If all goes as planned, you’ll live with the business name you choose for years to come, so it’s important to get it right. But where to start?
Choosing a business name can be both fun and intimidating. The options are endless, so how do you narrow it down?
This article will walk you through the elements of a great business name, what to avoid when naming your business, and how to start brainstorming ideas.
The Five Elements of a Great Business Name
There are five requirements for a great business name. It should be:
The name needs to make it clear what your business is and avoid room for confusion or deception. It shouldn’t sound like a competitor or reference an industry you have nothing to do with.
The name should be easy to say, easy to spell, and easy to remember. This is true for anyone, but especially your target market.
You want your name to stand out from the crowd. A name that’s clear, easy and unique will be more memorable. You don’t want a business name people will confuse with others.
Most of all, the name needs to reflect your business and the people it serves. What’s your brand personality? What will resonate with your audience? It should align with your brand voice and appeal to the people it’s meant for.
You need to make sure your business name isn’t already in use. If another company has trademarked or registered the same name, you could be hit with a cease and desist. That means, legally, you won’t be allowed to use it and will need to come up with a new name, logo, and update all your marketing material. Yikes.
What to Avoid When Choosing a Business Name
- Wording that suggests credentials you don’t have. Honesty is the best policy here. You want a name that conveys what your business is about and the experience it brings. You don’t want a name that suggests credentials you don’t have, like calling a skincare brand “Dr. Cleo” when there isn’t an actual doctor involved.
- A name that could be easily confused with an existing competitor. Don’t choose a name that could be easily confused with other similar businesses, especially competitors. One neighbourhood doesn’t need a ‘Puzzlers Cafe’ and a ‘Jigsaw Coffee Co.”
- Limiting language. Companies grow and change over time. Don’t base the name of your business around one core offering if you plan to expand your business services over the years. It’s weird when a company called “Killer Frozen Yogurt” is also selling coffee and pizza two years down the line. Pick a name that will support your plans for growth.
Ultimately, stay away from anything that could be potentially confusing, misleading, or misunderstood.
How to Choose Your Business Name
Now that we’ve covered do’s and don’ts, let’s talk about how to come up with the right name.
It can be hard starting cold, so we’ve put together a free Brand Name Brainstorm Worksheet to help guide the creative process. It includes prompts and examples to help you start generating business name ideas, then suggestions to help you narrow them down.
Heading into your brainstorming session, you should already know who your business is for (your customer target), what your brand stands for (your values and purpose), and what message you want to convey (your personality, tone of voice, and competitive edge).
Your brand name should reflect who you are and appeal to the people you hope to attract. It shouldn’t be random or trendy. Knowing your goals and objectives will give you a strong base to start brainstorming.
We recommend printing a copy of the worksheet so you can step away from your computer, physically mark up the worksheet and have fun with the process.
You’ll want all business owners/partners involved in the brainstorming session. If it’s only you running your business, then great – you can get started on your own. If you’re in a partnership, ensure there is transparency with this process and that you align on your brand strategy.
Once agreed upon, encourage everyone to keep an open mind during the brand name brainstorming process.
Remember, no idea is a bad idea during a brainstorming session. Even “bad” ideas can end up sparking a series of great ideas. A brand name isn’t something you want to rush.
If you find yourself getting stuck, take a break. Feel free to walk away, do something else, then get back to it.
Once you’ve shortlisted your favourites, asking friends, family, or mentors for their opinions can be helpful. But be sure to share what your business is about, what you’re trying to convey, and the customers you’re after. If Uncle Dwight isn’t your target market and doesn’t understand what you’re doing, his opinion shouldn’t hold much weight.
So block time in your calendar (invite business partners if needed), get your Brand Name Brainstorm Worksheet, grab a favourite beverage, and have fun!
Legitimizing Your Business Name and Making Sure It Isn’t Taken
Once you have two or three great name ideas, you need to make sure no one else is using them. Specifically, you’ll want to ensure your name isn’t taken in your province or anywhere else in Canada. Not only would that hurt your brand, but it could also get you into legal trouble.
Check out “How to Register Your Small Business in Ontario” for steps to take to make sure no one else has your name and to legitimize your business.