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Coming up with a name for your business is mostly art and part science.
You know a good name when you hear it, but choosing the perfect business moniker involves trial and a whole lot of error. If you’re just getting started, or if you’re feeling stuck, here are some business naming tips that can help you find a name you love.
Naming a business is critical because the name immediately becomes integral to the business’s identity.
A name elicits emotion, makes a first impression, and most importantly, it brands your business. In one word (or a few), it also establishes your company’s visual identity. Take Target, for example. When you see that red bull’s-eye, you instantly connect it to the company.
The bottom line is that a good name has the power to quickly communicate key things you want people to know about your business.
1. Pick a name that can grow with you
Try not to pick a name that will narrowly define what you do, especially if you plan to expand your business into other areas. For example, don’t name your real estate company Arlington Home Experts if you plan to offer commercial real estate services in addition to residential services. Pick a name that allows you to cast a wider net, if you need to.
2. Keep the name simple
Here’s another business naming tip: the name should be simple, short, and sweet. Think Pixar, Twitter, and Nike.
And just because the name is simple doesn’t mean it can’t be unique, as the examples above illustrate. “Simple” just means easy to read, pronounce, and remember.
It’s also good to pick a name that’s meaningful or that you’re emotionally connected to. According to Skillcrush, the founders of Google came up with the company’s name as a play on the word “googol,” which is the number one followed by 100 zeros. Sergey Brin and Larry Page would often joke that the search engine they were creating would provide a googol of information. Well, the joke stuck — and 20 years later, Google is doing just that.
3. Solicit feedback on the name
Once you’ve narrowed down some business names, share them with the people closest to you to get honest feedback.
Most people have a knee-jerk reaction when they hear something for the first time, so testing your business name on several people can help you gauge whether it’s the right fit for your company.
If the name is off-putting to everyone you share it with, you’ll likely need to rethink it.
4. Make sure the name isn’t already taken
If you’re considering a handful of names, make sure someone else hasn’t already branded their company with it — especially if it’s in the same industry. Search online to see if the name is popular among other businesses. If it is, you may want to cross it off your list.
You also should do a trademark search on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website to see if someone has registered a trademark with your intended name(s) or something similar to it or has already registered a trademark for a similar product or service. If so, you can’t use the name and you’ll have to choose an alternative.
And while you’re at it, search on the secretary of state’s website to see if another business is registered in your state with the same name. You may not be able to use the name in that case, either.
5. Confirm that your desired web domain is available
If you’ve cleared the trademark and secretary of state hurdles, the next thing you’ll have to do is see if your desired domain name is available. Most business owners pick a domain name for their website that also contains their business name (e.g. JetBlue.com). But if your selected name is taken, your options are to find out who owns the domain name and buy it from them; pick a different domain name or a different domain extension (for example: .art instead of .com for a new gallery); or get clever with your domain name by adding a symbol, extra letters, or an extra phrase at the end to differentiate it. For example, if expressprinting.com is already taken, you could opt for expressprint.com instead.
Arguably, no name on the planet is 100 percent original. But even if it’s common, it has to feel right for your business and clearly convey what your company is all about.
So, take the time to brainstorm some names, run them by other people for a gut check, and search online to make sure someone else hasn’t already claimed your desired name. It may take a little legwork to get there, but once you find a name you love, you’ll know it.