Breaking out in a sweat because you need to choose a business name? Finding the right name for a business requires nerves of steel.
After all, it’s a major commitment with far-reaching consequences. And you have to make it in the early days of your business — a time that you may not feel ready to make such a major decision.
Get it right, and your business name will establish your brand, clarify what you do, and leave your prospects interested in learning more.
Get it wrong, and you’ll leave your prospects confused or — even worse — disinterested.
Your business name sets the tone for all your marketing. It makes a first and lasting impression.
Feeling anxious yet? Let’s talk about the most-common questions I get about naming a business.
Frequently-asked questions about choosing a business name
I’ve been in the marketing and design field since 1987, and have helped many people find the perfect name for their new business. When they’re just starting the process, they tend to ask the same questions.
“Can I just make up a random word to use as a name?”
I don’t recommend it.
You have to throw a lot of marketing effort and advertising dollars behind a made-up word in order to establish its meaning in the mind of your ideal customer and associate it with what your business offers.
If you have money to burn, go for it. If not, don’t.
Instead, look for a word or words that mean something already, and let them carry the load for you.
“I’m starting a second business. Should I give it a name that relates to the existing business?”
- Will you be appealing to the same group of customers?
- Are you offering a similar product or service?
- Would it help your marketing efforts if people knew the two businesses were related?
If you can answer “yes” to all of the above, you could craft a new business name based on the old one. But if you answer “no” to any of the above, you should consider looking for a different name for your new business.
“My name doesn’t reflect what I do anymore. Now what?”
You have two choices.
Change your tagline so it better reflects what your business now offers, or …
Go through the name change process.
Just know that chances are you will lose some brand recognition while you establish your new name. (Read on to discover how to avoid getting stuck in this situation in the first place.)
“Should I choose a business name that’s my own name?”
This is a good option if you’re a freelancer like a writer, actor, musician. It’s also an option if your business is in a field that is truly built around you and you alone, like accountants, artists, business coaches, or doctors.
But if your company offers either a product or a result, consider giving it a business name that will help people recognize what you offer from the moment they hear it. This is a branding shortcut that will save you time and effort over the years, because you can focus on why your business is the best option, rather than spending time establishing what you do.
How to choose a business name that stands the test of time
I recommend you choose a business name that speaks to what you offer, but not too specifically. Why?
Because as your business develops, there’s a really good chance that what you offer is going to evolve.
Let’s say you’re a caterer. You start out with a plan to offer catering for evening cocktail-type events, with the occasional family get-together and casual barbecue on the side.
But as it turns out, your mobile barbecue side gig starts to take off, and eventually you decide to focus on that, and stop offering the cocktail events.
In this scenario, if you named your business “Cocktails & Hors d’oeuvres Catering Co.” you’d be in big trouble. That doesn’t sound like a business that offers barbecue!
But if you name your business “Delectable Catering Co.” you’re all set. You’re simply stating you offer delicious food, and not getting too specific about exactly what kind, or how it will be delivered.
That’s the happy medium to aim for when looking for a business name. You want it to be flexible enough to grow and change as your business does.
Get into specifics with your tagline
The scenario above is the reason I love taglines. In your tagline, you can get as specific as you’d like.
That’s because tag lines are easy to revise. They aren’t a part of your legal business name, and can morph and change as your business does.
This combination — a strong business name that’s not too specific, and a compelling tagline that goes straight to the heart of what you offer — is a powerfully effective way to create a business name that will serve you well today, next year, and five years from now.