5 Steps to Naming Your Business

Want to come up with a great name for your business? Nowadays you have to worry about lawsuits, SEO, even whether or not the Instagram handle is available. Here are five essential step to doing it right. 

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Brainstorm Options—A LOT of Them

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A great name is the beginning of a great brand. It should be memorable and create a certain feeling when heard. Here's a quick how-to on creating one and making sure it's not already used. 

Start brainstorming! Think about related words and phrases that evoke the feelings you want. Hit the thesaurus and find all the synonyms for your words and phrases.

Find out the Greek and Latin translations of your words. Figure out what colors, gemstones, plants, animals, etc., relate to your words.

Start playing with combinations of your various words and partial words. Don't be judgmental now—just make a list.

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Do Your Research

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In the fall of 2014, a tiny company in Austin, TX that had been in operation for a couple of years started hearing from outraged individuals all across the country via social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. What was the outrage all about? Their name -- Strange Fruit PR. 

The controversy exploded quickly and soon encompassed hundreds of Tweets from all over the nation. While the founders of the company protested that they meant nothing controversial with the name, critics pointed to the well-known Billie Holiday song, Strange Fruit, an indelible portrayal of the gruesome legacy of slavery and racism in the United States. In the song, the term "strange fruit" refers directly to Black men and women who were lynched in the South. 

By Sunday, December 7th, the company had shut down its website, Twitter feed, Facebook page, and Instagram. But their naming gaffe highlights a number of issues that should be of concern to all entrepreneurs. 

Choosing a great business name is more than finding something that sounds good to you. Here's how to avoid some of the biggest pitfalls when it comes to naming your business. 

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Think About Google

The digital world has certainly complicated the process of finding a business name. 

Imagine you want to open an amazing sandwich shop and you think Salt and Pepper is the best name ever. Just try Googling it. There are endless results, as well as a well-known musical group. Your chances of ranking for such a generic string of words is very slim, so sometimes it pays to think of a more unique name for your business. 

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Find a Good Domain Name

You need to first find an avaliable domain, then name your business, right? 

Well, maybe not. Before you spend a lot of time trying to come up with a convoluted, made up word for your business, consider the fact that many SEO experts suggest that studding your domain with keywords might pay off.

Imagine you run a florist operation called "Eve's Floral." While evesfloral.com may be taken, it might make sense for you to choose keywords for your business instead such as "fastfloristdelivery.com" or "creativefloraldesigns.com." That way, you'll capture attention from people searching for your services. You also may want to buy up several variations (including misspelled versions of your business name), to make sure you are capturing all possible traffic. 

If at all possible, work to get a .com domain. While .net and .org are acceptable alternatives, they may present barriers to your customer remembering your domain name. By that token, avoid unusual characters such as hyphens. Avoid words that are difficult to say or spell, or can be easily confused with something else. 

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Protect Yourself

Stake your claim!

There's a wonderful small gourmet foods shop in my neighborhood called Blue Apron Foods. They sell cheese, charcuterie and fancy chocolates. They also have a Yelp page where people complain about late deliveries and unsatisfactory meals. Which is odd, since Blue Apron Food offers neither meals nor delivery. A well-funded San Francisco-based startup named Blue Apron, which delivers cook-at-home-kits to busy professionals, is doing business by the same name.

So what could Blue Apron Foods have done differently to avoid that confusion? They could have taken steps to protect their name.

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.