Are you in the process of naming your business? Read this article to get a sneak peek into our naming process.
You’ve decided to become an entrepreneur. Turning your dreams into reality is rewarding, but comes with many obstacles.
The first step is naming your business. By doing so, you can start filling out the necessary paperwork, establishing your various accounts in order to accept payments, and get down to business.
Before you land on a final name, there are some very important considerations to keep in mind that may have long term, unintentional consequences down the road.
Over the years, we’ve helped several small businesses, start ups, and entrepreneurs. From establishing a new name, to [re]branding themselves, we’ve contributed to the growth of their company.
We’ll discuss the best practices, as well as pitfalls- we or our clients have learned the hard way when naming your business.
1. Understand Who Your Business Is For
We cannot stress this enough. Some of the best advice we can give that will have an immense impact on a business owner is to help them understand this profound truth: their business does not exist to service their needs. It exists to service their customers’ needs.
This seems cliche and obvious, right? You might even think you understand that.
But, do you ACTUALLY put that into practice everyday? Do you prioritize the needs of your customer first? To test this out, ask yourself a few questions:
- Do you offer ways for your customer to pay that are convenient for them?
- Do you include an email signature that has all the ways a customer might want to reach you?
- When you send a meeting invite to go on someone’s calendar, do you name it in a way that makes the most sense for your calendar, or your customers?
- Do you allow customers to contact you in ways and at times that is most convenient for them?
Your Brand’s identity belongs to the customer. It’s about how they perceive it and the emotional connection they have to it.
Your brand is whatever your customer says it is. It functions as a shortcut to remind them of the value you offer.
2. Understand the Difference Between Brand Identity and Legal Names
Brand Identities do not necessarily directly correlate to the legal entity that sells a product or service. This might also be referred to as the difference between the “company brand” and the “marketing brand.”
- Coke vs The Coca Cola Company
- Smuckers vs JM Smucker Co
- GM vs General Motors Company
- Gillete vs Procter & Gamble
3. Make Sure the Domain Name Is Available
You brainstorm, ponder, fill a notebook, talk to friends, and finally arrive at a name that captures everything you want your new business to be known for. You’re ready for the next step.
You hired a designer to produce a great logo, and now it’s finally time to build a website.
But what will the domain name be?
Because we live in a digital age, availability of a domain should be one of the very first things you consider before you decide on a name. Countless times, we’ve worked to build a website for a client who’s already decided what their name was.
After filing all the legal paperwork, they discovered that the branded URL of their name was already taken. Now, they’re forced to use some weird spelling, use a dash in the name, or use some suffix other than .com (.biz?? – never!)
That is also why you see so many businesses put “LLC” at the end of their URL, because the regular spelling of their name was already taken.
Once you find a domain name that’s available, purchase it – even if you’re not 100% sure you want that to be the name of the business. Domain names are cheap, and you can always let it expire if you decide to go in another direction. However, buying one from someone who has already purchased it can be extraordinarily expensive – like, a small fortune.
When you do settle on a name and secure the domain name, you should also consider buying every variant of the name as well. That’s not just the .com, .co, .net, etc., but also various spelling and names that might be useful. It is better to have the names and not use them, then need them and not have them. It’s not unusual for businesses to own dozens of domains all related to the main one that they use for their website.
One of the benefits of owning so many variations of your company’s name is that it can act as a deterrent from someone else using a similar name that might someday cause a trademark issue. By claiming ownership of any domain remotely close to what your company’s name is, you are proactively preventing issues of competitors doing something nefarious by buying up names like yours.
Additionally, it can help keep out anyone who might use a url that causes confusion to your customers. For instance, at some point another person will likely think of a name similar to yours to start their own business.
Rather than wait for a situation to arise where you’re now in a trademark battle, why not just own a number of variations of your brand’s name, to help deter someone from choosing that name in the first place?
Nissan – www.nissanusa.com
Zelle – www.zellepay.com
Tile – thetileapp.com
Tesla – www.teslamotors.com (however, they recently purchased tesla.com in 2016).
Some companies use domain names different from their business, even though the domain is available, such as niagara.corp, which only sells toilets. Using niagaratoielts.com would be more advantageous, and that domain name is still available.
You should also consider what your brand name will look like without spaces and in all lowercase letters.
Your UB, when as a domain looks like “yourub.com”. As opposed to My UB, which is “myub.com”
A kids clothing consignment store which accidentally became “kidsexchange” for its domain. It has since been changed to “http://www.exchangesale.org.”
4. Do an Initial Trademark Search
A trademark search is absolutely necessary if you’re planning on growing a business nationally, or if you hope to sell the business someday. To do it, you’ll need to work with a reputable attorney to help you navigate the ins and outs.
