How to come up with a business name in 7 easy steps!

Updated: May 5

2021 is a challenging time to start a new business, given the changes the world has been through: both social and economic. Of the many inherent risks, that of financial ruin will sit centre-stage for many.


That said, it is also a fascinating time, with new opportunities born out of otherwise difficult circumstances. It is in that context that more and more people are now looking to achieve the dream of starting out on their own.


Small businesses and enterprises are the life blood of any industry: through disruption they can drive innovation and contribute to the overall economic prosperity of a country.


According to a recent survey conducted by Wealth-X, some 62% of US billionaires are self-made – with around 15 million Americans in some form of self-employment.


In addition to this, entrepreneurship failure rates have never been lower, with start-up incubators and other government and private enterprise-based initiatives all making a difference. According to the Office of Advocacy only 22.5% of business fail within the first year.


How to come up with a business name

One challenge which remains, however, and is often under looked, is the importance of branding and choosing the best business name. Because choosing the wrong business name can be damaging and burden the best of start-ups with extra baggage at a critical time.

In this guide, we will look at how to come up with a business name in 7 easy steps.


We will also consider:

  • Why a business name is as important as the business function

  • Your business name is the first impression you make

  • Branding and the power of Brandables

  • The importance of choosing a great domain name


Let’s get started.


Why a business name is as important as the business function


Some of us love our names; others wince every time we have to spell it out to the hotel clerk or announce it in a business meeting. The prospect of offending our parents and changing our names is, for most, not an option.


With a new business you have a clean slate.

You have a seemingly endless choice in an ocean of names. Get it right and you’ll be plane sailing tranquil seas; get it wrong and it could be stormy waters ahead.


Choosing the wrong name from the outset can be expensive and difficult to fix later on.


So, why is a business name just as important as its function?


  1. It is your calling card: your business name is essentially your identity both online and offline: it is the first thing that customers see. It is fundamental to your organization and the perceptions held by others – a statement of intent to potential customers. Your business name should have instant impact and allow you to penetrate into your chosen market.

  2. It is the second biggest asset you have: without a doubt, employees are the biggest asset of any organization: the organization does not exist without the employee. Second to that is the business name and ultimately the brand. Your business name says everything about the owner and defines your identity within your niche. Simply put, the right name can convince others to do business with you.

  3. It uniquely identifies your brand: your moniker is at the heart of your brand and enables you to reach your target audience. Both your products and services are defined by your brand. The best business names help to establish a brand and to distinctively stand out from the crowd. They denote trustworthiness, imply authority, and set customer expectations.


Your business name is the first impression you make


We have all been there, excited at the prospect of a new and valuable introduction, nerves got the better of us and we fluffed it. Hardly a great start to a new relationship.


Your business name defines your online presence and is the first relationship a prospective customer has with you. It is a statement of intent that reaches out and tells the customer who you are. It also lasts well beyond that initial introduction.


Known as the primacy or serial-position effect, people are programmed to value experiences that they have experienced first in a sequence. If you start with a positive momentum, built on a great business name, this can then be carried far into the future and continue to support your brand and your core message.


In today’s ultra competitive world companies do not have the luxury of taking their time to win over customers.


If you want to avoid losing business to competitors, and remembering the power of the primacy effect, you need to get in first. Choosing the right business name is an important enabler.


Branding and the power of Brandables


The power of branding is well known and almost assumed by most. Great branding shows customers what makes you distinctive: it tells a story and builds an emotional connection between the customer and the product.


Great branding gives both purpose and direction and connects values to a like-minded audience.


The power of branding

It is important to note, however, that whilst every business name is a brand, not every business name is a Brandable!


What is the difference?


This is best explained using examples. Example one is a well-known phone company called T-Mobile:


T-mobile


T-Mobile

Provides services in the telecommunication space including mobile phone operations.




The second, an equally well-known phone company called Sprint:


Sprint

Sprint

Also provides a range of services within the telecommunications space.


The difference? One has a descriptive meaning that connects the business name instantly to the function and the business domain. The other has no meaning (little) at all in connection with the business domain, but crucially provides identity, in what might otherwise be a crowded space.


A Brandable is a name, any name, that does not have descriptive meaning in relation to the chosen business domain but provides unique identity and promotes brand awareness.

There are different types of brandable names, some may be keyword-based hinting at the products and services offered. A good example here would be Netflix.com or Deliveroo.com.


Others may be evocative of scale and grandeur, such as Amazon.com or IBM (an acronym for International Business Machines).


