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8 Tips for Naming a Small Business

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SouthWorks / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Introducing a new business to the world is a very big deal. You have a great concept in mind, but you still need to come up with the perfect name.

Not to put any added pressure on you, but the name you choose will play a big role in the success of the company. Therefore, it needs to engage and intrigue new customers, while being easy for existing clients to remember.

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In most cases, this is much easier said than done. Therefore, you’ll need to think long and hard about what you choose to name your business.

Thankfully, plenty of others have been in your shoes, and they have valuable advice to share. Listening carefully to their advice can help you come up with a name that’s truly perfect for your company.

Ready to get started? Here are eight tips from professionals who know how to successfully name a small business.

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Tell a Story

Everyone loves a good story, so choosing a story-driven brand name will allow you to create an emotional resonance with customers, said Maria Shriver, co-founder and CEO of MOSH.

“And a story-driven name infers more than what your business does — it also implies the essence of your brand to create a powerful association with your products,” she said. “While it’s not always easy to give a sense of story in one or two words, Nike, Warby Parker, Amazon and Apple rely on storybook names and metaphors to imply comparisons between their offering and well-known characters, places and concepts.”

She said this is powerful because story-driven names evoke familiar emotions and create brand experiences people can relate to.

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Don’t Pigeonhole Yourself

You’re just starting out, so it’s possible your company will offer very limited products or services, but that doesn’t mean you need a very specific name to match.

“Give yourself space to evolve as you learn more about what you’ll offer long term, who your customer is and how you could expand in the future,” said Kelly Mosser, a small business coach and consultant based in New York City. “For example, naming your business Cassie’s Candles doesn’t provide room to seamlessly expand your product offering down the road, if you decide to branch out into other adjacent products.”

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Consider Your Desired Tone and Energy

When brainstorming names for your company, Mosser said to think about the tone and energy you want it to convey and make sure your top choice accurately reflects that.

“For example, if you’re a fun clothing brand that caters to Gen Z, avoid names that are too serious or professional in nature,” she said. “Name your business with your ideal customer in mind.” This is important because if your name doesn’t speak to your target market, they might not give your business a fair chance.

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Don’t Be Vague

Being elusive can be exciting and intriguing, but not when naming a business. Mosser said this is a bad idea because it can confuse consumers.

“It should be clear from the name of your business the kind of product or service you provide, without having to say much more,” she said.

The last thing you want is for your desired customer base to assume you don’t sell the products and services they need because your name doesn’t accurately convey what you do.

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Incorporate Your Name

If you have a service-based business, Mosser advised incorporating your name into the business name.

“This makes for seamless searching online and helps establish you as the face of your brand,” Mosser said. “It also humanizes your business.”

You’ve worked hard to build something you stand behind, so this is a simple way to show customers you stand behind your company. It’s also easy for people to remember — especially friends, family and soon-to-be repeat clients — paving the way for loads of referrals.

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Don’t Make It a Tribute to Someone Else

In theory, naming your business after someone who inspired you to start it is a great idea. However, Mosser said it doesn’t work too well in practice.

“A lot of folks like to pay tribute to a family member or mentor by naming their business after them, but in my experience this only creates confusion in communication and branding,” she said.

There are still plenty of other ways to honor that special someone. For example, you might name a product or service after them or incorporate their favorite color into your logo.

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Get Creative

A good business name is one that’s not already used in your local market.

“Being unique and being strategic will help avoid legal issues, increase SEO and allow business owners to build their brand with confidence,” said Ana Juneja, a trademark attorney at Ana Law®, based in Chicago.

This means you can have a little fun with the naming process, as long as your final choice makes sense for your brand.

“Legally and financially speaking, arbitrary and fanciful names are the strongest brand name,” she said. “Descriptive names are still brandable, but generic names are not.”

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Don’t Commit Trademark Infringement

Selecting a brand name that’s already in play is bad for business and can cause you serious legal woes.

“Small businesses should above all else choose a name that does not infringe on anyone else’s trademark rights, since that is illegal,” Juneja said. “Brand names that are registered as a trademark can be found on the United States Patent and Trademark Office — USPTO — database.”

She said checking to make sure someone else doesn’t have a trademark on your desired brand name can help you avoid the potential for hundreds of thousands of dollars in trademark lawsuits, intellectual property lawsuits and rebranding.

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