I’m no branding expert, but having been a part of a handful of businesses over the years (including my own!), I’ve learned a thing or two about what to do and what NOT to do when choosing a name for your business. Often, the name is one of the first big decisions you will make. It better be a good one, because while it isn’t impossible to change your business name, you certainly don’t want to do so too often. So how do you choose a good name? Read on my friends…
Do: Choose a name that allows for growth.
You’ve just decided to start your own business, you’ve mapped out your awesome idea, and now you’re choosing a name. You want it to clearly reflect what you do, so that your customers know exactly what you’re all about. So you go with something like “Wheeler Greeting Cards.”
And then a year later, you’ve found that your business has pivoted. Or expanded. Yet all people think when they hear your name is greeting cards. Oops.
Choose a name that allows for the inevitable twists and turns that every business takes. Choose a name that speaks more to your mission than the actual product or service you are selling. Go for a name that will grow with you.
Don’t: Choose a name that is hard to spell, speak or remember.
This one’s pretty simple. Don’t choose a name that is hard to spell, no matter how cool or unique it is. Nope, just don’t do it. If people can’t spell it, they can’t find it.
Why does it matter if your name is hard to say? Because when you say your business’s name, you want people to understand you. You also want them to tell other people about your business. Have you ever had those moments where you’ve thought about telling someone about this cool new business, but you hesitated because you’re not sure how to pronounce it? Don’t put your customers in that spot.
And lastly, choose a name that is memorable. If your business name bores me, I’m likely going to forget it. Make it interesting, but not too weird. Make it clear and easy enough to hear and speak so that I can remember it.
Do: Make sure the domain and social media handles are available.
While you can work around it if your desired domain and/or social media handles are already taken (for example, by adding “the”), it’s ideal if you can get the domain and handle that matches your business name so there’s no confusion.
I’m a bit of a domain collector, meaning that every time I get a new business or blog idea I buy the domain. At about $10 per domain per year, I see this as an investment in my ideas. It’s a small price to pay to be able to think through each idea without stressing about whether or not someone’s going to scoop up the domain. Similarly with social media handles – although be aware that some social media platforms will cancel your account after a period of inactivity.
I also recommend purchasing and reserving domains and handles that are variations of your business name. For example, I own oneforwomen.com and oneforwomen.co. Why does this matter so much? Because on Instagram we have @oneforwomen but someone scooped up @oneforwomen_ so now when someone searches for “one for women” on Instagram, two options pop up. Don’t make things confusing for your customers! That said, don’t make things difficult on yourself either. You don’t need to purchase EVERY domain (.org, .net, etc.) – just the most common (usually .com and .co). Also, don’t reserve every version of your handle (one.for.women, oneforwomen_, oneforwomen) – just the ones that are most similar to yours and would be very easily confused with yours.
Don’t: Choose a name that is similar to another business.
Look, it’s really hard to get in front of your ideal customer these days. There is so much noise out there and people are more distracted than ever. So when you do grab your customer’s attention, don’t lose it through confusion. If your business name is too similar to another business’ name, then your customer is likely going to get confused. If they try to find you and instead find the other business, it’s unlikely they’re going to put in the time to figure out which one is you. So keep it simple, and avoid confusion.
Do: Use your own name if that feels right to you.
It’s pretty common these days to see individuals building their own brands and using their own names for their businesses. I think this is appropriate as long as YOU plan on being the brand. If you are camera shy, or only want to put your products and not yourself out there, then choosing your name for the business doesn’t make a lot of sense.
However, if you are your brand, and especially if you are in a service-based business, using your name can help you stand out and helps your customers to associate you with your business. It can also be a good choice if you want your business to encompass a few different revenue streams – for example, my consulting, speaking and writing gigs all fall under my Meg K. Wheeler brand.
Do: Test and test again.
This one’s pretty much the most important one. Make sure to test your name out! I know it’s scary when you’re first starting out; you don’t want to tell anyone what you’re doing because you don’t know what they will think. I get it, I’ve been there. But you’ve got to get past it because you need to know if your name is going to work. Most important, you need to know how people react emotionally to your name, and that your business name is evoking the RIGHT emotions.
So how can you test your name out? In addition to asking friends and family, I recommend putting it out there in business groups, whether in person or online (such as Facebook groups) to see what people say. I usually like to do this in two parts. First, I will give them a list of potential names with no background on what the business is going to be, and ask for their initial reactions and what they think the business is about. Next, I will provide a list of names but this time I do give the background on what the business is going to do. This split approach allows me to test if my business name is clear enough to give people a sense of what the business is about without me having to actually tell them.
Choosing a business name may seem like a hard decision and it is a big one, for sure. But if you apply these guidelines and thoroughly test your name, you’ll likely make the right choice. In the end, the name needs to feel right to you, so don’t go with something that doesn’t hit the mark. And even though changing your business’ name can be a lot of work, it’s not impossible. Don’t force your business to fit the name if it’s no longer working for you.