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How to choose a great business name

Alvin Fritschle

By Alvin Fritschle

Alvin Fritschle is the Chairman of the Board of First Bank, a community bank serving Southeastern Illinois and Southwestern Indiana. He has provided financial advice to numerous entrepreneurs for over 40 years as a certified public accountant and the President of First Bank. Over this time, he has demonstrated a strong commitment to assisting his clients with their strategic decisions.

The right business name serves as more than just a label for your company. With a great name, you also get a top marketing platform to help you grow your brand footprint and distinguish your business from competitors. Additionally, an effective business name creates a perception of integrity, professionalism or value-for-money. All of these factors are why your business’s name may be its biggest asset. On the other hand, a poorly chosen name can lose you business. For examples, check out this list of (sometimes humorous) 25 ridiculous business names.

If you’re feeling stressed from the pressure to think of a great business name, try to relax. No one comes up with the perfect name quickly. Take some time out to play with concepts, ideas and words to find a name that suits the business and your intended market rather than running ahead with a name that isn’t really suitable.

Brainstorm a list of words and names you like, as well as a list of words that describe your business. Try different words and combinations and ask friends and family for input and feedback. Then draw up a shortlist of potential names for your business.

Here are some other factors you should consider before you settle on a name for your business.

Make It memorable but easy to spell and pronounce

Consider how your name sounds when spoken and whether it is easy to spell when people search for you online or in a phone directory. When it comes to word-of-mouth referrals, short and simple is easier to remember. Remember, if your name is easily misspelled or difficult to remember, a potential customer generally won’t waste time trying to guess the correct name when trying to locate you.

Although a longer business name may be more informative, it takes longer for your customers to say and type. In an era of mobile searches, longer names can be a hindrance. This also matters if you want your business name to be easy to remember and use in everyday conversation .. Ideally, aim for a business name that's just a single word.

Play to emotions

Scientists have figured out that emotional recall happens in the brain faster than rational recall. That is, people feel and then apply facts and information to come to a conclusion.

This is why company names that appeal to people’s emotions and personal experiences tend to be easier to remember. Emotionally evocative business names may also encourage deeper loyalty.

For instance, a name like ‘Grandma's Cookies’ can trigger customers’ nostalgia for all the great times they spent feeling comforted and safe in their grandma's kitchen, and appealing to their sense of family and togetherness.

Suggest images or positive connotation

This can be tricky, but try to think of a name that suggests an image or feeling, preferably related to your business offering. These names are both easier to recall and they also connect a positive feeling to your product. If you sell skis and snowboards, for example, names like Quest Snow and Ski or Adventure Ski and Snowboard are more descriptive than Dave’s Ski and Snowboard Store (unless Dave was a famous skier).

Reference what you offer in your name

For a business on a budget, having a name that tells potential customers what you offer is a good way to minimize the amount you need to spend on marketing. For example, if you named your mobile coffee business Express Coffee, it would be easier to market than if you were named Red Yak.

Names that reference what you offer are also better for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and online advertising. If someone is searching for a product or service you provide and it’s part of your business name, your results will be more prominent in organic search results, which can give you a competitive advantage over businesses with more abstract names.

Before you start using your new business name

Is your chosen name available?

Make sure your business name hasn’t been officially registered by another company. Check the official companies and trademark register. You won’t be able to register your company or trademark if your name is too similar to an existing business or is deemed inappropriate.

Also check registered Internet domain names – there are numerous domain providers that allow you to check this for free.

Search the Internet to make sure that there aren’t close variations in the words or meaning of the name that could be similar to an existing business. If your name is The Blue Lemur Café, for example, check for the names Blue and Lemur individually to make sure they aren’t tied to an existing business.

Think about meanings in other cultures and languages

If your name has an alternate meaning or connotation in another language or culture, your business could be adversely affected. Even if your business is currently small scale, checking that your name doesn’t have an inappropriate meaning in another language could save you from missing out on new opportunities for growth further down the track. You might want to expand your reach to a local immigrant community or to overseas markets.

Testing the market

If you have a name in mind but aren’t sure if it will be suitable, testing the market is a good way to gauge response before you commit.

Ask family, friends and existing or prospective customers to comment on the name – they might point out some potential issues you may have overlooked.

You can also ask a marketing professional for advice before you make a final decision.

Coming up with a decent business name can be challenging, but if you follow the guidelines in this article, you can narrow your choices considerably. Look for a name that gets your industry, expertise area and values across while also getting people to respond emotionally to your brand. Names that do all this in a very short space while also addressing the idiosyncrasies of the target market are your ideal options.

Have a great business name in mind? Congrats! Now it’s time to learn about presenting your business to lenders and outside investors.

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