5 Things To Consider When Choosing A Business Name
For those who are just starting your business, the process of crafting the right name for your business can be a fun, creative exercise. Some go into their new venture with a name already in mind, while others invite friends and family over for a big brainstorming session in order to find that one word or phrase that perfectly describes and encapsulates everything you hope to build. Once you do have a name, or a short list of potential names, in mind though there are a few other things you need to research and consider before you launch.
- Can You Actually Use This Name? It makes sense to start by doing a search engine search to see what, if anything, comes up when you type your business name into the search browser but that in and of itself isn’t enough. Trademarked names are not required to have websites associated with them so in order to ensure that you’ll be in the clear to use this name, you should do a search of the US Patent and Trademark website (www. uspto.gov). By inputting your proposed business name into their free database, you can search to see whether the name you’re considering is a ‘live mark’ that is currently being used by another company. Pay particular focus to names that are being used in your specific business industry as the main concern the US Patent and Trademark Office has is that your name will cause consumer confusion if it is too similar to another name being used by a food company. If your company name is being used by a mechanic, for example, there is likely little cause for concern as consumers who are looking for a mechanic aren’t likely going to mistakenly show up at your food business and vice versa. Not doing a trademark search can be an expensive error if it turns out later that the name you’re using is trademarked by another company as you will most likely be required to change your name. This means you must also change all your branding, your packaging, and try to clearly convey to consumers why you’re now known under the new name.
- What Else Comes Up When You Type Your Name Into A Search Engine? Even though a search engine search alone isn’t enough to determine whether or not you can use this name, it makes sense to do a search online and see what else comes up in the results when you type in your proposed business name. You want to make sure that the name you’re considering doesn’t load with results that you may not want your audience to see and/or somehow affiliate with your company. This could be anything from sites that have more mature audiences or sites that have strong political views as an example.
- Can Your Name Grow With You? Ideally your business will grow in the years to come and while you may have some preliminary thoughts on where this business will go, the reality is that the marketplace is always changing as well. Ultimately where you decide to take your business 2, 5, 10 years from now may be different than what you have envisioned. This is where having a business name that doesn’t place particular emphasis on a specific product can be beneficial because it leaves you open to explore other options down the road. As an example, Starbucks’ branding for years contained the words ‘Starbucks Coffee’. Once the company decided to start offering other products – such as ice cream that they sell via supermarkets – they opted to redesign their brand to drop the word coffee. While you may be thinking of launching with a focus on just one brand or one type of products, your company may grow beyond that in the future so you might as well craft a name now that can grow with you no matter what direction your business takes.
- How Might Consumers Say & Spell Your Name? The name that you’re thinking of may be obvious to you when it comes to saying or spelling the name, but that may not hold true for your customers. Before you finalize your name, write the name down on a piece of paper and ask your friends and family to say the name for you. Can they pronounce it correctly? This is important for two reasons. The first is that names that are hard for customers to pronounce are also hard for customers to remember. If you’re going to be spending time, money, and energy trying to build a brand that customers will remember and shop from time and time again, you don’t want your business name to be your biggest hurdle. Secondly, a name that can’t be pronounced correctly is also one that is apt to be misspelled. For customers who are looking for your company website, these misspellings may make it impossible for you to find. If you do land on a memorable business name that has several potential spellings, you’d be advised to purchase all the web domains for all the various spellings of this name. You can program the misspelled names to point back to the correctly-spelled website so as to make sure that no matter how customers spell your company name they’re still able to find you.
- Is The Social Media Handle Available? While not a deal breaker, it’s important to spend a few minutes to determine if the business name you’re thinking of is already being used on social media. Even if you don’t yet have a social media strategy for your business, social media handles that are inline with your business name make it easy for customers to follow/friend/fan you when the time comes. Since most social media sites don’t require payment when you sign up as a business, it makes sense to grab those names as soon as possible. Just because you have the name doesn’t mean you need to start using it immediately but this prevents someone from getting that name before you do. Once you have the names, take the time to figure out your social media strategy and which social media tools you feel will really give you the bang for your buck that you’re looking for.
Jennifer Lewis is the founder of Small Food Business, a website focused on providing resources and information to food entrepreneurs. The site includes hundreds of articles specific to the food industry, a podcast series which includes interviews with industry experts, white papers, and a community forum amongst other things. In addition to being a professionally trained pastry chef and having worked in the food industry from more than 20 years, Jennifer also holds an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.