Can a name make or break a business? While it may not necessarily be the ultimate reason for failure, the right name has the potential to propel your business toward success.
Finding the right name for your startup isn’t something to decide on a whim. As the most important part of your identity and brand, a company name must stand the test of time. Choosing the right name, therefore, requires a thorough thinking process which takes into account everything you want your business to convey.
But it’s not all about finding a nice-sounding name that’s appealing to your customers or clients. Business names in the UK are strictly regulated by company and intellectual property law. As complicated as this may sound, it’s not that hard to understand or adhere to.
A little bit of research before you set out choosing a name for your new business will save you lots of trouble and frustration later. That’s why we put together a list of tips to guide you through the process.
1. Take your time
You want your business, and therefore the business name, to stick around for years. Take your time to pick the right name. While professional naming firms can take up to six months to come up with a final name, you should put aside at least a month for this process if you decide to do it on your own.
You may question why that long if you already have a name in mind. Some of the important reasons why it isn’t wise to choose a business name in a matter of hours or days are:
- You may not be happy with your original idea after a few days or weeks have passed.
- You need time to research whether the name exists elsewhere.
- Naming a business should be a consultative process.
- It’s never good to consider only one name. Coming up with alternatives takes time.
2. Make it customer-friendly
Ask yourself if the name you’re considering will also appeal to your potential customers. The first step is to decide what you want the name to communicate. The more accurately it communicates the key elements of the business, the easier people will relate to it.
It’s important that your target audience remembers your name and are able to recall it whenever they need your product or service. The following guidelines will help you achieve this:
- Avoid names that are hard to spell – Don’t make it hard for potential customers to find your business by picking a complicated name which is hard to spell. If you want people to find your business online, they shouldn’t have to think twice about the spelling.
- Choose real words above fabricated words – Initials or combining the names of your children might make sense to you but it will mean nothing to your customers. Meaningful real words should be considered above fabricated words for your customers or clients to understand and relate to them.
- Be creative – It’s true, many “real words” have already been taken. This is where you should get creative. There’s nothing wrong with bending existing words by spelling them a little differently or creating new words with meaningful word segments. Instagram is a good example. Just remember to stick to the simple and easy-to-spell rule.
- Watch out for geographical names – Be very careful before you limit yourself by adding a geographical area to your business name. Starting out, you may find it impossible to envisage that you’re going to expand to a bigger geographical area at a later stage. In this instance, it’s tempting and easy to call your business “Manchester Master Mowers”. But what if you want to start an online lawnmower shop and sell to the entire UK? Or you want to open a second shop in Newcastle?
- Say it out loud – You want the name of your business to sound good when said aloud. Alliteration is fine, as long as it doesn’t result in a tongue-tie. Remember, you want other people to talk about your business. They shouldn’t struggle to pronounce it. Worse, you don’t want different people pronouncing the name differently because the name is so exotic that no-one except you knows what the right pronunciation is. Also, people should be able to spell it correctly when hearing it. Popular business or brand names that are easy to say, write, and remember include Apple, Facebook, and Amazon.
3. Do a trademark search
A trademark search is one of the most important things to do before settling on a business name. You want to make sure you can trademark the name, especially if you’re planning to build your brand on a large scale. You can’t use another company’s trademark as your business name. Likewise, others can’t trade under your business name once you’ve registered it as a trademark.
It’s easy to check online whether a company name has already been registered. For example, you can do a name search on a site like https://www.1stformations.co.uk/. Taking a minute to do this can save you lots of time and frustration at a later stage.
If you want to go ahead and register a trademark in the UK, it can be done online via the Intellectual Property Office website.
4. Match the business name with a web domain
After doing a trademark search, the next step is to find out whether the domain name is still available. A company name with a non-matching domain name can only spell disaster for your business. It’s essential that your domain name matches your business name.
Securing the .com name should be your first priority since customers associate .com with more established businesses. If someone else already owns the name, find out whether they are willing to sell before considering alternatives such as .net, .org, or .biz.
5. Get feedback
Always get the input of others when it comes to choosing a business name even if you maintain the right to take the final decision on your own.
Involving others could begin with a brainstorming session where you present them with your initial ideas. Or you could ask them to bring their own ideas to the table. The people whom you’d generally request feedback from include business partners, friends, family, and colleagues. It’s also a good idea to get feedback from your target audience, i.e. potential customers or clients.
When consulting with others, make it clear from the start that although you’re seeking their input, you may not like their suggestions. Therefore, they shouldn’t be offended if you ignore their feedback.
6. Enlist the help of experts
Some things are worth investing in when starting out as an entrepreneur. One of these is enlisting the help of an expert or experts when deciding on a name for your new business. There are companies who specialise in researching and coming up with business names targeted at specific industries and audiences.
Decide what you want a naming company to help you with. Do you only need them to generate a few possible alternatives or do you want them to be involved in a larger brand name development process?
Naming companies know which names appeal to customers or end users. They can also help you with your branding. Shop around for the best fees but keep in mind that spending money on finding a good business name can save you a lot in the long run.
7. Pick a name you personally like
It’s hard to take complete ownership of something you’re not 100 % happy with, no matter what your friends, family, colleagues or the experts say. The bottom line is that you must be personally happy with your business name. You’re going to say it a lot and see it a lot for what could be a very long time.
A good idea is to play around with the name on business card and letterhead samples. Look at it repeatedly over a period of several days. If you still like it after that time, you are ready to register the name with Companies House.
Take note that registering a company name at Companies House doesn’t guarantee the trademark. Therefore, do the trademark check before registering the name if it’s that important to you.
To recap, here are the 5 most important things to keep in mind when naming a business:
- It’s not a decision to take in a day.
- Keep it short, simple, and easy to say, write and spell.
- Geographical names are limiting.
- Check whether the trademark and domain name is available.
- When in doubt, enlist the help of experts.
As a final thought, remember almost any name can be effective when backed by an effective marketing strategy. But why make it harder than necessary by choosing a name that doesn’t connect with your product or service or is impossible to pronounce or spell?