Choosing a Business Name

By Lisa McGrimmon | Published May 28, 2009 | Modified May 8, 2020
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Choosing a business name is a pivotal step in launching your new business. A great company name will tell a story about the nature of your business in a couple of words and support your marketing efforts. A bad company name will be a source of confusion and annoyance.

It's important to get this decision right!

To help you choose a cool company name and avoid ending up with a completely regrettable name, I've put together a list of of what to look for and what to avoid when choosing a business name.

I've also created a printable worksheet that lists all of these concepts. You can download that page at the bottom of this article and use it as you work to find a business name that's a great fit.

ARE YOU READY TO START CHOOSING A BUSINESS NAME?

I'm assuming you already have a list of possible names that you've brainstormed, and you're at the point of choosing a business name you'll love from all of your possibilities.

If you don't already have a list of business name options, you should take a look at How to Name a Business.

That page outlines the process of naming a business step by step and links to articles with more detailed information about each step. You can find where you are in the process, get more information, brainstorm a list of business name ideas, and then come back here when you're ready to choose the best name for your business.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST COMPANY NAME

If you already have your list of business name ideas handy, you're ready to get started.

Let's dive in!

GREAT BUSINESS NAMES HAVE THESE CHARACTERISTICS IN COMMON

Key characteristics of good business names:

  1. Tells the right story about your business
  2. Touches emotions
  3. Memorable
  4. Engages the senses
  5. Simple
  6. Has thematic potential
Chart of things to look for when choosing a business name

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To learn more, please see my disclosure.


1. TELLS THE RIGHT STORY ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS

More than anything, you need to make sure the name you choose communicates the right characteristics of your business.

Business naming expert and author of the book Brand New Name , Jeremy Miller, says, "By choosing a brand name, you a choosing the story you want to share."

If you completed a naming brief before you started brainstorming, you'll already have thought about what you want your company name to say about your business. Pull out your naming brief now, and keep it by your side. It will help you focus on your priorities while you're working on choosing a business name.

If you didn't write a naming brief before you created your list of possible business names, consider writing one now to keep you focused on your goals.

With the information you wrote in your naming brief in mind, take a look at your list of business name ideas. Ask yourself what each potential name says about your company.

The best company name will tell the best story about your business.

2. TOUCHES EMOTIONS

A business name that elicits an emotional response will engage your customers. Do any of the options on your list of business names touch on emotions?

What emotions emotions do they evoke?

Does that fit with the story and key qualities you want to communicate about your brand?

3. MEMORABLE

There are a few ways to create a catchy company name customers will remember.

We remember things we can connect to other things we already know. So a memorable name uses concepts that are recognized and understood by your target customers.

We also remember things that are a bit surprising. That's why you might want to consider an unconventional name.

Review your name list and determine which names are easily understood by customers. Any names that are confusing or rely on obscure references won't be as memorable.

Notice if you've come up with any unconventional names as well.

Related: Learn more about key characteristics of good business names.

4. ENGAGES THE SENSES

Good business names engage the senses, particularly with visual imagery. A name that evokes an image will be more memorable.

Review your business name list looking for the ones that use concrete words to summon images in your mind. 

5. SIMPLE

We prefer things that are simple. Your name should be easy to understand, pronounce and spell.

A business name you need to think about or constantly explain is not as good as a simple name. Review your list looking for the names that will be clear and simple to your customers.

6. HAS THEMATIC POTENTIAL

A great company name will present opportunities to expand on a theme. You'll be able to build on the essence of your name using it in other areas of your branding.

THE WORST COMPANY NAMES HAVE THESE CHARACTERISTICS IN COMMON

The worst business names are:

  1. Misleading
  2. Complicated
  3. Unoriginal
  4. Boring
  5. Limiting
Chart of things to avoid when choosing a business name

1. MISLEADING

Don't make the mistake of choosing a business name that has an unintended meaning.

Look up your possible names in a slang dictionary, and translate them into any languages that might be commonly spoken by your target customers. Make sure any name you're considering doesn't carry a negative meaning you're unaware of.

2. COMPLICATED

Does your list of brainstormed names include any options that rely on creative spelling? Or a concept that's so complex no one will get it, so you'll have to constantly explain it to customers? Those names are not your strongest options.

3. UNORIGINAL

Maybe, without realizing it, you fell in love with another company's name, and now you have a few names on your own list that are just too similar to an existing business' name. That's not a great starting point for your business, and if those names are derivative of a competitor's name, it can cause you extra problems.

An unoriginal name will remind customers of the other business and won't easily give you room to establish your own, independent brand identity. You might even end up with trademark infringement problems which could force you to stop using the name.

I'm not a lawyer, so I can't give you specific advice about trademarking business names. That's something you need to discuss with a lawyer if you have any questions.

4. BORING

Look for names on your list that lack any kind of personality. They don't evoke emotions or imagery, and they don't leave any room to build on a theme. Those names are not your strongest choices.

5. LIMITING

Finally, ask yourself if any of the names on your list are too specific and would limit the future growth of your business.

Worksheet with what to look for and what to avoid when choosing a business name.

It's not always easy to predict the future direction a new business will take, but do your best to think about where your company might be a few years into the future. Be sure you end up choosing a business name that will still work as your business grows.

I've created a handy business name worksheet you can use to track your ideas as you work to come up with a great business name for your creative business.

Related: Learn more about bad company names, and avoid these big mistakes.

More Business Name Tips

  • Choosing a Company Name

    Choosing a company name made simple. These 7 steps will help you find the best name for your business.

  • Help Naming a Business

    Get help naming a business with loads of free resources that will help you research and come up with catchy company names.

  • Business Name Ideas

    Brainstorm business name ideas for your craft business with 6 ways to come up with great company names and 4 ways to brainstorm better.

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