How to Name Your Business

I am often asked as a marketing and public relations expert to help new companies name their business. Some marketing firms charge tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege. In the real world of small business it’s really not that difficult or costly if you just follow some easy to understand concepts.

A business name will effect consumer decisions about doing business with your company, so invest time and effort in the decision. A good name requires more than a trendy label that sounds cute on a business card.

There are laws, marketing principles, public relations guidelines, and social psychology that come into play when selecting your business name. For specific steps to take in making your name legal check out the web site of the Small Business Administration (SBA).

For success in naming your business pay close attention to these ideas based on marketing and public relations:

o Name the business after what you do.

o Start with letters high in the alphabet – A, B, or C.

o Check to see if the domain of the name is available to register.

o What do your potential customers say about the name?

If busy executives are your customers make sure they understand the name. If you have to explain then you’ve lost the point.

Marketers know what makes people tick and why people engage in certain behavior. If you can predict how the average person will perceive a name, you will know if that name will generate interest. Marketing insight is crucial to understanding why consumers respond to your business name the way they do.

Your business name will grab the attention of your customers if it:

o Is short, concise and easy to spell

o Can easily be remembered if heard on the radio while driving

o Can easily be abbreviated

o Identifies only you and not your competitors

o Is relevant to your community

o Meets legal requirements of your state

o Has the potential to be a trademark

o Is catchy and trendy but not so trendy that it will sound old in a few years

Don’t overlook my tip above to select a name that can easily be abbreviated. What do you identify with most – IBM or International Business Machines? ABC-TV or American Broadcasting Corporation? PBS or Public Broadcasting System? You get the idea. Other initialed businesses with strong branding are AOL, KFC, CNN, 3M and NRA. Initials work because they are simple, easy to remember, and loved by graphic artists. Remember all of these names have had millions of dollars of advertising driving it into our heads so that’s the reason we know what they mean, not because some genius figured out three particular letters together make a great name.

The advantage, of course, of starting your business name with an A, B or C is that you will appear near the top in online listings, the Yellow Pages or in other alphabetical listings such as the Chamber of Commerce Directory. If you want to get to the very top then numbers or symbols will do the same; for example, 3com and 3M. But symbols such as the @ sign could cause difficulties and actually complicate things so beware.

You might think it’s a good idea to include the city or state where you do business in your name. Think again. This strategy makes sense only for businesses that don’t plan to grow outside their geographic area or the city or state name lends cache like New York Carpet World or California Pizza. In today’s world you must understand that your business will have a physical location in a geographic community identified and located by an address, i.e. 345 S. Main Street. And your business also will have a virtual location on the Internet identified and located by a domain name, i.e. “your name.com” So when you think of what makes a good business name think also of what makes a good domain name. They go hand in hand.

For businesses that operate on the Internet, business names are synonymous with domain names. A key strategy here is to remember that a strong domain name and business name is one that will pop up when searches are conducted on Google and Yahoo! when keywords are actually in the domain name.

Check out domain names and random names at: makewords.com. This is an indispensable way to get 50 to 500 URLs using key words. For example, do you want a domain name that includes the word “iPod?” Type it in and it’ll generate dozens of suggestions with themes from Music to Medicine and tell you if the domain is available.