Choosing your business name

One of the most important decisions you’ll ever make in business is your choice of business name. A good name can create the perception of integrity, professionalism, or value-for-money. It could be your business’s biggest asset. A poorly chosen name can discourage potential customers by making your business appear farcical, or even offensive.

What’s in a name

If you haven’t thought of any names yet or the names you’ve come up with aren’t suitable, the first step is to relax – hardly anyone comes up with the perfect name straight away.

Take some time to play with concepts, ideas and words to find a name that fits your business and its intended market. Running ahead with a name that isn’t really appropriate will result in additional costs further down the track.

There are some handy tools to get you started:

  • A basic thesaurus or dictionary – This will give you endless options and allow you to gather words together to create potential names.
  • Free or low-cost naming programsThere are a number of computer programs that will calculate names for you on the basis of keywords you enter from a database of common words and phrases.

Draw up a list of words and names that appeal to you, as well as a list of words applicable to your business. Try different words and combinations, then create a short list of potential names for your business.

Make it memorable

Being creative can help your business stand out, but its name also needs to be easy to spell and remember. If a potential customer types in your web address, it only takes one misspelled letter for a browser to declare they can’t find the server – or worse, take them to the site of another business.

Think about how your name sounds when spoken and whether it’s easy to spell when searching for you online. Short, simple names are easier to remember for word-of-mouth referrals. Avoid SMS-style abbreviations or slang unless you’re sure this will suit your target market and won’t discourage customers.

Using humour

You might be tempted to play on words or incorporate humour in your business name. For example, a hair salon owner might have their heart set on the name Curl Up and Dye. Whether this works or not will depend on the nature and size of the business, whether you need to portray a professional image, and what appeals to your target market.

If you’re at all uncertain about the name:

  • Canvass the opinion of close friends
  • Run a poll by possible customers
  • Get some professional advice from a marketing expert.

Invoke an image or positive connotation

This can be tricky but try to think of a name that invokes an image or a feeling, preferably related to what your business offers. These names are both easier to recall and link a positive feeling with your product. If you sell skis and snowboards, a name such as Adventure Ski and Snowboard would be more effective than Dave’s Ski and Snowboard Store.

Reference what you offer

For a business on a budget, having a name that tells potential clients what you offer is a good way to minimise money spent on marketing. For example, if you named your mobile coffee business Express Coffee, it’s easier to market than if you called it Red Yak.

Names that reference what you offer are also better for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Internet advertising. If someone’s searching for a product or service you provide and it’s part of your business name, your results will be more prominent in search engine results. You’ll have a competitive advantage over businesses with more abstract names.

Testing the market

Testing the market is a good way to gauge responses before taking the plunge.

  • Ask family and friends to comment on the name – they might point out some issues.
  • Ask existing customers or a sample segment of your target market for feedback.
  • Ask a marketing professional for advice before you make a final decision.

This is also a valuable way of generating a profile for your business that could result in future sales –once, of course, you decide upon your business name.

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