Your business name will be forever tied to the identity of your brand. Done right, and you’ll have a company that’s instantly memorable, distinctive and unique. Done wrong, and you’ll be stuck with a name that will be tough to shake.
So, how do you come up with a business name that succinctly captures the qualities that makes your business so special and unique?
Know your business's mission.
Before you can come up with a worthy name, you must first have clarity about your business’s purpose, its target market, and the image you want to create for it. A mission statement is the perfect place to start. The right mission statement can describe your philosophy, your culture, and your outlook on the world.
Here are five excellent examples:
- Uber: “We ignite opportunity by setting the world in motion.”
- Kickstarter: “To help bring creative projects to life.”
- Life is Good: “Spreading the power of optimism.”
- TED: “Spread ideas.”
- Wawa: “Fulfilling lives every day.”
At the brainstorming stage, your goal is to think of as many business names as possible, so don't rule anything out just yet. Inspiration can come from friends, family, books, websites, magazines, TV shows—you name it. As you brainstorm, keep these questions in mind:
- What emotion do you want your business name to convey? An old-fashioned business, such as an ice cream parlor or candy store, could benefit from a longer, nostalgic name with terms like "Emporium" or “Vintage.” Consumer-oriented tech companies often try to “warm up” their products or services with short, simple names like Slack or Twitch. Business-to-business products or services tend to have straightforward names, such as Salesforce or QuickBooks.
- Is shorter better? Customers today are busy and swamped with information, which is one reason that short, simple business names like Uber and Etsy are popular. These names are easy to read at a glance, and they stand out because they’re unusual, which makes them memorable.
- Do you have a regional or local advantage? Some cities or parts of the country have a certain cachet—for example, artisanal foods from Brooklyn, craft beers from Portland or barbecue sauce from Memphis. If it fits your business, consider incorporating your locale into your business name. Think Boston Market or Nantucket Nectars.
- Are you thinking ahead? Make sure your business name isn't too narrowly focused—otherwise, as your company grows and you begin to add new products and services, you might have to change your name entirely. Your business name should be specific enough to convey what you sell now, but also include room for growth.
- How does it look? How will the business name translate to a logo, and how will that logo (and name) look online? In today's increasingly visual world, your business logo needs to be readable in all sizes—from a 10-foot-wide store sign to a thumbnail on your Twitter feed.
Test it out.
Narrow down your list by putting the names through the wringer. Use these tests to ensure name viability:
- Is the business name easy to say?
- Is the business name easy to spell?
- Does the business name mean anything silly, insulting or offensive in another language (or even in English)?
- Is the business name confusing when typed in all lowercase, like in the URL of a website, for example?
- Is the business name similar enough to any of your competitors’ names that it could legitimately cause confusion, spark accusations of copying or land you in court?
- Is the business name trademarked? Do a trademark search at uspto.gov to make sure.
- Is a website domain available for the business name? A search for "domain names" will uncover many sites where you can search for registered domains. To see if someone already owns the domain, just type in the business name you’re considering. If it is owned by someone else, the site will suggest alternatives or even offer to broker a purchase. Your domain name doesn't have to be exactly the same as your business name, but it should be close enough that people can easily identify it.
Once you have a few names you really like, get other people's opinions. Consider holding a focus group of prospective customers in your target market, either in person or via an online or social media poll. Ask them what they think this business does, what kinds of people they think would buy from this business, and what feeling this business name gives them.
Naming your business is one of the most important steps you can take toward building an identity for your brand. Don’t do it alone! If your business is still in its formative stages and you’re getting ready to give it a name, reach out to a SCORE mentor for help. Our experienced mentors can help you find a business name that resonates with your target audiences and helps you stand out in the marketplace.