You’ve got the business idea, you’ve worked out the model, now you need a great business name to really kick things off. Finding the right name for your new business can be daunting, but it’s worth taking time over, even if it takes longer than you first thought.
A well-considered, clear company name can be a powerful marketing tool. This guide will provide some pointers on ways to come up with a great name for your business, how you can check the name is available and, finally, how to register your business name and make it official.
Follow a link to jump ahead or read on for all the information:
• 7 Steps to coming up with a great business name
• How to choose the right name for your business
• Brainstorming tools and resources
• Companies House rules
• How to check if a business name is available
• Register your business name
• Buy your domain name
7 Steps to coming up with a great business name
1. Draw up a list of words relating to your business service and brand identity. Make sure every word on the final list conveys the correct connotation and implication, with no potential ambiguity. Check a thesaurus to see if you have missed any words which may make better choices.
2. Take your completed list of words and delete any words which carry negative connotations, next remove any words which are unfamiliar or difficult to pronounce.
3. Take your favourite words and create a list of potential name ideas.
4. Review the list, keeping your brand objectives at the forefront of your mind as you go. Be ruthless – make sure all the names on your list meet legal requirements, and check availability of domain names and social media handles.
5. Once you have a shortlist of business names you like, give them a test-drive with friends, family and colleagues. Don’t be afraid to ask people what they really think – better to find out how the name lands before you commit to it.
6. Consider how the business name you are left with will look and feel once it’s time to go to market. Make sure the name will achieve your brand objective and be well-received by your target audience.
7. Rinse and repeat. Go through this same process as many times as you need to. Take your time to make sure you get it right, before you commit. When you’re ready you can register the name and buy the domain.
How to choose the right name for your business
As you begin working out what to call your company there are several things you need to bear in mind before committing to a final decision.
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Keep it simple
Pick a name which is easy to pronounce and spell. You don’t want to spend time continuously explaining how to say or spell your company name. And you want people to be able to search and find your business online with ease.
Select something scalable
Choose a name which will encompass future business growth. Avoid using a specific city or focusing on a single product in your business name. Giving your business a name which is too defining may cause problems in the future if you want to expand your offering.
Give the right first impression
Your company name will act as the first impression of your business. Make sure you hit the right tone, whether that’s professional or something a little different, and that the name will work across your website, marketing and signage in terms of design.
Pick a name with meaning
Businesses with names which are made up like “Google” or “Yahoo” can seem appealing, but these ultra-short names can be incredibly expensive to brand. Not only will the domain name cost you more due to the shortness of the URL, the branding required to make a meaningless name relevant in your industry will cost both time and money. Instead, aim for a name which conveys something meaningful and relevant to what you do.
Don’t be dull
Aim for a name which is instantly informative about what your business offers. The aim is to stand out from the competition while still sounding professional, trustworthy and reliable. Your name needs to sound like a firm your customers would be happy to be associated with.
Make it catchy and memorable
In an ideal world, you need a name which is interesting while avoiding anything too unusual. Whatever you land on, you want your future employees to tell other people where they work with zero hesitation and, more important, a name which will resonate with your target market.
Say it out loud
Make sure what looks good written down, sounds good when spoken aloud. You don’t want to find that it’s hard to tell what your business is actually called, or how it is spelled when someone is talking about it.
Be sure you can live with it
This is your business and you’ll have to live with the name for many years to come. Take the time to make sure you’re happy with your final choice and that it does a good job of resonating with your customers too.
Brainstorming tools and resources
From online business name generators to branding agencies dedicated to helping you find the perfect name for your company, there are plenty of ways to get a fresh perspective on things.
Useful online tools:
Shopify Business Name Generator will help you generate business name ideas and, if you land a name you like, will instantly check if the domain name is available to buy.
NameMesh is a brand name generator which will come up with ideas for your business name based on keywords you supply. It also checks domain name availability.