However, before you incur the expense of a lawyer, you can do some rudimentary searches on your own using the USPTO database.
It’s not foolproof, and it does NOT replace the need to work with an attorney, but it can help you find any glaringly obvious trademark infringements you might inadvertently stumble into.
Note that the database only covers nationally registered trademarks. However, trademarks can be registered in individual states only, which may still prevent you from using that name. For instance, a business can register a trademark in NYS alone, which would prevent a competitor with a similar name from doing business in that state.
On the surface, that may not seem like a big deal, but what company with a national reach can afford to NOT do business in NYS, especially NYC?
5. Understand the Types of Business Names
Evocative names tend to use metaphors, such as “Apple,” since their products aren’t literally applicable to their name. Another example is “Amazon.” Evocative names allow businesses to be more creative with how they go about picking a name.
Since these types of names aren’t descriptive, it allows the business to evolve. Apple is more than just a software company – they are also a hardware company, music company, content producer, etc.
Invented and abstract business names offer another creative outlet, since the name may not be directly connected with what the business offers. There is no blatant meaning or connection, such as Google, Pixar, or Hulu. They can be short, compelling, unique, and catchy. Invented names are similar to an “empty vessel” – they have no specific meaning.
This one is self-explanatory. A tradition that goes back as far as Ford, some entrepreneurs decide to carry their heritage into their business. Think Kellogs, Ben & Jerry’s, or the well-known Martha Stewart.
These types of brand names are fun and clever. They rely on wordplay to really leave an imprint on consumers. They utilize compound words, foreign words, puns, alliterations, and more. Two examples would be Flickr or Krazy Glue.
Acronyms & Initialisms
Acronyms and initialisms are two different beasts. Acronyms are abbreviations that can be pronounced as a word, such as GEICO or NASA. Initialism are letters pronounced separately, such as UPS or CPU.
To be suggestive, your business name has to, well, make a suggestion as to what it is about, such as Grubhub (grub=food) or Netflix (net=internet, flix=movies).
When naming your business, be cautious about using geographical locations. Going with a geographical name, such as New York Life or American Airlines offers convenience and understanding for your customer. Be careful though, that you don’t inadvertently limit your business’s ability to expand to new markets.
Straight and to the point, declarative names are a way to be blunt and direct about what your business offers, such as General Motors or Bank of America. The declaration makes the shortcut clear and adds clarity.
Other examples include misspelled, arbitrary, and fanciful – to name a few.
6. Do a Google Search for the Name
Have you ever searched for your business and found a plethora of inadvertent results? Perhaps the name you wanted is already being used, or there is a business that has a similar name. It’s important to do a quick Google search when naming your business to see if it has already been used and if so, what has it been used for. You don’t want your name to have any negative connotations to it.
7. Avoid Being Too Local
It can be tempting to include your town, city, or region when naming your business, especially if you’re opening a service-based business. For example, if your business is a gift shop near a major tourist attraction, it seemingly makes perfect sense to name it something like, “Niagara Falls Gifts & More.”
This might have some benefits early on, such as local SEO and attracting local customers. Ultimately though, it’s likely to exclude potential customers who might misinterpret that your business doesn’t apply to them. It also limits the ability for the business to expand to new geographic regions with the same brand name.
Ideally, your business is going to expand. The process of changing the name and rebranding later on can be costly and time-consuming. Avoid this mistake in the beginning to prevent having to change it later on.
8. Don’t Be Overly Descriptive
Similar to being too local, being too descriptive can inadvertently paint you as an non washable smear on the wall, and now you’re stuck with that color forever.
At first thought, you might think it’s a good idea. Afterall, you’re getting right to the point of what your business offers. You might think that being descriptive means you can be clear and obvious.
You don’t want your customers spending too much time trying to figure out what exactly your business is, so calling yourself “Sports Illustrated” or “Subway” allows people to know exactly what they’re getting.
Makes sense, but it’s not all that simple.
If clarity is your only concern and you have no desire to grow your business, then perhaps a declarative name is a good option for you. However, if your business expands offerings or changes focus, rebranding later on will – at best – be time consuming and expensive. At worst, the uncertainty surrounding it can cost you loyal customers.
How We Can Help
Following these steps will get you on the right track when naming your business.
We have a team of experts who can provide you with in-depth guidance on how to be successful in your business endeavor, from branding, design, and marketing. Are you ready to get a head start on your path to success? For a comprehensive (and fun) guide, check out Recipe for a Successful Brand.
And if you have any other questions, let’s chat.