Guest Author - Deborah Crawford
One of the first and most important things you have to do when starting a new business is pick a business name. It can be a daunting task! It can also be quite fun! Naming your business is important.
The “Rules” : Your legal business name is typically your name (if you are a sole proprietor) or the legal name of your corporation, partnership, etc. However, it’s pretty simple in both cases to file a “DBA” (Doing Business As) document so that you can do business under a different business name. Usually, you can do this when you register your business or get a business license.
You cannot put “Inc.” or Corporation or LLC or anything like that after your name unless you have legally filed the paperwork to do so, by the way. You also cannot have a name that implies or hints at certifications and licenses that you don’t actually have, so be wary of using names that include terms like “doctor” or “certified”.
Eight Tips for Naming Your Business:
1—Brainstorm. The more ideas you have to choose from, the better. Ask friends and family for suggestions. Ask for help in forums and social networks. Peruse a thesaurus and jot down words that you like. Keep a list handy so that you can jot down ideas as they come to you. Take your time to develop a good list. Live with it awhile. It’s an important decision and not one you want to make hastily.
2—Check out your competition. See what others in your line of business have named their businesses. You certainly don’t want to duplicate or pick a similar name to a competitor. You can be sued for ingringing on someone else's businss name.
You can find competitor’s names by searching your local online phone listings as well as searching the various internet search engines. If you want to trademark your business name, you will need an attorney. Many businesses do not trademark their name since it’s a costly undertaking ($2,000 and way up in most cases), but it does offer you some added protection and for some businesses, it’s important to have that trademark.
3—Consider your customer. When customers look for your products or services, what terms are they likely to use? Where would they find you in the Yellow Pages or a business directory? What keywords would they use to search for your product or service online? Make a list of these terms and see how they could fit into the name of your business.
3—Consider your future growth. While a good business name is specific, it shouldn’t be too limiting. If you name your business after your location and later decide to expand into other locations, that location name might limit you. Alternatively, consider adding “of Wapakoneta” as a tagline under your business name. That way, you can drop it if you expand. Also, if you start out selling earrings and later decide to add necklaces, then “Jan’s Earrings” would no longer be an appropriate name. It would be simple to add “& Necklaces”, but you see what would happen when Jan adds rings and bracelets and so on to her inventory.
4—Consider marketing your name. Your business name will be on all your marketing collateral, from business cards to signage to advertisements to social media pages to your website. Do a domain name search to see if your favorite names already have websites. Also, check Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites if you plan on promoting your business with social media.
If you have a product to sell, will your name fit on a box and be easily read by customers when it’s on store shelves? Imagine answering the phone saying the same name over & over. Does it grow on you or is it hopelessly annoying? Think about signage if you have a storefront business, too.
5—Be as specific as possible. If you are starting a small or home-based business, a name that tells people what you do is usually the best way to go. If your business name says what you do, then you don’t have to educate your potential customers as much as you would if your name is not specific.
6—Pick something people can both say and spell. Sometimes creative and successful names can come from brainstorming and playing around with words. It’s okay to try that, but run it by others to see if it really flies. Say the name out loud to see if it works.
7—Keep it short. Long, drawn-out business names are tiresome and hard to promote. Imagine “William’s Wonderful World of Water Wings”. Cute, memorable and ridiculous. Signage costs alone could bankrupt poor William.
8—Avoid initials. IBM started out as International Business Machines. Only when they were huge did they shorten their name to initials only. Other companies did the same: HP (Hewlett-Packard), BP (British Petroleum) and probably many others. These companies had established brands and a large customer base long before they renamed. But, do think about what your business initials might spell. Avoid names like Amy’s Secret Sauce, Barb’s Ageless Designs, etc.
9—Avoid slang, profanity and trends. Today, it’s “good to be bad”, and “sick” is used as a superlative term meaning cool, awesome, fabulous. That might not be the case ten years down the road.
10—Break the rules if it works for you. Naming a business is a personal choice. So long as you don’t break any laws or offend your customers (or the general public), you can pretty much name your business anything you like. Twitter probably would not have made it past many naming committees and yet in a short while, it has become a well-known, even iconic brand name.