August 26, 2010

Does your business name say much?

SmallBiz Stew- Picking the right business name

Business Rule 11- Create your business identity

Now that you have figured out what business you want to start it’s time to start creating your business structure. First things first, you need to settle on a business name that not only describes your business but it has to be catchy and memorable to consumers.

Burger King is an excellent business name because it describes what they offer; it’s creative, and memorable to consumers.

Most entrepreneurs use their personal name as the title of their business which makes sense being they are the brand they are trying to sell. However adding descriptive words to the title helps the reader know exactly what their brand offers.

My freelance writing service is called Daustin Innovative Writing; this title allows me to market myself as the brand while informing consumers what it is that I offer. You want your business name to connect consumers to your brand and the service or product you have to offer.

You should avoid names that might confuse or mislead the consumer on the product/service that you offer. If you offer vegetarian catering service that specializes in healthy food, it wouldn't make sense if your business was named Cave Man Catering service. This name implies that meat might be on the menu. A better selection would be, Veggie De-light Catering, this name not only explains the service you offer but it is catchy.

The trick to creating the right business name is creating a name that is creative but doesn't confuse the consumer. Consumers should be able to easily identify what service/product they will get when they read your business name.

All successful business names should expose consumers to your brand, inform consumers on the product/service you offer, and connects both together so consumers can easily identify their need with your brand and product/service.

SBS business name must have’s:
  1.     Easy to say
  2.     Easy to spell
  3.     Easy to identify with
  4.     Informs the right information
  5.     Creative
  6.     Memorable

The best way to decide on a business name is start brainstorming. Create a list of five possible business names that are creative and descriptive. Once you have a list of five, it’s time to make sure your name is not already in use by another business.

Let's do a trademark check!

A trademark protects your business name or service from another company using the same name.

When you complete the trademark application you are required to choose the categories that your business is considered. Another company can use the same name as long as it is not in the same category.

 I.e. I can start a McDonald's cleaners but I cannot start another McDonald's restaurant that's not part of the McDonald's franchise.

There are also certain common words that cannot be trademarked like camp.  It would be wonderful if you were the only camping business who could use the word Camp as your business name. Unfortunately you couldn’t use that word because camp is seen as more of a description then a distinctive name that sets your business apart from others. Your business name must be distinct. However you could surly create a clothing line and trademark the name Camp because in this instance it is not describing your business but it is a creative name you picked for your clothes line.

For more information about trademarks and how to file please see United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Before you try to trademark your business name, you should do a trademark search so that you don't waste valuable time and money on an application that will be voided. Trademarking your business name can cost up to $375.00 and if you submit an application and it is denied or voided, you don’t get your money back. So it is important to make sure that your name isn’t already taken. Of course there could already be an application in the works with your name, there’s no way to get around those incidents. But you can decrease your chances of your application being voided by checking to see if your name is already taken.

To do a trademark check click here.

 Once you figured out which names that you created are available it is time to narrow down your list to only one name.

Picking the right business name

Having a unique and catchy name can be a powerful marketing tool. When consumers see your business name they can easily connect it with the service/product that you offer.

Use the below exercise to help you identify if the business name you selected is the right business name that not only covers the six must have's for a successful business name but a name that you like. After all you are the one who will have to represent the name you pick.

Exercise 2:
Using the list of business names that you created earlier; list each in row at the top of your paper, under each answer the following eight questions.

1.    How does this name tell consumers what your product/service is?

2.    Does this name correctly represent your brand?

3.    Is the name unique and not similar to another business name or misleading?

4.    Are there other businesses with the same business name in different business categories?
For example:
Daustin Innovative Writing
Daustin Cleaner's
Daustin Daycare Center
Daustin Pharmacy

5.    Can you obtain the domain name for this business name?
  •     Is there another business name that own/uses this domain?
  •     What service/product do they offer?
  •     Will this be confusing for consumers?
You don't want consumers to land on spam like websites and mistake that site for yours and you end up losing potential consumers.

When choosing a business name you have to consider its complete online and offline presence. See my blog post The three most have for small business ( for more on why having a business website/online presence is important.

6.    How is this name memorable?
  •  Does your business evoke some sort of emotion or thought that will help them remember your business?
  • Is this a name that is easy to remember?

7.    Will consumers be able say and spell your business name easily?

8.    Do you like this name? Make sure this is a business name that fit the vision you have for your business.

9.    What do your family and friends think about the business name?

Now that you have answered all the questions, it is time to test your business name out on a few of your friends and/or colleagues. The best way to get a genuine reply from them is to ask if they ever heard of a business offering the product/service you plan to offer with the name you created. Ask their opinion on if they believe it successful meet SBS six business name must have’s. Record their answer as the final piece needed to decide on the right business name. 

You should now review the answers and use this information to decide which business name successfully meets SBS’s six business name must have’s and the name that best fit with your business idea and goals.

Today's blog discussion helped you decide on a business name that is currently available (according to your trademark search), satisfies the SBS's six must have's for a successful business name, and is congruent with your business idea and goals. Now that you have the right business name it is now time to protect your business name by obtaining a trademark and domain name.

 Photo by Conradh


  1. One more important thing to keep in mind while thinking of a business name is to check what it means in other popular global languages. Especially at a time when people look for unusual names. You never know how your business will expand and you wouldn't want people in other countries read your business name as "cow's dung".

  2. Hi Anuja,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    You are so right, that is a good additional tip that small business owners should always keep in mind. Rarely do people think about how everything translate globally.


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