How to Name Your Business (infographic)

What’s in a name? For a business, the answer may as well be “everything.” Naming a business is the first step to creating a brand that customers will recognize and remember. That’s why every business owner wants to nail down their company’s essence - the first time, if possible.

So how should someone go about naming their business? There are 5 crucial steps: list keywords related to the business, create a long list of name ideas (in other words, don’t go with a first instinct and forget to brainstorm alternatives), avoid names and trademarks already in use, consider how your business name fits into your brand, and check web domain and social media availability before committing. Each step is best completed in the order listed, and none of them should ever be skipped. No one wants to commit to a brand name only to be sued by an existing company or learn they can’t use it as their social media handle.

As for what makes a business’s name a good fit, there are several factors to consider. In a famous example from 1968, Subway began its life as “Pete’s Super Submarines.” Unfortunately, everyone who heard the name aloud thought it was “Pizza Submarines,” a name fitting a pizzeria far better than it did a sandwich shop. Good names for businesses clearly define what the business does. More than that, names ought to revolve around a core principle or an idea. In 2018, “Weight Watchers” rebranded as “WW” on their logo to show more support for the growing body positivity movement. Other things a business’s name needs to do is set it apart from its competitors and be easy to remember, spell, and pronounce.

Also note: while it can be tempting to use a funny business name, clarity is always better. Funny business names can confuse customers. A great name for your company needs to make sense to customers from the get go.

Not super creative with names? Business name generators exist for this explicit purpose. Search one on the web and see if any of its results strike a chord. Generators can be a great help in the second step of the naming process.

What if a business messes up? What are the consequences for starting a business with a bad name? While these mistakes can happen and are fixable, they aren’t desirable by any means. A poor business name can signal that a company lacks self awareness (doesn’t realize a hidden implication in their business’s name, like what occurred in the Subway example), attention to detail (didn’t check to make sure no other company had their same name, for one), or due diligence. An example of a company failing to check out their trademark is the “World Wrestling Foundation” in 2002 when they were sued by the World Wildlife Fund over the “WWF” trademark and forced to change over to WWE.

Even if a business doesn’t get dragged into a pricey lawsuit, the cost of rebranding includes refiling with the IRS plus state and local governments, updating legal documents and contracts, changing trademarks, patents, and copyrights, buying new advertising and promotional materials, and paying to update your company website and logo. Altogether, a small business could spend up to $180,000 on rebranding. No one wants to incur those sorts of expenses, especially not in the early days of their business.

So go the distance the first time; do what it takes to get the business name you want right the first time and avoid the pain and hassle of ever needing to change it.
Read next: How To Make Your Mark With Personal Branding (infographic)
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