You have the idea. You have experience. You even have the funding in place. You are ready to launch your new business – except for one important detail. What is its name?
The name of your new business plays a critical role in its success. You want a name that is unique, yet not too far-fetched. You want one that says what you do, but in a clever way. You want a name that appeals to your customers, but also reflects who you are.
Many new business owners and entrepreneurs feel stuck at this point. Here are five strategies to help walk you through the name game for your new business.
Keep it Simple
According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, people form more positive feelings about companies that have easy-to-pronounce names than harder-to-pronounce names.
Some of the most successful companies have the simplest names. For example, Twitter, Nike, Apple, Pixar, Facebook and Zappos all have easy-to-pronounce two-syllable names.
Consumers are more apt to remember your company if its name is easy to say. Rethink the cutesy phrase or book or film reference as the name of your business. It may work against you. Most phrases, puns and cultural references go in and out of style. Also avoid trendy names or the use of slang terms if you want your name to stand the test of time.
Tell a Story With Your Name
The best names reveal something important about your brand. Your name and your logo are a stamp for your company. Think Nike and its swoosh mark or Apple and its bitten apple, for instance.
How can you tell a story in one word? Let’s look at a few examples. Steve Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson that he was on one of his “fruitarian diets” and had returned from an apple farm when he thought of the name for his company. Jobs said he thought the name “Apple” represented a company that was “fun, spirited and not intimidating.”
With their new company, Larry Page and Sergey Brin organized an endless amount of Web information. In 1997, they registered the name “Google,” which is a play on “googol,” a mathematical term for the number 1 followed by 100 zeros.
Here’s a non-tech story in a name. In 1904, Benjamin Holt, owner of the Holt Tractor Co., heard a photographer say his company’s new tractor “crawled like a caterpillar.” Holt liked the comparison and later officially trademarked “Caterpillar” as the new name for his construction equipment manufacturing company.
Make Sure it is Available
After you have brainstormed some potential names for your new business and come up with some good possibilities, it’s time to see if it is already taken by another company.
You can do a preliminary check on the availability of a business name in your state by visiting your Secretary of State’s website. By performing a free “name availability check,” you can rule out most duplications. However, the site does not distinguish between similar names with different spellings, capitalization or the use of plurals.
There are several free online sites that will search trademark databases for you, but is wise to visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) http://www.uspto.gov/ for more information on securing your unique business name. Trademark infringement can cause serious problems for your new business.
Make Sure the Domain Name (or Web Address) is Available
In today’s world, your domain name is critical to success. You want your customers to be able to find you easily with a quick search.
Conduct a web search for your proposed domain name. If it appears to be available, you will want to claim it as soon as possible. Visit The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) site at https://www.icann.org/ for directions on how to register your new domain name.
Protect Your New Name
If you operate your business in only one state, it is not necessary to trademark your business name. By registering with your state, you have the right to use the name in your state. However, if you expand into other states or into new markets, a non-trademarked name can become a problem.
A trademark with the USTPO (filing can cost less than $300) protects any logos or symbols you have as well as your name.
Finally, here are a few words of caution in the name game. Many small business owners think naming their business after themselves is a good idea. It’s easy. It’s personal and it’s probably available. However, be sure to consider the future when naming your business.
For instance, what if you decide to sell your business down the line? Will the new owner want your name attached? Will you want your name to stay with the company after you have moved on?
Another consideration in naming your business is to think carefully about how your business might expand. Do you want to call yourself a cupcake company if your goal is to become a full-service bakery? If you plan to provide a variety of business videography and editing skills, don’t limit your business with a wedding photography name.
The ultimate goal of your company name is to build your brand awareness. So, get started on whittling down that list of names before a competitor snaps it up.