell names can confuse shoppers trying to find your business online. This also holds true when a name is too long. If they can’t get your name right, they won’t be shopping from you again.
When naming a business, be sure you don’t limit the scope of where your business may someday go. While this may include physical expansion into new markets, it also holds true for product niches you may wish to carry in the future. “Girls’ Clothes Chicago” leaves no room for boys’ clothing or opening a store in another city.
Your business name should be catchy, simple, and easy to remember. You also want it to communicate what your business is in a positive way. You may someday sell products in foreign locations, so consider how your name sounds in other languages as well.
Step 6: Consider Naming Rules for Your Business Structure
By now you probably have some great names in mind, but your journey of naming a business is not yet over. Depending on your business registration structure, there are certain criteria you must meet for your name to get approved.
A limited liability company (LLC) requires you to designate somewhere in your business name that it is, in fact, an LLC. Most companies use some form of the abbreviation (LLC, L.L.C., etc.) to accomplish this. Corporations have similar rules you must follow.
There’s a bit more flexibility when filing a DBA (doing business as) for sole proprietorships or partnerships. These business entities can’t use verbiage implying they’re an LLC or corporation, though.
Don’t forget to check with the state you’re filing in to see if it has any specific requirements about naming you need to consider. There may be restricted words or certain guidelines you must follow to get your name approved.
Step 7: Make a List of the Best Names
After completing the above steps, make a short list of the best names meeting all the criteria for how to name a business. With the list in hand, run your remaining options through these next steps to help determine the one you’ll ultimately register.
Step 8: Search the Web
Perform a web search on the top picks for your business name. Look to see if another business uses it in your state or elsewhere and for what purpose. If you see yourself expanding to a state in the future where your name is already in use, you may want to consider another option instead.
Worst case, all the names you like are already in use and you have to head back to the drawing board. Not all is lost, as you might come up with some cool ideas for your own business you hadn’t thought about before.
Step 9: Check Availability
LLC and corporation names must be unique when you go to register them. If you’re coming up with a name for a DBA, most states don’t require these to be one of a kind. However, using the same DBA as another business can lead to customer confusion.
Running a business name search in your state is a great way to decipher which names are still available. ZenBusiness has an LLC name search tool that will tell you at a glance if you can use your ideal name.
Beyond the state, perform a trademark name search with the federal government to see if someone trademarked your name or one similar to yours. Your name request will be blocked if the government has a likelihood of creating confusion with a phrase already trademarked.
Step 10: Don’t Forget the Domain
Once everything checks out with the state and at the federal level, there’s nothing stopping you from actually registering your business name. However, it would be prudent to invest in your online presence even if you don’t plan to sell there right away.
A domain is a website address customers use to navigate to their digital store. Ideally, you’ll want to get the exact name domain as your business name so shoppers don’t have to remember two pieces of information. Kurt’s Birds would probably want to get www.kurtsbirds.com so new and recurring customers to know where to go.
If the perfect domain name isn’t available, not all is lost. It is possible to add a word or deviate slightly and still have an ecommerce store. www.kurtsbirdshop.com might still get the job done, but it is less ideal.
Another alternative is to try something other than .com for your top-level domain. There are many other options to choose from but keep in mind the complexity and where your customers are likely to go.
NameCheap is one of the best sites to register a domain name and will help you find the perfect one for your business. It’s not possible to buy a domain name outright, but you can reserve one for up to ten years. Don’t forget to reserve it again before that window is up.
Step 11: And Social Media Too
Social media can be just as powerful a tool as your domain. Sites like Facebook have marketplaces for selling products, and social media can be a great place to market your wares. Before finalizing your business title, reserve the name on the most popular social media platforms. Top considerations include YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.
Step 12: Decide on Your Business Name
Hopefully all the above have whittled your original list down to one or two names. If you still have a few to pick from, it’s time to choose the one that best fits your business model. All that’s left from here is to register it with the state.
