Last updated on March 20th, 2020 by Chris Griffin

Starting a new business can be a massive undertaking, but sometimes it’s the seemingly simple things that keep you up at night. Coming up with the perfect name for a new business can be really stressful because it’s really important. Most people shop with a brand name in mind. The name you decide on will have an impact –– positive or negative –– for the entire lifespan of your business. 

How then, can you decide on the perfect name for your business so that you can save the sleepless nights for the more important stuff? By following our tips to land on the perfect moniker for your new business. 

If you’re still lost, ask us for help. Send us an email and one of the small business marketing experts at Titan will guide you through the process, free of charge!

In the email, please include where your business is located, what you do, and who your target market is.

Tip #1 – Concentrate on what you sell

A good business name encompasses what a business does without selling it too broadly. If you make custom golf clubs, don’t go for a broad name that makes it seem like you sell every item in the clubhouse. Find a name that lets customers know you specialize in putters and 4 irons, not cleats and goofy hats.

Tip #2 – Tell your story

It’s not easy to sum up the story of a business in one or two words, but many super successful companies have pulled it off. Lego, for example, means “I put together” in Latin. 7-Eleven is named after its original hours of operation, 7:00 am to 11:00 pm (despite now being synonymous with all-night snacking). And Volkswagen translates to “people’s car” in German.

In the unfortunately fortunate department, naming your business in this manner can come back to bite you when it’s time to expand. So keep your ambitions in mind, or risk having to rebrand, like Boston Chicken changing its name to Boston Market

Tip #3 – Use compound words

There are some fairly obvious businesses that have used this naming convention –– see Groupon. But there are some other less obvious ones, including Microsoft. Bill Gates coined the name to tout his microcomputer software business. 

Look at your core offering. What sets it apart from your competitors? If you’re tailoring your products and services for a particular niche or market, find a combo of words to succinctly sum up and brand your business. 

Tip #4 – Use an acronym

The obvious example is International Business Machines adopting the acronym IBM, but there are countless others. ASICS is an acronym for Anima Sana In Corpore Sano, which in Latin means “Healthy soul in a healthy body.” IKEA is an acronym that uses the first letters of its founder’s name and the Swedish town he grew up in –– Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd.

Of course, an acronym isn’t always clear cut or even intentional. “All day I dream about soccer” just happens to be a fortunate coincidence for ADIDAS. It’s also tough to be unique when using an acronym. We all know the American Broadcasting Company, but it’s entirely possible that the network isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of “ABC.”

It’s tempting to turn your business name into an acronym to make it easier to say or to remember. However, as a small business owner, it’s important to determine if you’ll have the marketing muscle to educate your market on what the acronym really means.

Tip #5 – Keep it simple

For starters, avoid long, complicated names that are difficult to spell. If you’re starting a catering company based in upstate New York, don’t go with Skaneateles Hors D’oeuvres. 

It also helps to say the name out loud and crowdsource it with a few friends. It’s also wise to avoid homonyms that can be easily confused and other words that may be associated with a negative connotation.

More From the Titan Blog: How to Choose the Perfect Domain Name

Tip #6 – Use the old to tout the new

Given Facebook’s demographics, there’s a pretty good chance that a majority of its users have no idea that a facebook was at one time a physical book used to help university students and faculty identify each other. In essence, Facebook digitized the concept. But there’s valuable branding insight to be taken away here. Is there a relic in the industry in which you reside that you can capitalize on when naming your business?

Tip #7 – Add some local flavor

Adobe gets its name from the Adobe Creek that ran behind the house of co-founder John Warnock. While no one, save for maybe Warnock, thinks of the creek when they think of Adobe, it’s still a great example of a local name that has stuck on a global level. You don’t need to go all California Pizza Kitchen to don your business with a localized name. Nokia is taken from the Nokianvirta River in Finland, Duane Reade from two streets in Manhattan, and Cisco from the latter part of San Francisco.

It’s also worth noting that if you’re at this stage of the game, you’re probably not thinking about selling on a global scale anyway. Plus, localizing your company name could also give it a nice boost in certain Google search results.

Tip #8 – Look to the Gods

There are quite a few businesses that have found inspiration in the origin stories of the world as told through Greek mythology. In the 1960s, Blue Ribbon Sports relaunched under the name Nike. In Greek mythology, Nike is the goddess of victory. I don’t need to explain why that worked. 

Greek mythology has had an extensive influence on Western civilization. Take a cue from Nike, Oracle, Trojan, and other successful companies that have borrowed from the ancient Greeks and find a deity that fits with the attributes of your brand.

Tip #9 – Break the mold

Sure, Steve Jobs named his company after a fruit, but it goes slightly deeper than that. In Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, it’s revealed that he thought the name Apple was “fun, spirited, and not intimidating.” i.e. it was a refreshing break from the cold, complicated, and confusing names that were popping up around Silicon Valley at the time. 

Tip #10 – Be ambitious 

Despite starting in a garage, Jeff Bezos named his company Amazon, as he thought the world’s largest river would be a strong metaphor for a company that he believed would become the world’s largest bookstore. If you started a business, you’re clearly an ambitious person. Find a name for your business that’s as big as your aim.

Tip #11 – Drop a letter

The name of a certain skateboard company always made me chuckle when I was a teenager. While I’m not suggesting you go in this exact direction with your business, there have been some pretty successful brands with names that are slightly misspelled. Flickr and Tumblr took a word, dropped a letter, and never looked back. 

With texting and social character limits, dropping a letter or even adding a one to a word is now viewed as more of a badge of coolness than a typo.

Tip #12 – Don’t get cute

There’s being creative and there’s being cute. The latter can have dire consequences for a brand. At best, a cute business name will confuse customers, at worst, it could crush your credibility. For proof, check out some of these gems.

Make it Legit

It’s important to always do your due diligence when naming a business. Start by Googling the name to see who else is using it. Search the trademark database at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to ensure it’s available. And do a secretary of state search. You’re going to need to ensure that your business name is not identical to another one in your state to structure your business as an LLC.

Once you have the perfect name for your business, you’ll need a domain. Try Titan today for free and you can register a domain name and start using it before you even build your website!

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Originally published 18th February 2020 08:00:00am, last updated on March 20th, 2020

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