What’s in a name? Well for small businesses, it’s everything! A business name is a critical piece in establishing a small business’s brand and awareness in the market. Often, a potential customer’s first impression is made by reading or hearing a business name. How your name makes people feel plays a large role in their sentiments and trust of your brand.

Don’t fear, though! Knowing how to name a business is not an impossible feat. There are six steps to forming a name that reflects your business’s values and brand standards. If you’re in the process of rebranding or starting a business, you’re in the right place as these tips will get you from initial brainstorm to settling on a business name.

Review Your Brand Identity

When coming up with business name ideas, a great starting place is to revisit why you launched the business. What does your business stand for? What are the emotions your products and services seek to invoke from customers? Do you have a mission statement or unique selling proposition? Distill those core components down to a handful of keywords that describe your brand. With those keywords in hand, you can begin compiling potential business names that are authentic and accurately portray your brand.

Include Real Words

Another important tenet of a strong business name is that it’s memorable. When business names are too quirky or are not real words, people tend to forget them. When you’re building your list of business names, double check that they’re composed of real words and are easy to spell. You want to stand out, but not so much that people can’t recall the business name and search for it online.

Certainly, there are anomalies to this tenet, such as Google, but those are outliers. With millions of real words to choose from, use the dictionary or a thesaurus as a guide for selecting a business name. Keep it simple for your potential customers by having a name that is recognizable. Just because people can spell your business name does not mean it’s forgettable. Your unique business keywords play into the formation of your name, and help carve out a distinctive niche within your industry.

Consider Longevity

Entrepreneurs start businesses with the hopes that it will be a success and become a mainstay in the market. With this in mind, consider a name that can stand the test of time. Don’t jump into trendy or clever gimmicks, and avoid being hyper-specific, as you might box yourself in and limit your business opportunities down the line. For example, if you name your new business, “Joan’s Mopping Service,” and within a few years, you want to include full house cleaning services, the existing name, and accredited brand equity, are not a fit for the business’s expansion. Dream big and settle on a business name that enables growth.

Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

Armed with your carefully vetted brand keywords, it’s time to get to work. Tap into your creativity, and brainstorm 25 feasible business names. From there, begin whittling down the list until you have a top five or ten list. Vet each of your top contenders against your brand identity standards from the preceding three steps. This serves as another gut check to ensure you’re not getting too creative and off-base from your core values. After this second go-around, you should have a list of three to five business names you’re enthusiastic about and speak to your brand’s mission.

Check Availability

Once you have three to five business names you love, check their availability! Using the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Electronic Search System (TESS), you can enter your business name into its database to see if it has been claimed or not.

U.S. Patent and Trademark - TESS Database Screenshot
image courtesy of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

If your business name is free, then the next step is checking domain availability. Oftentimes, businesses have to select a domain name that is slightly different than their business name. This is perfectly fine, but ensure it is closely aligned to your registered business name, so it makes sense to your visitors and target audience. If you have a Vistaprint website, you can check domain availability within your dashboard and claim a custom domain.

Test It

Once you’ve found three business names that fit the above criteria, it’s time to take them to your target market. Do some testing on prospective clients and listen to their feedback. Ask what they like, don’t like, which name they prefer, and what, if any, associations or emotions are invoked by each name.These are important inputs in choosing the best business name for a business. You can gather a focus group or find some unbiased acquaintances that can provide objective critiques.

After you’ve collected your audience impressions, synthesize the information and apply it to your business name options. This analysis provides incredibly valuable insight that will undoubtedly impact the trajectory of your business. If there is one clear winner, go ahead and register that name immediately! If each business name needs tweaking, go back to the drawing board and integrate the consumer feedback into your brainstorming session. This upfront work will pay off in the long run.

Choosing a business name is a big step in a small business’s lifecycle. Ensure your business makes the best selection possible by applying these six steps during the naming process. You will thank yourself once your business has been around for years and is still using its initial business name.