How to Come up With a Business Name: 11 Tips for Success
This post was last updated on May 11, 2021.
The name of your business has a long-lasting impact on your marketing and branding efforts. That’s why the process of coming up with a business name is so critical.
In the past, finding a name that could capture the essence of a brand wasn’t always easy. Now, with the help of a business name generator, paired with guidelines provided in our article, entrepreneurs can efficiently check off this essential step to starting a business right away.
Here are 11 actionable tips for how to come up with a business name that will stand the test of time:
How to come up with a business name
01. Use a business name generator
As we mentioned above, using a company name generator helps streamline the brainstorming session. Start by writing down three simple things: Your type of business, a word you want to include in the name, and how you would describe your brand. These are just a few of many components that go into naming a business, so be sure to address them while working with the algorithm.
As you come up with descriptive terms, you should ask yourself what you want your business name to communicate. Start by checking for specific terms that are likely to be associated with your product or service. For example, if you’re launching an online store that sells natural foods, you might want to include words like “raw,” “green,” “fresh,” or “organic.”
Once you type in these words, let the tool produce a large list of options for you to choose from. To further help narrow down the choices, you can perform some market research to see what your competitors are naming themselves and whether it’s working for them or not.
02. Create a mash-up
Besides being fun, the notion of combining two existing words can result in a distinct blend that’s both original and captivating. That’s why mash-ups work surprisingly well when naming a business, such as Groupon (group and coupons) and Instagram (instant camera and telegram). Not only are these portmanteaus more interesting than the words our dictionaries have to offer, but they are also packed with purpose.
Begin creating your own mash-up by writing down words associated with your product or service. If your business has two or more concepts, this is a great opportunity to make sure both ideas are reflected in the name.
Then, remove the end of the last syllables of the first word and the beginning syllables of the second word. Write your frankenword down on paper and scan it once with your eyes. Is your newly invented word unsightly, or does it have character?
If it needs more work, consider playing around with the spelling of the names to give it more polish, like Netflix (internet and flicks). After all, this name will leave a significant mark on your official business plan document, so you’ll want to make sure it looks professional and authoritative.
03. Don’t complicate it
Choosing a business name that’s easy to say and remember will boost your brand recognition. Avoid using hard-to-spell names that can confuse potential customers. You don’t want to go around correcting others' misspelling due to lack of clarity. At the same time, avoid being generic; coming with an original business name for your venture will help differentiate it from your competitors.
04. Appeal to your audience’s interests
A great name should create some buzz around the business and its offering. Take the example of the supermarket giant Whole Foods, whose name suggests health and wellness to its target market yet is broad enough to appeal to all food shoppers.
The name of your business doesn’t have to convey an obvious meaning but it should resonate with your audience by evoking a particular interest, memory or feeling.
05. Pick a name that’s scalable
As a rising small business owner, there are many decisions you’ll need to make when getting your business off the ground. While there’s no way to predict what your company will look like in the coming years, you should choose a business name that won’t limit your entrepreneurial growth over time.
Imagine if the skateboarding shoe company Vans picked a name focusing on footwear alone. This international company has become a household name for much more, including clothing, fashion accessories and backpacks.
When coming up with a business name, avoid those that are two specific - after all, Nonna’s Gnocchi could easily expand and offer other types of pasta. Likewise, avoid names based on a single geographic location - you might extend to other cities, countries or continents.
06. Consider acronyms of the name
Along the lines of keeping it short and simple, consider the acronym that will follow before you choose a business name.
An acronym is a term formed from the first letter of each word in a phrase. In fact, there are several multi-billion dollar companies that are better known by their acronym than their full name, including IBM (International Business Machines) and CVS (Consumer Value Stores).
Though you might not want to use an abbreviation of your business name, your customers or other companies might refer to its initials anyway. Spend some time to properly investigate the meaning of your name’s acronym in order to evade an embarrassing result.
07. Beware of trends
Businesses that have successfully evolved over time share one thing in common: they’ve avoided falling into the trend trap. In a rapidly changing world, something fresh and promising can quickly become yesterday’s news.
Take the case of the recent ‘drop the vowel’ trend and the rise of brand names like Flickr, Grindr and Scribd. While it might have seemed hip or cool to do at the time, it still poses challenges like not being so easy to say, spell or recognize worldwide. Instead, you’ve got to strike a balance between choosing a business name that is both contemporary and timeless over the flavor of the week.
08. Tell your story
Storytelling is about creating connections with other people. That’s because a great story evokes certain feelings and emotions, allowing any business name behind it to bask in its glory.
Take the example of Ben & Jerry’s global ice cream takeover. Today, the name celebrates the grassroots success of two men, Ben and Jerry, who never gave up on their dreams. “With a $5 correspondence course in ice cream-making from Penn State and a $12,000 investment ($4,000 of it borrowed), Ben and Jerry opened their first ice cream scoop shop in a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont,” says its website. By incorporating themselves - and therefore their unique story - in the business name, they created a product that embodies the virtues of hard work and industriousness.
09. Make sure it flows
Do a necessary check of your business name by reading it aloud and paying attention to the way it sounds. You want to foresee whether it sounds good or not when said in conversation, video or audio recordings.
Use your name in sentences and speak about it with your acquaintances. How does it roll off the tongue? If a person has a hard time pronouncing your business name, then they might be inclined to avoid talking about it all together, which is far from ideal.
10. Test it with an audience
An effective way to validate your business name is by reaching out to friends, family, partners and investors to get their insight. Talking with them at this early stage of your business can give you further inspiration or have you rethink your name choice.
During these conversations, provide a list of questions for them to answer, such as What feelings does the name give you? and Do you find it easy or difficult to spell?. Guiding their attention to these aspects could lead to more constructive feedback.
If you catch yourself having to explain a long and complex story about your name, consider this an undesirable outcome of what you’d hoped to accomplish. You want your business’s name to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue, so it should be snappy and memorable without requiring an explanation.
11. Check that it’s available
Make sure that you can take ownership of your chosen business name and that it’s not already being used by other companies. In order to do so, there are a few places you’ll need to check:
Search engines: Turn to places like Google and Bing to see what comes up when you search your name. Additionally, if you do business internationally, check for cultural references across the countries you plan on doing business in.
The domain availability: It’s extremely important as a business owner to have an online presence through the lens of your very own website. When you create a website, your domain name should be closely associated with the name of your business. So it’s crucial to check that this domain hasn’t already been taken.
Social media platforms: Do a search on social media to make sure that the name is available. Your Instagram handle, Facebook Business Page, and the other social media branding aspects of your future business are just as important as your domain name is.
Your local business registration service: Lastly, check that someone else didn’t already register a business name similar to yours. If you live in the U.S., you can check with Uspto.gov. If you are located elsewhere, go on the host country’s government website and familiarize yourself with the process there for setting up a business.
Do a final run-through before sharing it with the world. Can you see the name splashed across a billboard or in the news? Close your eyes and try to imagine that actually happening. This will allow you to truly see if it’s a fit.
Let the idea to marinate overnight, or even for a few weeks before making your business name official. Remember that changing it later on - in legal documents and branding assets - will be a lot more complex than doing it right now.
Needless to say, we trust that you are equipped with the right tools and skills to take your entrepreneurial venture to new heights. After all is said and done, no matter how you come up with a business name, make sure you’re personally happy with it.
By Cecilia Lazzaro Blasbalg
Wix Blog Writer