Did you know that there are 33 million businesses in the U.S.? This alone makes it tough to come up with a unique business name—then add in the fact that the name of your business can impact its success. Oh, and that once you name it, there’s no turning back (unless you want to swim in paperwork and buy all new business cards and collateral).
There’s a lot of pressure here, but don’t worry. Because in this post, I’m going to show you how to come up with a business name you’ll love—not just creative ideas and brainstorming tips, but also the practical and legal steps to take so you can get it right.
Who knew that coming up with a business name had so many steps? Don’t worry, most of them are fun.
This is the fun part where you get the creative gears turning. Here are some tips, prompts, and ideas to help you get a fruitful business naming brainstorm.
Yes, I know, this can be a pain in the butt, but you absolutely need to do this. It doesn’t have to be perfect—that’s not the point. This isn’t for anyone to read. It’s for you to write (or type). Because you’ll be amazed at what surfaces when you write about something versus talk or think about it. Depending on what stage you’re at, write about how you came up with your business idea, why you started or want to start it, what challenges or opportunities arose, and where you want it to go.
Now it’s time to see if there are any personal attributes you could potentially incorporate into your business name. Take some more time to jot down your:
As well as:
Did you know that IKEA is an acronym for Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd? That is, the founder’s first name, last name, farm he grew up on, and home villiage.
This strategy is helpful in a number of ways. First, it will tell you what not to name your business if you want to stand out. Second, it can give you creative ideas. Third, it will also give you some general themes to stick to. As we’ll get to later, most business names require some level of conformity, as you don’t want to be so unique that you’re foreign.
There are so many approaches you can take to naming a business regardless of industry, so don’t do yourself a disservice by only looking up business names in your niche. Take, for example, Happy as a Clam Dock Builders.
Think about how your customers want to/will feel as a result of your products and services. One word that stirs up an emotion can make a powerful and attractive business name that markets itself. For example:
Confidence Connection: emotional and alliterative business name.
We have a list of emotional words here to help get you started.
Take the words you’ve come up with so far in your brainstorm, like emotions and core values, and plug them into the thesaurus. There are dozens of cool, fancy, and fun to say words that make great business names. Take the word “bravery,” for example. Synonyms include:
The possibilities are endless.
Do you have any favorite movie characters or quotes that you can somehow incorporate into your business name? For example:
J.A.R.V.I.S is a character in the Marvel movies, standing for Just A Rather Very Intelligent System.
Archimedes is a Greek mathematician.
Dionysus is the god of wine.
There are plenty of characters in history and pop culture that can signify concepts related to your brand, so do some research!
I’m not too keen on this idea, and I doubt that you’ll actually land a business name using one of these. But they can still give you starting points for good ideas, or at least a few laughs. For example, here’s what you get when you type “events” into Shopify’s Business Name Generator:
There’s a few decent ones in there:
This is where play meets practicality. It’s time to take the names you came up with in your brainstorm and test them in the wild.
For example, the founders of Klaviyo originally went with Clavija, but when testing it out with friends, they found that no one could spell it and that “it sounded scary, like a disease.”
Klaviyo knows a thing or two about business naming.
Okay so you’ve done your brainstorming and testing and your business name choices are available. Great, but you’re not done yet. After all some business names are available for a reason. Sort of like how banana flavored lollipops are always in abundance. Here are some questions to ask to make sure your business name is fool-proof.
It might be super clever, but if it only makes sense to you or a few within your audience, it’s probably not a good idea to use. Think about having to explain the name at every networking event or to every customer. That’s why it’s so important to test out the name with people familiar and unfamiliar with your business and you as a person.
There are plenty of powerful words out there, but make sure they hold the right kind of power for your industry. For example, words that allude to strength and steadfastness are good for locksmiths and security companies, but for nursing homes or home care? Not so much. It would be better to use words associated with gentleness and kindness.
Right as rain. Perfect for sprinkler repair. Clever for a lawyer, but not a tone fit.
We can’t predict the future (otherwise 2020 wouldn’t have happened) but you do need to account for all possibilities when coming up with a business name.
A business name might roll right off the tongue, but is the spelling intuitive? You want people to be able to find your business easily in a search, and you also want to avoid confusion with anything related to invoicing or legal measures. For example, prints & printsess pottery is fun but if you want to tell someone to go to your website, you’ll lose their attention before you even finish explaining how to spell it.
“So it’s prince and princess but instead of the c’s it’s t’s….except for the two s’s at the end…”
Your business name can be a piece of art in and of itself. But if you have to manipulate the letters to indicate the pronunciation or meaning, it might lead to confusion.
This business name looks great on paper… but is it vali-DATE-tech? or va-LID-a-tech?
Spelling and pronunciation factor into the memorability of a business name, as well as length. Short is easy to remember, but it could get lost in the shuffle. Too long, and it could be a barrier to entry for customers searching for you, not to mention a design issue. Think also about how closely related it is to your product or service. This might help with brand recall, but then again, unique and catchy names are easy to remember too. It’s all about balance.
Alright, you are now ready to officially name your business! If you’re conducting business as your legal name, you don’t need to register anywhere. But if you want liability protection or legal and tax benefits, you will want to register. Here’s how to do it.
First, pick your entity type. Each one varies in ownership, liabilities, and tax filing requirements, and these requirements also vary by state. Here are some common business structures:
Depending on your state and entity, you may or may not have to register your name.
Not the friendliest of websites…
As in love with your business name as you may be, it’s not worth using if you can’t have a website that closely matches that name. It’s already hard enough to make your website more visible; don’t make it harder.
Even if you can differentiate your domain by adding something like “get” or “go” in front of the name, it may not be worth it. Potential customers performing direct searches won’t know to do this and will likely end up on the existing site. If it’s a competitor, you’ve lost someone. If it’s not, they might just abandon the cause.
You can use GoDaddy’s domain name checker for this.
Also make sure that you can create social handles that are closely associated with your name—and that you can have the same handle across all channels. If there is already a handle using your exact name, check to see how popular it is. Because even if you come up with something close enough, if the real thing is a major account that could make yours look like an unverified or fake version of that account, you’ll want to steer clear.
Be sure to register your domain name as soon as possible (before it gets snatched up!) and then depending on your business, you may or may not need to register your entity name, trademark, dba, or all three. Learn more about registering your business from the SBA.
So as you can see, naming a business is a bit of a process, but with something so final, you want to make sure all your bases are covered. To recap:
Here’s how to come up with a business name:
Here are the essential steps for coming up with a business name
Follow this checklist before creating your business name
Here’s how to name a business officially:
Kristen is the Senior Managing Editor at WordStream, where she helps businesses to make sense of their online marketing and advertising. She specializes in SEO and copywriting and finds life to be exponentially more delightful on a bicycle.
See other posts by Kristen McCormick
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