You’ve worked out the scopes of your business, from how to finance it to the digital content you’d like to build out. But there’s one thing you’re still stuck on — more daunting than all, due to the visibility and permanence — choosing a business name.
A business name that is too obscure or unrelatable can contribute to a company’s failure to launch.
This isn’t meant to be discouraging though. Professional naming firms spend six weeks to six months in the naming process, so you’re in good company if you’re struggling to name your new venture.
Here’s a guide we’ve put together for what to keep in mind when choosing a name for your business, whether you’re starting from scratch or already have something in mind.
Editor’s note: Got questions about putting your idea online? Get instant answers on GoDaddy Asia Facebook Messenger now.
1. Completely stuck? Try using a name generator
If choosing a business name makes your mind go blank, ask for help. There are plenty of free tools that exist to help you get started if you’re completely stuck.
Sites like Namelix can help you generate short, catchy names, simply by entering a few key words. If you have something in mind but can’t conceptualize how the name could potentially come to life or be branded, Fiverr can offer quick design help or concept creation.
This is especially popular among fashion designers and creatives — think Phillip Lim, Jimmy Choo and Issey Miyake, to name a few. But consider if having the business take over your name and identity, with the potential of one day evolving in a different direction, is a risk you want to take. There are both pros and cons for doing so, and if this is the route you’re heading down, be wary of potential consequences when it comes to licensing and trademarking your name.
2. Check to see if the name is already in use
Once you come up with one or two names you like, you should check to see if they are already in use.
A quick search on your favorite search engine can help establish if there are any similar companies or websites using the business name you have in mind. Expand your search both locally and internationally to avoid any potential hiccups down the line. You should also check your government’s website to see if the name is available:
Japanese electronics company Panasonic was unable to use its original brand name (National) in the U.S. when it was expanding overseas, as the name was already taken by a U.S. manufacturer. So the company branded its export products with the name “Panasonic.”
Doing the research for other markets ahead of time can save potential headaches and costs later.
If you’re a startup or small company, social media will be crucial to your development, as it’s a free marketing and sales tool that is replacing many forms of traditional marketing. Check if your handle of choice is available on platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, as well as APAC-specific social media platforms like WeChat, KaKao Talk and Line.
Last, check if your business name is available to register as a domain name, as ideally you will want to set up a website and you must have a domain name to have a website.
Don’t be discouraged if the .com matching your desired business name has already been registered — consider a country-code extension like .ph or .sg or one of the hundreds of alternate extensions now available. Learn more about getting a domain by reading 10 tips for choosing the perfect domain name.
3. Think about trademarks
While it’s not necessary to trademark your business or brand name, registering for a trademark gives you legal protection in case someone else tries to do business under your chosen name.
Trademarking is a way to avoid clashes with any competitors, as well as legal issues that might ensue.
Depending on where you’re based, online resources can provide information on whether your company name has been trademarked. In Hong Kong for example, the Intellectual Property Development website searches for trademarks that are the same as, or similar to, your proposed trademarks.
You can also submit your business or brand name for feedback on whether your proposed trademark is different enough to be distinguished from others. Once confirmed, you can apply to register your trademark. In most countries, a trademark gives you sole rights of usage.
4. Make it easy to pronounce, and appealing to a global audience
Our fourth tip on choosing a business name is more practical. Be sure to check for any potential double meanings, while making sure the name is easy to pronounce and easy to spell. Some other pitfalls to avoid are:
- Confusing or long names
- Random combinations of words and numbers (this will be difficult to remember)
- Spellings that are hard to remember or deliberately tricky
Japanese multinational firm Canon started out originally as “Kwanon” for the Buddhist goddess of mercy. In 1936 however, the company changed its name to Canon, objectively easier to spell and pronounce.
Meanwhile, some companies are able to retain both their cultural identity while being memorable for an international audience. Samsung in Korean means “three stars,” a name chosen by founder Lee Byung-chull, who envisioned his company becoming as everlasting as stars in the sky.
5. Test out the name amongst a diverse group
You’ve got a name in mind, and you’ve made sure it is available to use. Now, you just need to to assemble a focus group of sorts, informal or formal.
The easiest way to do this is to reach out to your existing network. Friends and family can come in handy, as they serve as prime audience members for first impressions:
- Does it sound gimmicky?
- Can they spell your business name easily?
- Does it fit with what you do or offer?
If you want to test the name on more than just overly supportive friends, consider running an online focus group or conducting a survey. You’ll also want to do a web search to see if there are any negative meanings associated with the name in other languages.
Use these tips to choose an amazing business name
When choosing a business name, the person who needs to give the final voice of approval is you. Will you get sick of this name if you succeed and it stays with you a few decades? Will the name appeal to your target demographic (i.e. the people most likely to buy from you)? Will it become quickly dated or hard to understand? Think of some of your favorite and most memorable brand names, and see how yours measures up.
Once you’ve done your research, choose with confidence. Here’s to many years of business success!