How To Choose A Business Name That’s Right For You

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Choosing a business name is a critical step when starting your business. It’s the identity in which you’ll build a relationship with your customers, as well as a reflection of your brand. It can help you stand out in your space in the years to come.

Determining a name for a business can be true art, and you also have to take into account practical limitations like if the domain or trademark is available. You might not end up with the exact name you envisioned. 

It’s similar to house hunting. You may find an offer was accepted for your dream home, but eventually you find your next dream home. Then, you move on to finding your next dream home.

Here are some steps to take to help you find the right name for your business.

Determine the type of name you want

Many businesses choose a name that instantly communicates what the company does. Tripadvisor, for example, communicates that you can get advice on trips. However, it’s not easy to come across names that aren’t already taken, and available ones may come at a significant premium.

Alternatively, you can choose a name that represents a value your company believes in, or an idea that resonates with your audience. Take Tesla for example, named after Nikola Tesla who helped design the modern AC electrical supply system. The name represents a world run on electric energy.

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On the other side of the spectrum are names that are catchy, but don’t have obvious meanings, like Google or Yahoo.

When thinking about naming your business, is it important that your business name has meaning? If it is, make that a key consideration in your process. If not, it creates more options, but can also make your choice more challenging. 

Break it down to expose your brand’s core

It’s important to understand what your brand represents.  Write down what your business will do, why exists, and how it will operate. It might sound basic, but you’ll start to understand the personality behind your business.

Thinking of a business name without a clear vision of what you want the business to represent will get you nowhere. Going through this exercise will flood plenty of words, ideas, concepts, and even feelings that will help you brainstorm names for your business.

Brainstorm names

Start brainstorming in a group session, which can include a cofounder or early employees. Armed with individual lists of the what, how and why of your business, each participant should share what they came up with. Write it all down and work together to come up with a statement on who your company is.

Once you have the final version, start suggesting names. You can suggest all types of names. If you need to narrow your options, limit it to only names with meaning, for example, or value driven names. 

The idea here is that the names should relate to or arise from the company declaration. This means your naming ideas will be grounded and representative of your business, product, and mission.

Put all the names in an excel sheet, and over the next couple days, you and your team can add to it as more naming ideas come to mind.

Once you agree that there are a sufficient number of suggested names, let your team rank the names in the excel sheet, enabling you to further narrow the list of names that get the highest approval. 

Check domains, trademarks, and similar names within your industry

Once you have a list of finalists, you need to check what domain names are available, if the names are already trademarked, and if someone in your industry is already using the name.

You’ll likely want a domain with a .com ending, but available ones can be hard to come by. If it’s a must, try marketplaces like Alter, where you can find high quality .com names with branding potential. If you’re more open, GoDaddy and Domainr are straightforward ways to check domain name availability. If the domain name you wanted is taken, it will offer you similar ones like, .io, .net, .tech, along with other variants.  

Next you’ll need to check for trademarks, something you don’t want to do after you registered the company. You can check if a trademark is taken by going to the United States Patent and Trademark Office website. 

Lastly, run a Google search to check if other companies in your industry have the same, or similar names. Companies in different industries with the same name, though not ideal, can be acceptable. You’ll may issues though if similarly named companies are in the same space as you.

Get outside opinions

Now that you have a domain with an associated domain, you can make a final decision on your own, with the group that helped you, or you can ask additional people for their opinion.

Having a fresh set of eyes evaluating the name has its advantages. At the end of the process, you’re probably locked on one specific name and it’s hard to change your opinion on your own. For that reason, people who haven’t been exposed to your naming process are ideal to understand their raw reactions. They learn about the name as future customers would, and their reaction better reflects how your chosen name will be perceived in the real world.

Good luck

While these are key steps to consider, choose a process that makes most sense to you. For example, if you need a .com, check domain marketplaces as part of your brainstorming to see what’s available. Choosing a business name isn’t easy, but these steps will set you up for success.

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