Is there such thing as a perfect business name? You may want to name your business after yourself, but if you’re just starting out and don’t have a well-known name in your field, does your name really tell customers what your business does? And while made up words may be trendy for company names, you don’t want your business name to be too obtuse because no one will understand what you do. Likewise, you can’t choose a name that’s too narrow in vision in case your business expands in product, services or location. (That’s why Jeff Bezos chose the name Amazon for his company, even though for years it only sold books.) You also need to make sure you don’t choose a name already owned by another business.
One way to start brainstorming business names is to start with the root word of your business’s core product, industry or function. Look up synonyms and then start doing some word association to see what you come up with.
Here are a few more tips to find your perfect business name:
What image are you trying to project? Business names today with -ify endings like Shopify or misspellings like Tumblr tell today’s tech savvy customers you’re young and hip to new trends. On the flipside, a trendy, techy name may turn off an older, less techy customer so be sure you know what vibe you want your business name to conjure. Whether you’re shooting for educational, professional, or kid-friendly, your business name should reflect the correct tone, so customers know what to expect.
Make sure it makes sense. No one is going to remember your business name if it doesn’t in some way reflect what your business does—no matter how clever you try to be. If you insist on using your own name (generally not a good idea, especially if you want to sell your business one day), consider adding a simple descriptor such as Mike’s Mobile Car Wash.
Simple is better. Keep it simple but make it clever. There is power in simple business names that are easy to pronounce and spell, but that doesn’t mean you have to be boring. Another trend in today’s business names are to blend and compound names such as Facebook and Foursquare. You can even leave out a few letters like Pinterest (pin+interest). Another trick to business naming comes with the domain extension of your website. Does your business sell baby clothes? Then try WhatToWear.baby or Jumpers.baby. Today, you can’t create a business name without considering the website domain simultaneously.
Don’t be offensive! You don’t want to insult or turn off potential customers by using names that are politically incorrect or have cultural taboos. Test your name out on different audiences to gauge reactions to avoid a huge marketing snafu.
Get some help. If you get stumped, there are some great free online name generators available to help such as NameMesh, Panabee, NameStudio and NameRobot. All you need to do is enter a few words describing your business and the app will generate some ideas for you. Even if you don’t like the suggestions, they may trigger some new ideas.
Make it Yours
Before you fall in love with a business name, it’s crucial to check the name’s availability. Start by doing a corporate name search to confirm its availability. You can do that through CorpNet or going directly through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website. Once you’ve determined the name is legally open for grabs, you can file a “Name Reservation” with your Secretary of State’s office until you’re ready to incorporate your business. Generally, a name reservation will protect the business name from other businesses using it for 30-90 days. To get the most protection for your business name, you next need to file for a registered trademark from the USPTO. The process takes some time, but the protection applies to use of the business name in all 50 states.
Finally, don’t worry about the finality of the process. If you think you might outgrow your business name or it will get outdated (think of all those businesses named 20th Century), you can always file to register a name as a DBA (“Doing Business As”) in the state(s) where you will conduct business. A DBA is a name that’s different from the legal name of the company and usually the name the business wants to use when marketing itself to the public and dealing with customers.