How to Create a Great Business Name

Close up of open sign on glass door to a bakery.
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A great company name is the beginning of a great brand. It should be memorable and elicit certain expectations that will be met.

Here's a quick how-to on creating a unique and commanding business name.

  1. Brainstorm: Think about what you want people to think, feel, and envisage when they hear the name. Write down the words on paper, and then categorize them by primary meaning.
  2. Relate: Think about related words and phrases that evoke the response you want from people when they hear the brand name. Hit the thesaurus, and find a range of synonyms for those words and phrases.
  3. Research: Find out the Greek and Latin translations of your words. Figure out what colors, gemstones, plants, or animals are associated with your words. The idea here is to find unique yet apt associations and words that can be incorporated into the name.
  4. Experiment: Play with combinations of your various words and partial words. Don't be judgmental - simply put them down on paper.
  5. Reflect. Review your list and parse each name or word on the list. How do you feel when you hear those names and words?
  6. Communicate: Share the list with someone you trust. Ask their opinion and how memorable they find the suggestions.
  7. Prioritize. Throw out any words or phrases that just do not fit, and prioritize the rest.
  8. Check Trademarks: For each name that you have shortlisted, check if anyone else is using the name in your line of business. You may be able to use the name in a completely different business, but be aware that it may create confusion for both of you.
  9. Check Domain Names: You want to make sure that an appropriate domain name is available, ideally, If that is not available, you may want to reconsider your selection.
  10. Search the Name of the Internet: Even if someone does not have the domain, check if there is anything similar. That does not mean that you should not use your domain name, but you should be aware of any that might be confused with the name that you choose.
  11. Check Company Names: If you plan to incorporate, check with the Secretary of State (or other appropriate offices outside the United States) where you plan to incorporate.
  12. Check Assumed Names: For sole proprietors, check for local assumed names, or "Doing Business As" names (also known as DBA). In the United States, check this with the County Clerk.
  13. Stake Your Claim!: Register your assumed name or file your incorporation papers right away. Also, start using either TM (trademark) or SM (service mark). You do NOT have to register them to use them.
  14. Secure the Domain(s): Find an inexpensive registrar and register your domain and any obvious variations. You should not pay more than $10 to $15 a year for each, which is worth the cost to prevent poachers.
  15. Protect Your Brand: A U.S. trademark or service mark costs $325. It's a drop in the bucket compared to trying to defend it later. However, it is not really necessary for a small local business.

Branding Tips

  1. Avoid generic names such as Joe's Bar or Sam's Hardware. These are not memorable and are nearly impossible to trademark.
  2. Avoid generic names that literally describe the product or service such as Computer Consulting Company or Appliance Sales and Service, Inc., for the same reasons.
  3. Generally, avoid geographical names. What happens if you decide to move or expand? The exception to this rule is if you are trying to establish a strong local affinity with a location. For example, a neighborhood bar.
  4. Don't restrict future product or service lines with your name. Make sure the name is broad enough to include your wildest long-term vision for the business.
  5. Try to keep the name short and easy to pronounce.