Top 5 Tips for Picking a Business Name
Choosing a business name is a big decision. It is a huge part of your brand. It represents who you are and what you do.
So how do you make sure you pick the right one?
I struggled to pick a name when I started a company. I wanted it to be clever and fun—but still professional. I wanted it to be unique, but still clear about what I did. I wanted it to have staying power so it would still make sense as my business and services evolved.
In the past I always joked that if I ever started a company I would pick a name that started with an “A” (or even better two A’s) so it would always be at the top of alphabetical lists. This was clever, but not the most helpful or effective strategy. I tried word association. I wrote ideas on a napkin during lunch. I made lists. Then I made more lists!
After much deliberation, second-guessing, plenty of research, and conversations with trusted people, I picked Gevelinger Design LLC.
Using my last name ties into the personal brand I’d already started developing. It is unique for search purposes. The other names I had come up with either lacked real meaning, or similar versions of them were being used by other companies. It’s straightforward and to the point.
After having struggled through this process myself here are my top tips for selecting a business name:
1. Pick something that is easy to say and spell.
If people say your business name and follow it up with, “Or however you pronounce it.” that’s a problem. If they can’t pronounce it, they may also have trouble remembering how to spell it.
When people can’t spell your business name correctly it will make your business hard to find when they Google your company. They may also struggle to make payments out to the correct company name.
Bonus tip: If your name is really long or wordy it can be hard to develop a logo that can be used across all media channels. Longer names will require your business name to appear smaller in places. Think about a sponsorship list full of logos. Will yours stand out next to Pepsi’s or was it barely legible because there wasn’t enough room for it?
I know what you’re thinking—you used “Gevelinger” in your company name, and I’m not sure how to pronounce that. You got me! My name is often mispronounced and misspelled, but the positives of using it outweighed the negatives. To combat this I make sure to repeat my name when I introduce myself, and make all of my correspondence well branded to reinforce the spelling.
2. Make sure no one else is using your name.
This one is so important, yet I am continually amazed how many people pick a name without finding out if it is already being used. Sometimes they even have to backtrack after moving forward with their name because they didn’t realize someone else was using it.
After I meet with a new client I always spend time making sure their name is available before moving forward on branding. It’s not fun to tell someone their name is already being used, but it’s a lot easier before a logo has been designed.
It can hurt your reputation and confuse your audience if another business is using your name.
Here are some ways to find out if someone else is using your name:
- View LLC filing records in your state. If you are a Wisconsin business follow this link: https://www.wdfi.org/apps/CorpSearch/Search.aspx
- Check the USPTO trademark database: https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-application-process/search-trademark-database#heading-1
- Look up your name on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram
- Search on Google, and look beyond the first page
- Check godaddy.com for variations of your name as a domain name to see if they are available
If you are really worried about someone else having your name you can hire a lawyer to look into it for you.
3. Pick something that differentiates you from your competitors.
Think about how your name will sound to a customer in comparison to your competitors.
- Does it sound more professional?
- Does it make it seem like you offer more or better services?
- Does it limit the area you serve? Should it? If your target audience is limited to a geographic location based on the service you provide then it’s ok to use words in your name that tell that.
4. Pick a name that tells people what you do (or have a good tagline).
While abstract names sound cool and can be quite fun for your designer to develop a logo for, they don’t tell people what you do unless they ask or do research.
Pair the non-descriptive term with a qualifier. For example: Gevelinger Design. What does “Gevelinger” mean to most people? Nothing. But they do know what “Design” is.
To play devil’s advocate: “Design” is vague in that it could be graphic, web, landscape, interior, fashion, or architecture. True, but it also doesn’t limit the services I currently provide or will provide in the future.
Having a descriptive word will also help your company be found in online searches.
5. Pick a name that allows you to evolve.
Consider how your business could evolve in the future and whether your name allows for that growth.
One of my clients was formerly called the “Mineral Point Farmers’ Market.” As they saw demand for a larger product selection they changed their name to the “Mineral Point Market” to represent a larger variety of products.
If you are forming a partnership be very careful when naming your business with names or initials.
Partnerships can fail, new investors can buy-in, companies get bought out, situations change, and life happens. Plan ahead with a name that can withstand personnel changes.
Once you’ve selected a name it’s time to lock it down!
Register the name with your state. Think about whether you’d like to trademark it. Secure all social media platforms – even if they are one’s you don’t plan on using. You don’t want someone else to be able to impersonate you.
Have you struggled naming a business? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Are you starting a company? You might enjoy this post: 6 Struggles and Lessons Learned Starting a Small Business
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Dana Gevelinger is the owner and designer at Gevelinger Design LLC, a company that helps companies build their brand through strategic graphic design.