Choosing a Business Name

One of the first things that any aspiring entrepreneur will do is choose their business name. This may seem easy, after all: a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, right? Wrong. In the business world, a good name can make or break your company’s success. A good name is more than just what you put on a business card, it conveys vital information about the type of business you are and what you value as an organization. Think about the iconic business names of today:  Apple, Tesla, GE and so on. Each one of these conveys some unspoken ideals that have been carefully crafted and reinforced in all aspects of their respective organizations. A name is a brand, and your brand will be the first thing that comes to mind when people think of your business.

Apple is known for their elegant and simple designs and operating systems and has been known throughout history as a symbol for knowledge and immortality. In addition to this, what could be more simple and elegant than one of natures most common fruits? Tesla is a name that existed long before the company and is associated by many with experimental electricity. While their company has little in common with the work of Nikola Tesla, the association in people’s minds is clear. GE, also known as General Electric, is primarily known as a manufacturer of appliances for every day households and is meant to be accessible and affordable to average consumers. While we likely did not have to explain the significance of these names, doing so helps to emphasize the weight that an iconic name can carry.

So what should you consider when you’re choosing your business name? Above all it should be short and sweet. It should have marketing potential to the extent that you can use it symbolically as well as literally in your branding and promotion. Think about what your company will do and what your core values are. Start jotting down some descriptive words that describe your core values (For a step by step guide on defining your business idea, check out our FREE ebook: The Beginner’s Guide to Growing Your Business Idea).

Next, consider some common types of business names:

Real words – Commonly used terms that already have a specific meaning. Think of Amazon, Apple, or Pandora. These types of names are often very symbolic. If you have some ideas that are real words, you can test out whether they are relevant by looking at their definitions. Try doing a thought experiment where you describe your business using the definition of the words that you have in mind. You may need to modify the definition a little bit, but the overall meaning should be relatively the same.

Compound words – These are similar to Real Words, but are comprised of more than one. Facebook, Salesforce, and Photobucket fall into this category. These names can be less abstract since each word carries its own meaning and by combining them you create a unique thought. You can use the same definition test as with Real Words to see if your idea has merit.

Acronyms – These can also be powerful in terms of their ability to relay an idea, or to condense and otherwise long name that would be difficult to remember or say in everyday communications. Consider NASA, GE or AOL.  While each of these sets of initials has meaning to us as they stand today, when you elongate them into their root words, they convey even more information. Training your customers to associate an acronym with a much longer name can help you build a brand that is easy to say and create promotional material around.

People’s Names – These can be real or fictitious. Examples include Ford, Tesla, or Miller Bros. These are short and can help give your company a unique identity that may have some personal meaning to you or your company. However, these do not typically convey any special meaning on their own and therefore can be more challenging to build a brand around. You will need to rely on your product or service’s superiority heavily to create this association in people’s minds. Often times pairing these with a slogan can help relay the proper meaning if one does not already exist.

Abstract Names – These may have some concrete origin to you, but more than likely they will be obscure to your users, or they may be made up entirely. Many people would consider Google to be an abstract name, it is actually based on the word ‘Googol’ which is a number that begins with a 1 and is followed by 100 zeroes. This is meant to symbolize their superiority in being able to return large quantities of search results . While this may not be common knowledge to the average person, they have built up their notoriety in the search world by being the best at what they do. Much like People’s Names, these often derive meaning from the value of the product or service itself. Either that, or they may just be fun to say and stick in people’s minds.

While these are not the only types of business names, they can be a great help in getting you started. Look back at the words you listed that describe your company and then consider the different types of names that we’ve outlined. See if you can create a name of your own. After you have some ideas, you should try to vet your idea by asking for feedback from friends or even strangers. If you think you have a winner, take the next step by doing some research into if the business name is available. If it is, then you’ll want to secure it quickly.

When all is said and done, you will have laid some important groundwork for your new business. Building a strong brand can give your product a winning edge in the market place and can be cashed in on later if you consider franchising or moving into new market verticals. For more information on vetting and securing your business name, check out our free ebook: The Beginner’s Guide to Growing Your Business Idea. We outline some great tips and tricks for getting feedback as well as what steps you may want to take to register your business name, secure a trademark, and purchase domain names.

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