How to Choose the Right Name for Your Business

kathryn by Kathryn Hawkins on June 29, 2011
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What’s in a name? If you run a business, just about everything. Choosing the wrong name can turn customers off before they even bother taking a look at your offerings, while a catchy and unique moniker can lure them in. Here’s what some small business owners and naming consultants have to say about how to select the right business name.

Focus on the image you want to present. Do you want people to see your company as fun and irreverent, or serious and professional? Choose a name that reflects your company’s culture, as well as the work that you do. “Don’t invent a silly word just to be different or because the domain name is available,” says naming expert Alexandra Watkins of Eat My Words. “If you do make up a ‘coined name,’ make it one that sounds like a real word, evokes a brand experience, and is easy to spell and say (e.g. Groupon, Recology, Ecologic, Optima, Dizzywood, Illumineering).”

Google it. Before deciding on a company name, you’ll need to make sure that it’s actually available. Nowadays, that means more than checking for existing copyrights and trademarks: You’ll also need to make sure that you’ll be able to purchase the domain for your business. Getting the relevant Facebook and Twitter addresses for your business is important, too. “With social media being the biggest form of advertising now, you have to make sure you can brand that name,” says Dave Krichmar, a mortgage broker who purchased the domain DaveYourMortgageGuy.com.

Ask for others’ advice. You might find a name that you love, but whether your customers will love it is more important. To see what potential consumers think about your company’s potential names, ask friends and business contacts for their thoughts and send out online surveys asking your contacts to vote for their favorite choice. “We had a list of viable options, but the founding team was in disagreement as to which one was the best, so we created a survey on SurveyMonkey and sent it to everyone we knew,” says Stella Fayman, co-founder of Fee Fighters, a site that compares credit card processing vendors. “Numbers don’t lie, and we picked the best name.”

Test it out. Play around with your potential name: Practice saying the name a lot to see how it sounds aloud, and think about what your company logo might look like. “When we were finalizing which name we liked best, we would say different names as though someone was calling our business on the phone, ‘Ziggity Zoom, can I help you?’” says Sharron Pierce McCullough, founder of a group of kid-focused websites.

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