Starting a Business

Finding the right name for your business

Build a solid foundation for your business by branding with a name that you can easily market across a variety of outlets.

Published: February 15, 2017

Once you have an idea for a small business that will fill a niche in the marketplace, you'll want to develop a strong company name that will help your business stand out. But that can sometimes be just as difficult as coming up with the business idea itself. Here are a few tips to help get you started.

Consider your brand

Before starting the decision process, consider how people will perceive the name of your business in print, online, and in person.

Brand fit is especially important, says Jose Palomino, President of Value Prop Interactive, a training and consulting company. "Your branding strategy should focus on what you want people to think, feel, and remember when they look at your product or service."

Palomino says your business name should reflect your brand, so the whole package serves as a strong, integrated representation of what your company stands for and will do for its customers.

Karyn Greenstreet, owner of Passion for Business, a small business coaching and consulting firm, agrees. "When we're talking about naming a company, we're really talking about branding," she says. "If you name your business Joe's Consulting and Tackle Shop, that's confusing. It doesn't tell customers what, exactly, your business does. Your company name should be unique and clear."

Brainstorm

Once you have an idea of your overall brand, StartupBros recommends brainstorming words and phrases that describe your product, service, or passion. Think about your company's reason for existing and anything you want associated with your business. Combine and rearrange the words in various ways to produce memorable and meaningful name ideas.

Plan your online presence

Perform web search to see what competitor names are out there. It is recommended to search the web for all potential website domain names and lock them down right away. Also search various social media platforms and make sure you can create accounts using your potential brand name. You don't want to go through the process of choosing a name and then find out someone else is using it online.

Check for trademarks

Once you have settled on a name, make sure another company hasn't trademarked it before carving the name in stone. Trademark infringement may cost your business money, time, and hassle. You can use the trademark search tool provided by the United States Patent and Trademark Office to see if the name you're considering is already trademarked.

Talk to your intended audience

While it's tempting to ask friends and family for their thoughts on your new business name, StartupBros recommends going directly to the source: your intended customer. One strategy they suggest is using Leadpages to create identical sample landing pages, each with one of the potential names. Then create Facebook ads for both landing pages directed at your target audience to see which name generates the most traffic. This strategy can also help you collect email addresses and start out with leads and contacts.

Greenstreet agrees that it's best to go beyond your network of friends and family for feedback. "Do an in-person focus group," she says. "Get a large group of your target audience together and suggest various company names. Watch their faces. You'll see which name strikes a chord."

She suggests offering your focus group participants something for their time — a catered lunch, small stipend, or the chance to win a prize.

Decide whether to incorporate your business

If you choose to form a legal entity such as a corporation, partnership, or limited liability company, contact a lawyer and/or a CPA for guidance. Check your state filing office to find out whether someone else is operating under your chosen business name. You may be able to use your chosen name if your business offers different goods and services or is located in different regions of your state, but it's best to determine this early in the game.

Naming your business is a critical step: one that deserves time and effort. "The biggest surprise about naming your business is the amount of time it takes," Greenstreet says. "It took me two years to discover the perfect name for mine."

Once you have a name, make sure you're protecting your intellectual property.

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