There are a lot of different ways people go about naming their businesses, and there’s no one right way to go about it.
It may be inspired by a friend or family member. It can come from a favorite saying. It can be a totally made-up word.
There are even business name generators that allow you to input a name you want a business to include or the nature of the business, and the program will return a bunch of business names for your selection.
What you name a business isn’t likely to make or break it on its own, but there are definitely advantages to taking the time to really put some thought into it.
So what should you consider when naming a business?
The Family Business
If you are starting a business in order to be a family legacy, then sometimes the best name is the family name.
Think of the Ford Motor Company or P.C. Richard & Son, two companies started in the early 1900’s. If you look at the histories of the companies, Fords and Richards have been in key company positions since the beginning.
In situations like these, it just works. You know that (mostly) family members will be the key players in the company for generations, and the family business will stay within the family.
If your goals are to keep things small, and aren’t too worried about expansion, you can use your personal name as many professional service businesses do (attorneys, accountants, doctors).
This gives the feeling of trust but it can also limit the scope of the business’ activities as well as the ability to sell it later on.
A company called Michael Peterson Photography can’t easily expand into other areas such as web design or video production very easily without undergoing a name change or large marketing campaign.
The same holds true for the expansion or sale of a business that is self-named. It may be difficult to get people to buy into Mary Lane Jewelers when only one person’s name is on the masthead, or to find people interested in buying the company when they know they will have to undergo an expensive re-branding after the purchase.
Location, Location, Location
If you are planning to run a location-specific company, then naming the company after the city or the street where the business will physically be located may make lots of sense.
If, however, you plan to operate and market your business outside of your home-area, choosing a location-specific name may not be the way to go about naming your business.
People outside, or unfamiliar with that general area may not make a connection.
A good example would be someone in Phoenix looking for and finding a marketing firm called Windy City Creative (The Windy City being Chicago) and automatically skip over that business assuming it wouldn’t understand the local market conditions.
Now, that may not always be the case, but you only have a split second to make an impression sometimes, and in this instance it turned out to be negative.
Creative or Descriptive Business Names
Odds are, whatever industry you enter with your new business will already have plenty of competition.
While using you own, or your family’s name for a business may be right in some instances, other times, you may want to set yourself apart by getting a little more creative.
In this case, using a name that is more descriptive of the industry may work better.
There are a ton of companies using “AAA”, “Best”, “5-Star”, and “Premier” in their names in every industry.
In reality anyone can name a business whatever they want so getting into the the psychology of business names may not even help.
Sometimes it helps to get creative.
Take my freelancer-targeted accounting company, AccountLancer, for example.
It would be easy to go to the thesaurus and look up synonyms for words like best, top, premium, etc. but I didn’t want to fall into that trap.
There are already way too many people who used that approach to name their business, and wanted to do something different.
With so many businesses in the areas of accounting, taxation and business consulting I wanted to come up with something that stood out, but also pretty descriptive of the company did.
From the feedback I’ve received, the name tested really well, and I’ve received many compliments on achieving the balance of description and creativity which is was what I set out to accomplish.
Can you even use that name for your business?
Intellectual property rights isn’t something that many people consider at all, much less when it comes to naming their business.
If someone has a trademark on a word or phrase, you are not permitted to use that word/phrase in the same space that the trademark protects.
If you don’t do your due diligence, you may not only have to spend a lot of time and money re-branding and re-marketing your business, but you may also be sued.
Another thing people fail to consider is whether the exact name or something very similar is in use by another business.
Because business names are mostly regulated within state boundaries (unless there is a trademark on the name), you may settle on a name for your business only to come across another company with the same name in a different state.
That can get very confusing for potential customers, especially if you end up marketing your business in the same place as the other company and legal issues may even arise from it.
Domain name & social media availability
It only makes sense that you want to be able to establish an online business presence. After all, everything is shifting online anyway, right?
Regardless of your feelings regarding technology, you want to make it difficult for people not to be able to find your business online.
And that means having a website and being on social media!
The drawback is that it also means you want to make sure that your business website and social media profiles all share similar names, or else you may confuse people.
(Not to mention the fact that social media for business makes it easier for you to cultivate relationships with customers.)
And that can prove a daunting task, considering all of the people who squat on domain names and social profile names (particularly Twitter).
But it is still something that should play a role in the naming your business.
There may not be a manual to follow when naming your new business, but you have something to think about now, if you haven’t already.
This doesn’t only apply to new companies either–plenty of established businesses have undergone name changes, so yours can too if it can benefit from a re-brand and a fresh start.