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How to Name a New Business

By April 1, 2016April 4th, 2016No Comments

What’s in a name? A first impression, a statement of values, and inspiring vision, a description of what to expect from your business—these are all possible results of a name as well as starting points for naming a business. You have spent a great deal of time forming a business plan and building authority in your area of expertise, but do you know how to name a new business?

Here is a checklist of naming requirements to be aware of first:

  • Trademark Issues: Will you be able to trademark your new business name? Be sure to search for registered trademarks, existing businesses in your state, and do a basic Google search to see if you’ll run into possible competition for similar names in your industry. It’s quite easy to become a target of someone’s Cease & Desist letter these days. I can tell you from experience!
  • Domain Availability: With new top level domains available today like .club, .coop, etc., you are not quite as hard pressed to find a domain name that will work for you. But you need to be aware of potential domain names you would be able to use and include them in your final deliberations. Sometimes, a dot com address will be much easier to market and work with long-term.
  • Search Engine Optimization: You might have found the perfect name that resonates with people, but what does Google think? What are the first results when you search for that term? What are the associated terms? Be aware of what the existing search landscape means for any possible confusion, distasteful associations, or misspellings.
  • Unique and Memorable: Take the appropriate amount of time to vet your potential names with a small group of people. After 1 week, what names do they remember? What names stand out to them as being unique. You might have nailed an accurate description of your business in a potential name, but it might be ultimately forgettable with real people.
  • Geographic Concerns: These days, having a local focus is not necessarily bad. In the phone book, you wanted a name that started with an A or even two A’s if possible. In today’s search-sensitive and locally aware technology world, there can be quite a benefit to having the name of the city, locality, or broader region you serve as part of your name. Be aware that this could also limit your marketing options later on when you grow.
  • Translation concerns: How does your name translate into foreign languages? Take just a small amount of time with Google Translate the make sure your new name doesn’t mean something off-color in other languages. If you plan on launching in foreign markets, you’ll want to do more in-depth analysis with native speakers to catch unintended meanings.

Here are 3 strategies for naming a new business:

  1. Keyword Focus – As noted above, identify a list of words associated with your business and what people would typically search for to find it. You might also consider a geographic keyword as vitally important to reaching your target audience. Want to find new ways to combine your keywords? Try putting them into a name generator to build some initial ideas and check domain availability at the same time.
    An Example: “Seattle Janitorial Experts” This name would capture both a search keyword, geographic keyword, and doesn’t sound as vanilla as “Seattle Janitorial Services”.
  2. Values Discovery Make a list of all of the words that you would want people to use to describe the impact your business has on their lives and the community you serve. Once you have a list of 10 or so words, go back to the list above to vet them. A favorite tool for dealing with lists like that is a forced-ranking exercise. Place all ten words on individual note cards and then order them according to your preference. Doing this with a team is a thought-provoking exercise and will help you eliminate words that really don’t fit in a name, though you may have been kicking them around for a while.
    An Example: “Maximum Value Investments” This name would communicate very clearly what the focus of this investment firm is over other possible approaches in their industry.
  3. Passion & Vision – Naming a new business is an inherently personal exercise and it’s worth noting that there is plenty of room for a name that has it’s roots far back in the history of the dream of the business. Or maybe it is the passion of the founder in play. I have been involved in enough naming exercises to understand that a business must feel personal to the ones running it in order to tap into that passion. Maybe the name came in a dream, was a childhood pet, or a nonsense word that just sounds cool. As long as these names are vetted according to the concerns above, you may still have a winner on your hands. You’ll just want to look for ways to mitigate the impact of a name that may not clearly communicate what you do through the rest of your brand strategy.
    An Example: “Three Friends Salon”
    This name might not even be accurate if there are ten people working at the salon, but those three friends who started the business likely contribute the needed passion to the business as they are daily reminded of why they started their business.

Whatever strategy you chose to name a new business, you can move forward with a sense of clarity and certainty on which to build your new brand. The reputation you build will center around this identity and hopefully serve you well for years to come. Have you had to name a new business? Share what tips helped you in the comments below!


Big thanks to Adam over at Rewind & Capture for added insights. Check them out for the story behind many popular brand names.

Scott Bothel

I'm a digital marketing consultant living and working in the Greater Seattle area. My passion is to help small businesses leverage web marketing to accomplish great things!