How to name your business: 5 tips

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Your guide to finding the perfect business name

What’s in a (business) name? Well, everything.

Your business name will be what customers associate your business with. Having the right business name will go a long way in influencing the success of your business.

After all, the right name can do wonders for your business’ growth and brand loyalty. On the other hand, the wrong one can get your business remembered for the wrong reasons (if people even remember your business at all).

To get your business off on the right foot, check out these 5 tips on how to name your business:

1. Pick a descriptive business name

As far as possible, choose a descriptive business name. In other words, it should immediately tell others what your business is about.

This helps potential customers get a quick understanding of your business, even if they’ve never visited your website or store before.

If you’ll be opening a bakery, for example, then you could include bakery-related words in your business name, such as:

  • “Baker”, e.g. “Bob the Baker”
  • “Bakery”, e.g. “Sunrise Bakery”
  • “Cakes”, e.g. “Cakes and Bakes”
  • “Oven”, e.g. “Oven Fresh”

Of course, following this rule isn’t a must. For example, you don’t see Uber calling itself “Uber Private-Hire” or Amazon calling itself “Amazon Shopping Platform”.

Just keep in mind that if your business name doesn’t make your business activities obvious, you may then initially need to spend more time educating others on what you do.

But hopefully, as your business grows, it’ll become so well-known that you can skip these explanations too!

2. Don’t limit your business’ potential growth

Large Office Building With "Your Name Here" Sign

While you want your business name to give an idea of what you do, you don’t want to pick a business name that is too restrictive either.

That’s because your business name should be able to cater to foreseeable business expansions into related activities.

Let’s say you start a restaurant that sells burgers and name it “Ryan’s Burgers”. Business does so well that three years later, you decide to also sell other types of food.

As a result, you might be in a bit of a pickle. Because your business name is “Ryan’s Burgers”—would it confuse customers if you started selling non-burger items as well?

Of course, the chances of confusion would vary in each situation.

You may be able to stick with “Ryan’s Burgers” if you choose to sell other types of Western food. But if you’ve decided to offer non-Western food, then you might have to change “Ryan’s Burgers” to something that also covers your new offerings, such as “Ryan’s Restaurant”.

3. Keep your business name simple

If your business name is too long, difficult to spell or remember, then people might have a tough time telling others about your business. This could then hamper your business’ ability to get new customers by word of mouth.

As far as possible, try to keep your business name to just a couple of words. Like what these businesses have done:

  • Nike
  • IKEA
  • Love, Bonito
  • Shake Shack
  • Famous Amos

Short, punchy, straight to the point. Love them.

There’s also been a trend of businesses naming themselves by removing letters (especially vowels) from words, such as image-hosting website Flickr or co-living business Hmlet.

Such business names might still be relatively easy to pronounce. For example, “Hmlet” would still be pronounced as “hamlet”).

However, telling others how to spell them—so that they can look up the business’ website, for example—might be trickier. (“It’s like the word ‘hamlet’ but without the ‘a’”)

This doesn’t mean that you have to avoid such naming conventions. But if you do decide to use them, you should be aware of the potential downsides and be prepared to deal with them.

4. Avoid names that are too similar to a competitor’s name

Red Office Chair in Row of Black Office Chairs

When thinking about how to name your business, it might be tempting to choose a name that’s similar to that of a competitor.

After all, if the competitor has been around for some time, then using something to their “tried-and-tested” name should help your business succeed too, right?

Wrong.

Word spreads fast these days thanks to social media, so your competitor will discover your business at some point. And if they realise that you’ve copied their name, chances are that they will not be happy.

The result? They might take legal action to prevent you from free-riding off their business goodwill. Lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming to handle, and having to deal with one can drain precious business resources.

Customers (including yours) may also not have a good view of your business after learning what has happened, and stop patronising your business.

All this is more trouble than what it’s worth, and it’s easily avoidable by choosing a name that is uniquely your own—instead of a name that (intentionally or otherwise) passes your business off as a competitor’s.

5. Check whether the business name is available

There’s one final thing you need to do before you officially settle on a name for your business—and that is to check whether it has been taken.

And in the Internet age, this means not only checking if the name has already been legally registered, but also if these are still available:

  • Website domain (especially the “.com” domain)
  • Social media handles (Facebook, Instagram and so on)
  • Trademarks

If some or all of these are unavailable, you may have to go back to the drawing board and pick a different business name.

It can be disappointing to come across the perfect business name, only to realise that a competitor had already taken it a long time ago.

But it’s good that you find this out at the start before you start incurring costs to market your business under an unavailable name.

Because in that scenario, you may just have to write off all such costs, which can be an even more heartbreaking experience (both emotionally and financially).

Put these tips on how to name your business into action

To sum up, your business name should be memorable and catchy, while accurately stating what the business is about, and also be short and sweet. Picking a business name that checks off all these boxes can be quite a challenge.

Making the task even harder, your preferred business names may have already been taken—sending you all the way back to square one. 

With this in mind, don’t rush through the process of how to name your business. Give yourself time to brainstorm, and try to get inspiration from a variety of places.

And once you’ve come up with some potential business names, check on their availability. For example, you can run them through the GoDaddy.com Domain Name Generator to see if you can register them as the name of your website.

All the best in finding the right name for your business!

Siew Ann is a digital marketer and freelance writer whose writing has been featured in Tech in Asia, Vulcan Post, Website Planet and others. She also runs lancerX.co, a freelance resource blog for anyone looking to turn their craft into a sustainable and meaningful freelance business.