4 Tips to Choose the Optimal Business Name

What’s in a name? Well, when it comes to brand awareness and profitability — especially in crowded, competitive marketplaces — the answer is: a great deal, and possibly more than you realize.

If you’re preparing to launch a new business — or re-brand an existing on — then here are 4 tips to help you identify a name that will help you get remembered for all of the right reasons:

  1. Be unique and different.

There’s nothing wrong with patterning your new business after well-known organizations. For example, many startups internally — and sometimes even externally in their marketing material — talk about delivering “Nordstrom-level customer experience” or aim for “Apple-inspired commitment to UX.” However, when it comes to choosing a name, it’s vital to choose something unique that will create some “stickiness” in the hearts and minds of your target market.

  1. Be creative — but not confusing.

Being creative is a good idea. For example, Starbucks is named after a character in the classic novel Moby Dick. Creative, huh? But at the same time, it’s not confusing — which is the other part of the equation. As Landmark Sign Company wisely points out, clarity is especially important if you’re going to create signage for a retail store, or for attending tradeshows, conferences, expos and so on. Using unconventional symbols or an unusual mix of capital and lower case letters may look fine on a website, but could fail to translate well into physical signs, banners, car wraps, and so on.

  1. Think ahead.

About 20 years ago, a flurry of new businesses raced to put an “i” or an “e” in front of their name, in order to tap into the emerging digital world. However, these days it’s almost anachronistic to see these prefixes (even Apple, which did a lot of the heavy lifting for this approach, is leaning back to move conventional naming). The takeaway here is simple: it’s fine to tap into a movement or trend, but keep in mind that things can and will change — and you don’t want your once-futuristic name to actually start dating you, and making your business seem old school.

  1. Check availability.

Last but certainly not least, we’ll focus on the least creative and interesting, yet most important piece of the business naming puzzle: make sure it’s available! The last thing you want is to build equity in your brand, only to get a phone call, letter or email years from now from a lawyer telling you that you need to cease and desist using your business name, because the right to use it is owned by someone else. Ensure that you check out name availability via your respective State’s incorporation site. And while you’re it, conduct a domain search so you know what URLs are available for different naming options.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, your business will succeed or fail based on the value you deliver, the customers you impress, and the competitors you go head-to-head with — and emerge triumphant. However, your business name will either be an ally in that fight, a neutral observer, or a liability. The above tips will help ensure that your name is an ally now, and for years and decades to come!

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