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Deciding on your business name

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One of the most important decisions you’ll ever make in business is your choice of business name. A good name can create the perception of integrity, professionalism, or value-for-money. It could be your business’s biggest asset. A poorly chosen name can discourage potential customers by making your business appear farcical, or even offensive.

What’s in a name

If you haven’t thought of any names yet or the names you’ve come up with aren’t suitable, the first step is to relax – hardly anyone comes up with the perfect name straight away.

Take some time to play with concepts, ideas and words to find a name that fits your business and its intended market. Running ahead with a name that isn’t really appropriate will result in additional costs further down the road.

There are some handy tools to get you started:

  • A basic thesaurus or dictionary – This will give you endless options and allow you to gather words together to create potential names
  • Free or low-cost naming programs – There are a number of computer programs that will calculate names for you on the basis of keywords you enter from a database of common words and phrases

Draw up a list of words and names that appeal to you, as well as a list of words applicable to your business. Try different words and combinations, then create a short list of potential names for your business.

Make it memorable

Being creative can help your business stand out, but its name also needs to be easy to spell and remember. If a potential customer types in your website, it only takes one misspelled letter for a browser to declare they can’t find the server – or worse, take them to the site of another business.

Think about how your name sounds when spoken and whether it’s easy to spell when searching for you online. Short, simple names are easier to remember for word-of-mouth referrals. Avoid SMS-style abbreviations or slang unless you’re sure this will suit your target market and won’t discourage customers.

Use humor

You might be tempted to play on words or incorporate humor in your business name. For example, a hair salon owner might have their heart set on the name Curl Up and Dye. Whether this works or not will depend on the nature and size of the business, whether you need to portray a professional image, and what appeals to your target market.

If you’re at all uncertain about the name:

  • Canvass the opinion of close friends
  • Run a poll by possible customers
  • Get some professional advice from a marketing expert
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Invoke an image or positive connotation

This can be tricky but try to think of a name that invokes an image or a feeling, preferably related to what your business offers. These names are both easier to recall and link a positive feeling with your product. If you sell skis and snowboards, a name such as Adventure Ski and Snowboard would be more effective than Dave’s Ski and Snowboard Store.

Reference what you offer

For a business on a budget, having a name that tells potential clients what you offer is a good way to minimize money spent on marketing. For example, if you named your mobile coffee business Express Coffee, it’s easier to market than if you called it Red Yak.

Names that reference what you offer are also better for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and internet advertising. If someone’s searching for a product or service you provide and it’s part of your business name, your results will be more prominent in search engine results. You’ll have a competitive advantage over businesses with more abstract names.

Test the market

Testing the market is a good way to gauge responses before taking the plunge. You can test the market by asking:

  • Family and friends to comment on the name – they might point out some issues
  • Existing customers or a sample segment of your target market for feedback
  • A marketing professional for advice before you make a final decision

This is also a valuable way of generating a profile for your business that could result in future sales –once, of course, you decide upon your business name.

Convey the industry or area of expertise of your company

When customers search for businesses, they apply some filters to determine whether specific organizations are relevant to their needs. By communicating exactly what it is your business does within the company title, you let customers know right away that there's a good chance you can help.

Once customers are confident you're the right type of provider, they'll usually contact you, stop in to your store or visit your website to get more details, ask questions or start shopping.

For this reason, a name like ‘Jake’s Total Vehicle Repair’ is better than ‘Jake's Shop’. It's important to get across not only the industry but also that the business does repairs. The word ‘total’ implies the shop is qualified for many repairs, as well.

Get your business values across

With thousands of businesses providing services in today's market, modern customers have more choices than ever before and are increasingly critical in their analysis of their providers. They look not just for whether the services or products are a good fit, but for whether the business matches their own goals and philosophies. For instance, if a customer is against animal cruelty, they might look carefully at how a particular meat company treats its livestock.

Continuing with this example, if you're the owner of the meat company, you might name it something like ‘Humane Meats’. From this standpoint, your company's name sets the foundation for your entire brand.

Appeal to convenience

Although a longer business name can get more information across, it takes longer for your customers to say and type. This matters if you want people to remember the name easily and to feel at ease using it in everyday conversation where they could refer you. It also makes a difference in internet searches, as an increasing number of people use mobile devices to enter URLs or search terms. Ideally, aim for a business name that's just a single word.


Coming up with a decent business name can be challenging, but if you have a few key guidelines in mind, you can narrow down your choices considerably. Look for a name that gets your industry, expertise area and values across while getting people to respond emotionally to your brand. Names that do all this in a very short space while also addressing the idiosyncrasies of the target market are your ideal options.