Four Considerations for Naming Your Business
Every successful startup identifies and then attempts to solve a unique problem. With the business you’re forming, you believe you’ve done the same. You’re carefully outlining the products you’ll offer, thinking about the market you’ll serve, and picking out the kinds of staffing support you’ll need.
Now—what will you name this soon-to-be business?
For many startups, this critical step becomes a stumbling block. They try to secure a domain name for a business name they haven’t registered yet. They might consider a business name that’s hard to say, hard to spell, or doesn’t connect with the services that business offers. They try to get a new domain for their new website, only to find it’s already been purchased by a business in another location.
How can you perform your due diligence and hurdle right over these potential stumbling block? Read our four considerations for naming a new business.
Consideration #1: How Does It Sound When You Say It Out Loud?
Once your business launches, you’ll be talking about it. Your clients will (hopefully) be talking about it. Your advertisements will be talking about it. Your business name will be spoken thousands of times. Therefore, it should not be too cacophonous or too clunky. It also should not be too long or too confusing.
How can you find that sweet spot of a great-sounding name that’s succinct? You’ll have to brainstorm several different names, share them with a team of trusted advisors, and listen to their feedback. Be prepared for them to be brutally honest.
In one of the funniest business-naming stories ever documented, Gimlet Media founder Alex Blumberg shared his dream name for his business, the American Podcasting Company, to investor Chris Sacca only to be forcefully shut down. Subsequently he brainstorms other names and settles on Arello, which means “ear” in Esperanto. When he shares that name with his wife, she laughs at him.
Fundamentally the name you choose should sound pleasant, and it should conjure an emotion when you speak it.
Consideration #2: How Clearly Does It Convey What Your Business Does?
The farther away your business name is from which services your business actually offers, the more you’ll need to invest in marketing. You will need to inform your audience exactly what your business does.
That said, sometimes an obscure name benefits your business. For example, the word, Google, has nothing objectively to do with search engines, cloud computing, software, or the Internet. The founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, initially named their search engine PageRank and, later, BackRub.
They only coined the name, Google, after they misspelled the word, googol, which represents 10 to the 100th power. This more nebulous name choice allowed Brin and Page to expand their services beyond its initial offering, a search engine that tracked backlinks.
Though obscure and/or coined names are common in the tech industry, they are not necessarily the best choice for professional service providers that operate on a small to medium scale.
Instead, make sure your business name is relevant to your industry. It must accurately convey what your business offers. For example, a Portland-based bakery named Voodoo doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t describe what the business sells. However, a Portland-based bakery named Voodoo Doughnuts does make sense. It explains what you’ll get there and conveys a unique or avant garde spirit.
Consideration #3: How Specific Is It?
New business owners often make one of two mistakes: they pick an incredibly general name, or they pick an incredibly specific name. Neither of these are effective strategies.
You will want to develop a business name that’s specific to your industry, your services, and your products. Be cautious about including the location in your business name. A business name with a location is great for a small business that will remain local. However, if you have any plans for your business scaling and expanding to other locations, remove the location from your list of prospective names.
Also, be cautious about using initials in your business name. Initials don’t convey meaning; they’re opaque.
There is an exception to this rule. Earlier, we discussed how obscure and/or coined names work well in certain industries, particularly if they’re backed by a sound marketing strategy. The same goes for initials.
For example, the wildly popular speech and discussion series, TED, actually stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. TED, as a business, presents a forward-thinking, innovative concept that changes locations and features many different speakers. Therefore, the initials, which sound more generic, have helped to create the TED talk brand.
Consideration #4: Is It Trademarkable and/or Similar to Another Business’ Name?
Here’s where things get dicey. You may come up with the perfect name for your business, register the domain name, and then go to file for a business license only to learn that a similar business has a similar name. This situation can not only be challenging to navigate. It can result in legal action.
Perform a thorough business entity search on your state’s commerce department website and on Google before you register the name. Your state’s commerce department typically will prevent you from registering a name that’s spelled exactly like another business within state lines. However, it will not prevent you from registering a name that’s remarkably close to another business in your state, or that’s the same as another business in a different state. That means it’s up to you to avoid registering a confusingly similar name.
Finally, check to see if you can obtain your new business name through the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In the event that there is a similar business with a similar name, your trademark will help you keep your name and give you a legal basis for asking them to change it.
Are You Naming a New Business? Don’t Forget to Find and Register a New Domain.
Remember to explore the domain name availability of the business names you’re considering, even before registering the name. It’s important to get a domain name that’s as close as possible to your business license name and to find a dot-com domain name. If the website name is already taken, you may have to go back to the drawing board for name selection as this could cause confusion for your and the existing website owners’ customers.
It’s wise to reserve the domain name as soon as you consider it. It’s inexpensive, and will ensure no one else gets the name while you finalize the logistics and paperwork of setting up your new venture. To get started, use the iPage domain registration tool to check the availability of business names you have considered.