Step 13: Register Your Business Name
It’s finally time to take the name you’ve landed on and make it your own. In most cases, you can fill out the appropriate paperwork through the internet and submit everything online. All states require a fee that can vary significantly across the nation.
Business registration services like ZenBusiness can help you with the registration process. The platform will walk you through every step to ensure you don’t miss anything along the way. Such sites can even provide additional services, such as a registered agent or information on filing taxes.
If you have a name picked out but aren’t yet ready to start your business, many states will let you reserve it for a fee. In most cases, you can hold a name for several months or a year while you finalize other details of your business.
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Where to Look for Inspiration
When working through how to come up with a business name, inspiration is often the most challenging part. Here are some ideas to consider if you find yourself stuck.
Using an acronym can be a great way to shorten a longer business name idea that consumers might have trouble remembering. Many established companies use an acronym as a DBA to shorten long legal names.
Popular examples include:
- AMD (Advanced Micro Devices)
- BMW (Bavarian Motor Works)
- 3M (The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company)
Using Your Name
Some business owners opt to use their own name or names when forming a business. It may not have the desired result in this day and age, but it has worked in the past. Think about Ben & Jerry’s ice cream or Walt Disney.
This point of inspiration can go both ways. Pret a Manger is a sandwich shop with a french name that opened its first location in London and has since spread to several countries, including french speaking ones.
If you ever plan to sell internationally, be sure your business name doesn’t translate to something problematic or even offensive. While not a company name, Ford could not sell its Nova in Spanish-speaking countries because the word literally translated to “no go”.
Use Your Location
Admittedly, using your location in a business name can shoehorn you into an area or region you may want to grow out of down the road. If you’re careful, attaching a location to your business name can help you stand out. Kentucky Fried Chicken exists all over the planet, despite clearly referencing a state. Nokia and Adobe are both named after rivers in their respective parts of the world.
Businesses trying to convey a theme will sometimes squish two words together to make the perfect company name. Netflix combines the internet with the flicks we all love so much. SnapChat meshes photo-taking with conversation, a perfect representation of the app.
Clever wordplay can lead to a catchy name that sticks in people’s minds. Chances are you’d remember eating at Bread Pitt or shopping for flowers at Florist Gump.
If your business fills a generic space, spice it up with synonyms. Flip through a thesaurus for a keyword or ten and see what resonates with you.
Artists use rhymes all the time in song and poetry to drive home meaning and make a lyric or passage stick. Business names can have the same effect. Famous Amos makes a delicious pretzel, and StubHub is a top site to buy tickets for popular venues.
The human brain has a tendency to remember things that stand out. We see a word spelled a certain way all our lives, and then a business like Lyft comes along and makes us question everything. That simple spelling deviation is enough to make a name stick in our heads even though the base word isn’t anything special.
Create Something New
There are few rules you need to follow when coming up with a business name. You don’t even need to use real words to be successful! Häagen-Dazs sounds like a fantastic Danish company, but the name is entirely made up. The same holds true for Xerox, which has no secret meaning or ties to another word.
Why a Business Name is Important
A business name is an integral part of your company’s identity and is often the first thing a customer sees. If it’s confusing, those potential sales will likely pass you right by. If its forgettable, there’s a good chance you’ll never see them again.
Having a name that doesn’t capture your business well can spell disaster for your bottom line. Without the income to keep the lights on, you may not be in business for long.
On the other side, this title announces to the world your style and, in many ways, what you stand for. Sell yourself with your name and tell the story of what your company is all about. A customer that resonates with your business has a higher likelihood of coming back, even if other stores offer a better deal.
The right name allows your business to stand out among countless others from the same niche. It doesn’t take much to start a store in our digital age, and competition is fierce. At the end of the day, every customer counts.
How to Come Up With a Business Name Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here you’ll find answers to some of the most common questions regarding how to come up with a business name.
Bottom Line on How to Come Up With a Business Name
It’s worth taking as much time as you need when naming a business to ensure you get it right. Shoot for something short and simple, but catchy and memorable all at the same time. Following the above steps will help you navigate the process and arrive at the perfect name for you.