Lastly, there are those with no meaning at all – known as vessel brandables. These are completely blank slates – free from biases and opinions and open to interpretation. Great examples would include of course Google.com (search), Moonpig.com (greetings cards), and Yelp.com (directory services).


The choice of a brandable or more traditional descriptive name for your business really comes down to personal preference.


Some businesses may benefit from established names conveying meaning, whilst others may seek identity in crowded industries. Regardless, the choice needs to be made and the relative benefits considered.


The importance of choosing a great domain name


One important consideration when choosing your business name is that the corresponding domain name, or a derivative of it, is also available.


A domain name is a text-based identification string that defines a realm on the Internet. Simply put, it is your website address and should correspond to your business name.

Domain names are managed by domain registrars and are effectively leased for periods of time between 1 and 10 years. The leases are renewable, so once you purchase a domain name it is yours: assuming you continue to renew it and are not met by any legal challenge to the name – more about that later.


Why are domain names important?


Domain names are important because, along with social media channels, they define your online identity.


A short and memorable domain name is more likely to be retained and re-entered by customers. Short and catchy domain names also tend to work better visually and also in marketing campaigns.


You can purchase and register a domain name through companies such as GoDaddy or as a part of a branding package at DomainQuick. The later provides additional company branding and logo creation.


The 7 steps to business name karma:


Having laid the groundwork, we will now look at how to come up with a business name in 7 easy steps:

  1. Understand your identity and know your competitors

  2. Brainstorm your brain and other bigger brains

  3. Don’t get tongue tied: spit it out, nicely!

  4. Leverage technology and the Internet

  5. Do I look good in this?

  6. Be diligent: do your due diligence

  7. The importance of registering your business name


Understand your identity and know your competitors


The first thing you need to do is consider your identity – the identity of your new business and what makes it tick. Break down the core of your brand.


What kind of name do you want? Something that instantly communicates your business and has descriptive meaning; or a brandable that helps to mark you out in the crowd.


Who are you, and what makes you unique in your chosen industry?


Marketers like to refer to it as your Unique Selling Proposition. If you don’t have one, then think one up:


My business is unique in that it sells blue apples in a green apple saturated market…

Great, everyone else has apples but only you have blue apples. AppleBlue might be an obvious choice: it conveys meaning and is distinctive.


Maybe later on though, you will want to branch out into yellow cucumbers. Perhaps AppleBlue is therefore too specific and a little restrictive. Perhaps a brandable name would be a better choice.


Think about the core message and meaning that you want the name to convey.


Perhaps you are a start-up in the crypto industry.


New, innovative and disruptive, the crypto industry is really flying. That said, it has a bad name for many, with crypto exchanges targeted by hackers and the loss of crypto currency a major risk for investors. Establishing trust in such a market starts with the name.


Again, obvious choices might be TrustCrypto or something similar. A little market research would identify available names.


Look at your competitors.


As Oscar Wilde once said:


Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.

Don’t be mediocre, be great! But pay close attention to what others are doing in the same space. Learn from your competitors’ strengths and from their weaknesses.


Look for opportunities. Choosing a great business name, can, in part, be inspired by those around you.


Brainstorm your brain and other bigger brains


Your brain, be it big or small (actually most human brains are of a similar size) has the capacity to think. Independently you can think only so much, but collectively, the possibilities are boundless!


Brain storming business names

Start brainstorming!


There are numerous approaches to brainstorming, but they all have a common purpose. To collectively share and evolve ideas. Write everything down and come up with a short list of possible business names. Think closely about the core business message; consider what your competitors are doing; most of all enjoy the exercise and take an anything goes approach!


At a later stage you can take your short list and run it through a series of tests. Check the name for validity; score it against your core message breakdown; check trademarks and similar names within the industry.


Going through this exercise will flood plenty of ideas and further help to understand your brands’ value.


Try following a workflow for naming your business, such as DTPS:


Guide to naming your business - DTPS

This should be an engaging exercise that is a kind of voyage of discovery. With only limited rules for guidance, you may be surprised and pleased by the results!


Don’t get tongue tied: spit it out, nicely!


It is important that your business name and your domain name are easy to pronounce and roll off the tongue.


In general, you should keep the name as short as possible without losing all meaning. A single word name is best; two words is also acceptable.


Some businesses like to consider organic search word composition in the name; changes to the Google search algorithm in recent years have diminished this practice somewhat.


Think about the tone of your name. A business name that sets you up for success has to have the right tone – this will be foundational in your business identity.


Some brand name tones include:

People should be able to connect with your brand tone and understand your products and services within that context.


Remember that your bu