How To Name Your Business

The name of your business is your first chance to influence your potential customers. Even though it may seem like a minor matter, that name says a lot about who you are and what you do. Here are just a few reasons why your business name carries a lot of weight.

1. Choosing a Name

The name of your business is your first chance to influence your potential customers. Even though it may seem like a minor matter, that name says a lot about who you are and what you do. Here are just a few reasons why your business name carries a lot of weight:

  • The branding of your business begins with the name you choose for it – it’s your first chance to introduce you and your products or services to a world of potential customers.
  • The name of your business will be passed around by word of mouth, by your website and by your packaging – clearly, it needs to carry a message you can be proud of.
  • Your business name distinguishes you from other businesses, particularly those in competition with you.
  • Your name needs to be short, simple, memorable, and indicative of the type of business you’re in.

With all of these factors riding on a single name, you can see that choosing that name should not be done quickly or thoughtlessly. It’s time to sit down with people you trust, haul out your thesaurus, search the ads and websites relating to your products or services, and try out some choices. Here are some things to think about in making this critical decision:

  • Names that begin with “A” or even “AAA” will appear ahead of most other names in the telephone directory. If you are primarily drawing on a local customer base, this can be important. On a website, it can still connote a first-place standing among similar businesses.
  • Don’t restrict yourself with your name choice. For example, using the name “Widgets Unlimited” may interfere with your eventual expansion into non-widget items.
  • Try to project a specific image with the name you choose. A furniture refinishing business may want to emphasize their skill with a name like “Good As New Refinishing.” A dog grooming service might select “Pampered Pets Grooming & Spa” to appeal to upscale customers.
  • Often, choosing the family name, as in “Jack Smith’s Lawn Care,” works best, especially if Jack has a good reputation in the community.

All of the examples used above are relatively short, easy to remember, and easy to pronounce. They encourage word-of-mouth promotion and they fit easily into advertising copy.

2. Try Something New

Companies with a lot of money to spend often hire consultants to devise names just for their new companies or products. These firms come up with words that are new and different. Toyota’s “Prius” is an example. If you don’t want to spend a significant amount of money having a consultant come up with a name for your business, you might brainstorm to come up with your own great word. Just to show what a small business owner can do, a new franchiser specializing in wood floor refinishing called the company “N-Hance.” Wordplay like this can be intriguing and memorable to potential customers. You’re not likely to find your own word invention already in use, either.

3. Legal Implications of Choosing a Business Name

When you’ve narrowed the selection of your company’s name down to one or two choices, you’ll still have some work to do before you order the signage. You need to find out if another company has chosen that name and had it trademarked.

  • Conduct a trademark search by going to the United States Patent and Trademark Office website. If you select a name that’s already in use and trademarked (for example, “Old Navy Clothing Company”), you might face a lawsuit for trademark infringement eventually.
  • Your full name is the legal name of your business if you are the only owner.
  • If you have formed a legal partnership agreement, your partnership agreement should contain the legal name of the business. If it does not, the last names of the partners are considered the legal name of the business.
  • For other types of business arrangements, including corporations, the legal name of the business is the name registered with the Office of Corporations of your state.
  • If, in the above situations, a different name than the legal name will be used for the business, you must file an Assumed Name with the county clerk of the county in which you reside. For example, if Mary A. Smith decides on “Exotica Pets” for her business name, she must file an Assumed Name or DBA with her county clerk. This is also referred to as a “fictitious name” filing.

If you are starting a business, even if it’s a sole proprietorship, you’ve probably considered hiring a lawyer. You are undoubtedly using one if you are starting a partnership or a corporation. You would be wise to ask his advice on the issue of trademarking your business name. Trademarking is not a requirement for starting a business, but it can help to avoid problems down the road, should you decide to expand.

A final thought: with luck and hard work, you’ll be seeing your business name every day for years to come. Consider all the criteria we’ve mentioned here, but most important of all, make sure your choice is a name you can be proud of for a long time to come.


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