SquadHelp is another AI powered name search with the option to upgrade to a crowdsourcing feature and let creative experts help land your perfect business name.
If you’re determined to come up with your own business name without resorting to algorithms and AI, VisualThesaurus is a fun and interactive way to play with words. It works by creating word maps to help you visualise your concept in a fresh way, while still retaining the original meaning and intent of the feeling you want to capture.
And, if you’re really stuck, and have cash to spare, there are agencies who will work with you to come up with the perfect business name and brand proposition. Otherwise, if you want the help but are short on budget, you could hire creative freelance help through sites like Fiverr, Upwork or Peopleperhour.
Companies House rules
If you are planning to establish a limited company, you will need to take the naming rules of Companies House into account. This means you must avoid using:
• Sensitive words, of which there are over 200
• Any name which suggests connection to the government or local authorities
• Any words which may be considered an offence, i.e. breaking the law
• Any words or phrases which might cause offense or risk upsetting someone
How to check if a business name is available
It’s free to check whether the business name you want to use is available on the “Company name availability checker”. By carrying out this check, you will also be making sure the name you want to use isn’t similar to any other company name already listed.
Even if your name isn’t currently in use, it doesn’t automatically mean you can register it. For instance, if the name you want to use is too similar to another name you won’t be allowed to use it.
Once you have a short list of possible business names one of the first things you’ll want to do is check you can get the domain name to match. Since many domain names have already been claimed, this is when it really pays to have more than one name you’re happy to live with. You can check and buy domain names through domain sellers such as GoDaddy.com, 123-reg.co.uk or Domain.com.
If someone else already owns the domain name you want, it’s sometimes possible to acquire domain names from the owner if they haven’t yet got a website up and running. You can check with resellers such as sedo.com or crazydomains.co.uk to see if the name is for sale at a price you can stomach.
Check for existing trademarks and consider trademarking the name you want to use. If another business owns the trademark of the name you intended to use your best bet is to go back to the drawing board and choose a different name.
By checking trademarks early, you can avoid a whole heap of hassle down the line. If you later discover you have infringed a trademarked name you will be faced with significant and expensive rebranding from business cards to website or storefront causing expensive disruption, which you may not easily recover from.
Register your business name
Once you’re finally settled on the name, and have carried out all the checks, you need to secure the rights and protections to make sure the name is legally owned by you, and to ensure no one else can get in the way of launching your business.
One common way to ensure no one else can use the name you want is to establish a limited company, which allows you to officially register your company name. Unlike sole traders, limited companies are registered with Companies House and, once the name is logged, the business name is protected from anyone else being able to use it.
Operating as a sole trader won’t provide you the same level of protection over your business name, but it will allow you more versatility and freedom of names you could use. However, with a view to the future, it’s still a wise precaution to find out whether the name you want to use is available, in case you decide to form a limited company somewhere down the line.
Buy your domain name
Once you have registered your business name, the next most important step is to buy the domain so you can host a website and set up email.
You can buy and register your domain name with a domain name provider, for example, GoDaddy.com, Domain.com or 123-reg.co.uk. Once you have registered your domain, you will need to pay to retain ownership on an annual basis.
Pay attention to the domain extension you are buying. Otherwise known as a Top Level Domain (TLD), the domain extension refers to the last part of the domain name, for example, .com, .co.uk, .biz etc.
Wherever possible you should aim to register both the .com and .co.uk versions of your domain name. Owning the .com extension lends your business global credibility and will help your business get found more easily in online searches.
If your business is targeting a purely UK audience, .co.uk alone may be a better, and potentially cheaper, option and still has more credible standing in Google searches than .biz, .name or .pro might offer.
Giving your new business venture a great name will pay dividends when it comes to marketing and promoting your brand image, so it’s worth taking the time to get it right. There’s a lot to take into account but stick to the principles outlined here and you’ll be more likely to end up with a business name which will serve you, your business and your customers for many successful years to come.
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