Finding the right name for your business is a crucial step in helping set it up for long-term success. A bland, generic, weird or misleading company name runs the risk of making your business indistinguishable or, worse, forgettable. Larry Page and Sergey Brin came perilously close to calling their search engine company BackRub before settling on the name Google. Today, people don’t search for things on the internet. They Google it.
Choosing the right name might not drive your business to multibillion dollar success, but following a few simple do’s and don’ts can help set your business on the path to success.
Make It Short
When it comes to naming a business, short and sweet is best. Law firms tend to run into this issue when they feel it necessary to include every partner’s name in the title. Roughly a century ago in the United States, there was a company called the Southern Ohio Amalgamated Steam Traction Engine and Boiler Manufacturing Company. If it takes work making sure you get all the words in the right order, it’s probably too long.
Company names really needn’t be any more than three words long. Some of the biggest and most successful companies in the world, such as Apple, Amazon and Facebook, only need one. Keep your business name intriguing and simple. Make it as easy as possible for people to remember.
Make It Memorable
Business names should always be unique. Smith Accounting may be an appropriate combination of your last name and what your business offers, but it’s also probably indistinguishable from a hundred other Smith Accountings across the country.
It may be difficult to put a finger on why exactly a name like Google works for a search engine business or Amazon works for an online retailer. Over time, however, those brands have become virtually synonymous with the industries in which they operate. Giving your business a name that’s both unique and catchy makes it instantly memorable in the minds of your potential customers.
Make It Clean
At one point in the movie “The Social Network,” Sean Parker, played by Justin Timberlake, advises Mark Zuckerberg regarding the name of his company to “Drop the ‘the’. Just Facebook. It’s cleaner.” It’s a simple, yet effective, idea that can make your business name simpler and easier to find for customers. This is especially true when choosing a website address for your business.
Try to avoid any quirky or alternate misspellings, hyphens or other characters that can confuse people and lead them to having a difficult time finding your business at all. If you’re operating an auto repair shop, don’t name it Joe’s Car Repairz in an effort to sound cool. You’ll end up doing more harm than good.
Make It Universal
When launching a business, it’s not unusual for entrepreneurs to want to include their service area in the name of their company. But what happens if your business expands beyond its originally intended territory? Kentucky Fried Chicken is a good example of this. It may have started in a small area of the United States, but it’s now a global brand. It eventually changed its name to KFC to avoid the confusion.
The same thing goes for the good or service your company provides. You may be a plumber by trade, but people aren’t going to know that you’re qualified and willing to do electrical work too if your business is called Bob’s Plumbing. Don’t limit your opportunities by giving your business a name that’s too narrow in scope.
Test It Out First
One common mistake that many small business owners make is spending too little time on finding the right name. It may be easy or convenient to settle on the first name you come across that you like, but it does a disservice to the long-term future of your business if you spend only minutes on a business name that could last for years.
Spend a day or several days just brainstorming ideas and write down whatever comes to mind. Look at business listings or even online name generators to help you come up with company name ideas. Use keywords to steer you in the right direction. Once you come up with a handful of names you like, run them by family, friends and professional colleagues to see what they think. You don’t necessarily need to go with the name that gets the most votes, but the exercise should help tell you which names have a broader appeal and which ones should head to the scrap heap.