10 questions to help find your new business name

New to business? Need a company name? You’re in the right place.

So you’ve had lots of potential business names flying around… have you written them down yet? Get a record of them in writing, so you can give yourself some distance from the list and let them simmer… while you do that, you can make sure you know the answers to the following:

  • What does your business do?
  • Who does your business attract?
  • Why should people come to you for your product/service?
  • Do you have a mission statement? (If not, write one – it can just be a sentence to get you going.)

When it comes to naming your business the challenge is to separate the good ideas from the bad – and find something that will truly help you establish your business. When choosing a business name, you’re trying to find the balance between catchy and quirky, informative yet not confining and of course, memorable – but not memorable for the wrong reasons!

You don’t have to love the name, but it’s helpful to like it. Take a look at your list, and consider the following questions to help you boil it down to just a few of choices.

Let’s begin!

What do you want the name to accomplish for your company?

What will the name convey and communicate to your target audience – does it provide a good first impression?

Like a mission statement, a business name should reinforce what your business is all about. The more your business name can tell a potential customer, the less you’ll need to explain to them about your business. What do your name choices say about you?

Will the name be too limiting?

Having a name that could become limiting for your business in the future could affect your business growth, particularly if you intend to expand your products or services down the line. For example, a name that reflects the geographical location of a business could make it difficult for them to extend their brand to new areas.

Choosing a name with growth potential or without a specific anchor, can help a business flourish. It may not be something you’re thinking of now as you set things up, but depending on your business plan and future goals, it could save you a rebrand or re-structure in a few years time.

Does the name make sense for your type of business/industry?

Does it fit with what you do? When someone hears your business name, do they think of the right business type and industry? This is actually a great question to ask friends, family, your potential target market – or even a focus group. You want them to hear the name as you hear it and for the right reasons too.

Is the name easy to remember/spell/pronounce?

If you can’t remember it, spell it or say it – it’s not the business name for you.

Simply test it, type it and try it. If it doesn’t work, cut your losses and throw it.

How will potential customers first encounter your name? (online, printed advertisement, business card?)

How do you expect your customers to find you? Are you primarily based online and through digital advertising, or will you build relationships with customers and clients in person? You might consider whether you will be regularly attending events, public speaking or simply having a presence in the public eye, ie: working in a central location. It can be helpful to visualise potential business names and branding ideas on physical objects or promotional materials.

Knowing your business needs across both digital and print mediums can help you gain clarity for how your business will be seen. Having specific business intentions or expectations for your business brand or design will help you move forward with a clear focus.

Does the name easily lead to a discussion about your brand story or positioning?

A great business name can position a business particularly well for sharing their unique brand story or the history that makes their business different – their USP (unique selling point).

Is your chosen business name reflective of who you are and what you stand for? What does your brand story and evolution of your business say to your customers?

Is it only meaningful to you?

It can be very tempting to come up with a business name that means a lot to you, but unfortunately it won’t mean anything to anyone else and is unlikely to create a strong foundation for your business.

Generally, business names that are a little abstract and chosen for personal reasons usually cause confusion or create a lack of understanding in what the business actually offers. Ask a focus group or test audience to see if it works or not!

Is the name visually appealing?

A business name that works visually really puts the cherry on top! Certain words often seem more appealing than others – for example, rounded letters are often more visually appealing than some angular letters – sharp K’s, R’s or T’s. Generally, this comes down to font, design and personal preference – but it’s good to be aware of too.

The potential to make a business name work also comes down to how it fits with the business, the industry and the people that work there. The ‘visual package’ is key to your branding, marketing and appeal to customers – so naturally your name is a part of that. It’s just important it fits into the bigger picture too.

Have you conducted a proper trademark/domain name/social media properties search (as applicable)?

There’s no use in having an amazing name, only for it to already be taken, trademarked or tainted by someone or something else.

The amount of research you do at this point will also depend on whether you intend on becoming a limited company at some point. You can find out more about setting up your business on gov.uk and check whether a limited company name is taken through companies house. It’s easy to do a simple google search to see if someone has already had the same idea as you. This can be particularly handy if you’re looking to work locally and don’t want to get confused with another business. Remember to check your domain is available to buy too!

Does the name lend itself to undesirable abbreviations or associations?

We’ve all seen stories where business names appear poor in taste, share groan-worthy puns or when put into a url, most certainly don’t convey the message they were meant to. As a business owner, it’s not a great position to find yourself in.

The last thing you want to find out is that it there’s something rude/awkward/negatively associated to your brand new business name.. after you’ve created the business, got the branding and bought the domain name.

So if the name is more than a single word, remove the spaces as you would for a website url and check there’s nothing unsightly hiding in the space!

The lesson is – look between the lines and spaces, check and double check!

Finally… time to dot your i’s and cross your t’s

Ideally, after filtering out your potential business names with this list of questions you’ll be left with just a small selection of potential winners (ideally a couple, and hopefully no more than 5)!

It’s now time to make a final decision – so, how do you do that? It may have only taken you a short amount of time to go through these questions, but it’s not unusual for the entire process of choosing a business name to last a few weeks or more. If you’d have outsourced this process, it would take anywhere from 6 weeks to a few months to potentially put the right name into place and create a brand to match.

Having said that – there are 3 steps to help you follow this process:

  1. Don’t rush it – it’s important to feel confident about who and what your business is.
  2. Don’t overthink it or the job can become a bigger task than it is and less of the fun, creative process it was meant to be.
  3. Start at the beginning and trust your gut… deep down you’ll know the right name when it’s right.

Last but not least… don’t forget your market research!

After you’re clear which name best fits your objectives and your vision for the company, it can help to discuss it with others to be sure you’re not alone in your opinion.

Market research is a great way of testing your business name in the real world – a peer review or testing group is an ideal way to learn how your potential business name appears to others, what message it sends and how it’s received.

Talking about your options out loud can also help to hear how it sounds in context. If it doesn’t sounds right, you’ll know immediately and can move onto the next choice.

I’d love to hear what business names you come up with – keep me updated in the comments and drop me a message to tell me all about your business story.

I’d love to hear how your business has grown from concept to reality! Contact me at: enquiries[@]katiebirks.co.uk or via my contact form.

Thanks for reading!

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