Choosing a name for your business is a big decision. Your business name will stay with you for many years. It also has to be acceptable to a large audience, or you might offend or alienate potential customers. As the heart of your brand, it connects consumers to your business and should evoke positive emotions. The problem for most small business owners is finding a name that is creative, meaningful, not already trademarked, and available as a website domain name. Following are three steps that you can follow to develop a business name with lasting value:
1. Hold brainstorming sessions.
Your naming process should begin by writing down everything that you can think of based on the following thought-provoking questions:
• Who are your target customers and what do they want from a business like yours?
• What can you offer that your competitors don’t?
• What are the benefits for customers when they choose to do business with you?
• What words would you use to describe your company?
• Are there any symbolic connections that you can make to your business?
Be sure to ask friends, family, and employees to join your brainstorming sessions and bring new ideas to the table. Use the ideas from these brainstorming sessions to create a list of potential business names.
2. Narrow down your choices.
Review the potential business names you created during your brainstorming sessions and narrow down your list to between 5 and 10 choices. Once you have your shortlist, ask yourself the following questions about each potential business name. If you can’t answer “yes” to any of these questions for a specific name, remove it from the list.
• Is the name easy to pronounce? If people can’t say your name out loud without problems, then it’s not a good business name.
• Is the name easy to spell? This is particularly important when people are trying to find your business online. If they can’t spell your business name, they might not be able to find you!
• Is the name already trademarked? Check the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website (uspto.gov) and conduct a trademark search to find out if the name you want to use for your business is already trademarked by another company in your industry.
• Is the name one that helps to create positive perceptions in consumers’ minds? The last thing you want to do is create a business name that people find offensive or confusing. Your business name should appeal to your target audience as well as broader audiences because you never know how or where your business could expand in the future.
• Is the name available as a website domain name? Conduct a domain name search using your potential business name on a site like BlueHost.com, which will tell you if your name is available as a domain name as well as provide you with a variety of similar alternatives. You should also check Twitter and Facebook to see if your business name is available as a profile ID and page, respectively.
• Is the name unique and meaningful? A generic business name doesn’t help a business stand out from the crowd and can be impossible to trademark and protect. Be creative through your business name.
• Is the name visually significant? When you hear the business name you’re considering, does it conjure positive images in your mind? Business names that incorporate a subconscious visual element can be more memorable.
• Is the name descriptive? Descriptive business names help explain what your business does instantly. Keep in mind, you can always use a tagline to add a description if your business name isn’t descriptive enough.
3. Conduct market research and tweak your name as necessary.
Show your final list of potential business names to as many prospective customers and target audience members that you can. These are the people who will buy your products or services, so you need to go directly to the source and get their feedback. Remember, initial reactions are typically the most honest, so don’t give them the time to overthink the name. Your actual customers are unlikely to ponder your business name for more than a few seconds, so your test audience shouldn’t do so either. Based on the feedback you receive, make any changes to your name that might be necessary.
After completing these three steps, you should be able to finalize your business name or understand that you need to go back to the drawing board and start again. When you finally pick your business name, your efforts will be worth it, because you’ll successfully avoid having to spend time and money to rename your business a few years down the road. The next step is getting a professional logo design for your company. Many of the steps used for determining your business name are used in logo design. So once you are happy with your business name, find a site that allows you to do DIY logo design and get start exploring your ideas.