Choosing a business name is one of the most important steps in building a successful and memorable brand. You should select a name that not only represents your company’s values and objectives but also resonates with your target audience, since your name will be the first thing people associate with your company. With countless companies vying for customers’ attention, a unique and captivating business name can make all the difference.
Deciding on your business name involves a lot more than just picking a name that you like best. You also need to check trademarks, domain name availability, Google search results, and potential social handles. Here’s everything you need to do to choose the perfect business name for your business.
Your business name should define your brand’s identity
Before choosing a business name, it’s crucial to define your brand’s identity. Consider the core values, mission, and vision of your business. What do you stand for, and what sets you apart from competitors? A business name should ideally communicate your company’s core values and set the tone for your future interactions with customers.
To begin, think about the following key pillars of your brand identity:
- Target audience: Determine the specific market segment you’re serving. Knowing your target audience helps you find a name that resonates with them and communicates your unique value.
- Industry: Consider your industry’s landscape and popular trends. Your business name should reflect your expertise and communicate your place within the competitive environment.
- Values: What are the core beliefs that drive your business? Your name should align with these values and create a strong, sustainable foundation for your brand.
Next, brainstorm a list of potential names that embody your brand identity. Connect your brand values to tangible elements for potential names. For example:
- Metaphors: Find metaphors that emphasize your brand’s core concept. These could reflect your industry, values, or target audience.
- Acronyms: Create acronyms from words that symbolize your brand’s identity. This tactic generates unique and memorable names.
- Descriptive: A more straightforward approach is choosing a name that describes your business. This can be helpful in immediately communicating what you offer.
Need help brainstorming? Use our giant library of business name ideas.
Questions to ask when choosing name
- Is it unique? To ensure its uniqueness, conduct thorough research to avoid potential legal issues, such as trademark infringement.
- Is it easy to pronounce? Select a name that’s easy to pronounce and spell to prevent confusion and help prospective customers and clients find and remember your business.
- Is it memorable? Think of strong, distinctive keywords related to your industry, and combine them in a creative way.
- Is it industry-appropriate? Lastly, ensure the chosen name is appropriate for your industry and target market. Avoid choosing a name that could offend or mislead customers.
5 steps to verify your business name availability
Once you’ve chosen a list of names you like, here are the five steps to filter down your list further and come to a final decision.
Step 1: Check for trademarks
Search the USPTO database to check if the name you want is already trademarked by another company, or if it’s too similar to another trademarked name in your industry. If it’s available and unique from your competitors’ names, then you can move onto step 2.
Step 2: Check for domain name availability
Next, make sure that the domain name you want is available. Ideally, the .COM domain for your company name should be available. For example, if your company name is “Lulu Athletics” hopefully lulu.com or luluathletics.com is available. You should ideally choose the shorter domain name if both are available as it’s easier to remember.
Do I need to register a .COM domain? Not necessarily, but it’s what most people are used to typing in. If the .COM isn’t available, other extensions that are becoming more popular are .co and .io. If you’re considering other extensions, think of your target market. If you’re a tech company with a savvier target audience, then .co and .io probably wouldn’t be a problem. If your target market is an older generation, sticking to a .COM would probably be most suitable.
A domain name will typically cost $10 to $15 per year, but a shorter domain name that someone already owns may have to be purchased privately, which can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few million dollars depending on the domain and asking price from the seller.
Step 3: Google the business name you want
Ideally, you don’t want to have to compete to rank for your own business name, and you don’t want Google to confuse it with other brands even if it’s in another industry.
For example, if you Google Lulu Athletics, Lululemon dominates the results for your brand name.
This is exactly what you do not want to see.
Even if the name wasn’t trademarked and the domain were available, it would be best to avoid this name since you would have a very steep hill to climb to outrank Lululemon for your own brand name.
Step 4: Check social profiles
Once you find a business name that can pass steps one to three, then the last step is to check social handles to make sure they’re available. While you don’t need to have the exact company name as the handle, you do want to make sure variations of it are available.
For example, if you decided on Mumu Athletics instead, check to make sure that some consistent variations of your name are available on the major social channels you want to advertise on. Ideally, they should be the same for all your social profiles for consistency.
If @mumu is not available, also try:
Even if you have no plans to do social media marketing immediately, you should still reserve the handles for the future.
Step 5: Get feedback from others
Once you’ve chosen a business name, get feedback before making your final decision. Share your potential names with your friends, family, and colleagues and ask them:
- First impressions: What comes to mind when they hear the name?
- Association and meaning: What does the name make them think of or feel? Does it evoke a sense of trust, excitement, or curiosity?
- Similarities: Is your business name too similar to other brands within your industry, which may cause confusion?
5 things to avoid
Don’t limit your business growth through your name.
For example, if you chose a name like Jim’s Cotton Socks as your company name, you would be limited to just selling socks. If you wanted to expand into shoes or other clothing in the future, you would be in a tricky situation and likely have to change your name.
Don’t pick a name that’s hard to spell
Imagine if your company name was something like Kewly Beans Phyzzio. Nobody would know how to spell it and would likely type “Cool E Beans Physio” into Google and never be able to find you. Avoid tricky spelling or names that are difficult to pronounce, and try not to make your customers have to guess what your company name sounds like.
Don’t pick a name that’s already trademarked
We went over this earlier, but if another company already owns the trademark, they’ll likely come after you for it at some point in the future. You’ll be forced to rebrand, and if you make physical products or have an office with a branded logo attached to it, you’ll need to spend money to change those out as well.
Don’t pick a name that’s too similar to other brands
It doesn’t matter if the brand is in your industry or not. If it’s too similar, then they’ll probably dominate the search results for the brand name. And like we saw with the Lululemon example, Google will just consider your new name a typo of the already established brand.
Don’t use a strange domain extension
There are so many different domain extensions available these days. For example, if your company name was Mumu Athletics, you might find that mumu.com isn’t available, but mumu.lol or mumu.pizza or mumu.me were all available for an even cheaper price than the .com. While these extensions can sound fun, few people associate them as website addresses. Try to go for the .com whenever possible.
Register your trademark
The same way you checked trademark registration before choosing your business name, other brands will do the same before naming their own businesses. Register your trademark to protect your brand from other businesses that might copy your name in the future.
Register multiple domain names
Consider registering different variations of your domain name to both safeguard your brand from people mistyping it or from other people registering it in the future. For example, if you own the mumu.com, also consider registering moomoo.com and redirecting it to mumu.com. If people mistakenly type in moomoo.com, they’ll be directed to the correct website.
Or if your business name is Jim’s Cotton Socks, and you own jimscottonsocks.com, consider getting jimscottonsock.com, jimssocks.com, and jimsocks.com as well and redirecting all of them to your main domain.
This also protects you against black hat marketing activities. For example, marketers might decide to register the mistyped domain name themselves, create a duplicate version of your website, and sell their own products or abuse your affiliate program and make people purchase through their fake site and earn a commission from you.
Choose the perfect name the first time
It’s difficult to rebrand your company with a new name down the line. Your customers become accustomed to your name and a new one can throw them off balance and make them perceive your brand in a different way.
It’s also a ton of work to change your domain name, social handles, brand design, and logos on all your products.
Once you’re ready to register your name and set up your business, it’s time to formally set up your business.