Managing a Small Business
Choosing the Best Business Name: It's Not So Easy Anymore
10 Tips for Finding a Great Name
Picking a business name used to be easy: Come up with something you like, and make sure it's not already registered in your county or state. But with the Internet connecting people globally, domain names at a premium and many businesses reaching across geographic boundaries, there's much more for today's business owners to consider. Here are some tips from experts.
1. Cover the Basics
Check with the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office to confirm that your business name isn't already trademarked. And make sure your desired domain name is available before solidifying your brand. "Even if you're not selling or soliciting new business online, you want to have a presence and make it easy for people to find you," says Bradley Glonka, managing partner at web development firm Pistonbroke.
2. Choose the Right Domain
"Your domain name should be representative of your brand and what you do, and it should be easy to communicate verbally," says Glonka. It should also be easy to remember and, ideally, have a .com extension.
3. Beyond Your URL
Check that your chosen social media handles are available, too. "This only takes a few minutes of due diligence, but can make all the difference in the overall branding of your company," says Joseph Howard, senior marketing manager at Masslight, a mobile and web app development agency.
4. Take Your Time
Choosing your company name is a big deal, and it's a decision that, once made, is hard to change. Be thoughtful about narrowing the contenders. Says Jason Parks, owner of The Media Captain, a digital marketing agency: "Take the top three industry leaders in your market and create a name that is more memorable than your competitors."
5. Don't Make People Scratch Their Heads
Alexandra Watkins, founder of the naming firm Eat My Words, believes the ideal business name should be suggestive, meaningful, emotional and evoke imagery. Her deadly sins of naming are choosing a name that's spelling-challenged, is a copycat or that limits future growth. Also be mindful of something that could be considered annoying, uninspired, narrow (only insiders get it) or is hard to pronounce, she says.
6. Watch Your Grammar
Choose a name that has verb potential, advises Rob Marsh, owner of Logomaker, an online logo development application. "A great name becomes shorthand for how your customers use your product," he says, like "Google that." Don't expect cult status from the start, however. Even Apple began as Apple Computer.
7. Harness Emotion
"The best names are intuitive and convey what the business offers both tangibly and emotionally," says Laura Luckman Kelber, chief strategy officer for Sandstorm Design. Penny Chuang, owner of Adventium Marketing & Design, explains that she combined the words "advent" with "momentum" to evoke emotions of optimism and growth. The emotion can be fun, energetic, strong or confident – Chuang cites examples like Snuggle, Twitter, Powerade, LifeShield and Qualcomm. Just make sure it reflects your actual business offerings.
8. Be Clever, But Not Too Clever
Be sexy, cool and relevant: That's the advice from Craig Wolfe, president of CelebriDucks, a company that produces – as the name implies – collectible rubber ducks in the likeness of celebrities. "The biggest mistake is to pick a name that has meaning to you but to no one else and, even worse, seems to conflict with what you are doing," says Wolfe. Just remember, if you're determined to make up a word, it had better be a good one.
9. Check Your Spelling
Choose an original name but avoid confusing spellings. "Weird spellings can make it hard for potential customers to search for you online," says Taylor Johnson, a business plan expert for BusinessPlanToday. "If your name is hard to pronounce, they will almost certainly spell it wrong."
10. Watch for Pigeonholes
It's tempting to create a niche in an attempt to stand out when naming your business but this route can limit growth. "In most cases, it's best not to name your business based on one product or location," advises Johnson."You may find that someday you want to add new products or expand outside your current locale."
Photo: Hero Images/Getty Images | Elizabeth Weiss McGolerick is a freelance writer whose work has been featured on MSN, ReadersDigest.com and Parent Society.