What’s in a name? Choosing a name for your small business

JohnTaylor October 23, 2011 0

Even if you have a great business plan, good financing and great employees, there’s one small, but crucial detail that can sink your new small business unless you get it right – its name.

Picking the right name for your new small business may not seem like a big deal, but it’s actually very important. Your business name is often the first and possibly only impression your potential customers will have of your new venture. Your business name can also create a sense of identity for your company and the people you employ and the partners you work with, so choosing a name that’s reflective of the corporate culture you want to have is important.

Choosing the right name for your business can ensure positive buzz and a good first impression, getting it wrong may doom your business to failure.

Even if you come up with a great name, you have to make sure that someone else isn’t using it. Many business names are trademarked, meaning that you can’t use them. Making sure your new business name is legally kosher is important to keeping yourself out of hot water, particularly if your business becomes successful and builds a regional or national footprint.

There’s quite a bit of debate about what a good business name entails. Many business gurus feel that the best new business names should be deliberately vague, an inkblot on which customers can see their own expectations, while others think that business names should be specific as possible. Opinion is also divided on the subject of gimmicky names or names derived from made-up words. In general, however, whatever sells in your niche or market is the name to go with.

The following are a few points to consider when choosing a business name.

Namestorming – Sit down with your partners, friends and family and start coming up with names. Don’t just pick the first one that sounds okay. Come up with an extensive list of potential names and think about them for a few days before narrowing down your list.

Propriety – Consider the audience you’re marketing to when choosing a name. Think about the services you offer, who’s likely to buy them and the image you want your business to present. A risqué or funny name may be appropriate for a restaurant or game shop, but a more professional-sounding name may be better for a medical billing business or tax help firm.

Poetry and Prose – Be sure your business name is pleasant sounding. Language is an important part of how we process information, so appealing word combinations or alliterative language may be helpful in forming a positive first impression.

Legality – Check to make sure whether your business name is trademarked, and whether businesses in your local area have the same or similar names. While it’s probably okay if there’s a Butts & Weiner’s hot dog stand in Connecticut and another one in California, having two competing businesses in the same town with the same name is likely a recipe for a lawsuit.

Consultant – If your start-up budget allows, you may want to hire a marketing consultant to help you pick a name. A start-up marketing consultant can cost you between $5,000 and $80,000, depending on your location and desired services, but the cost can pay off in fantastic results. Marketing consultants can do surveys and other research to test which names will work best in your market or business niche, and they can also advise you on a number of other marketing strategies to use as you begin your work.

Engage a Graphic Artist – At some point, you’re probably going to want to market your business through print or web ads. See which name lends itself best to logos and other graphic representations. Having a name that’s easy to represent visually makes marketing easier.

After putting your potential names through the wringer, you should come up with two or three winners. Think about them some more, test them out with friends and colleagues and on social media like Facebook to see what people like. The final call is likely to be a gut decision, but by applying a little thought and research to the matter, you can increase your chances of getting this critical early decision right.

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