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There are millions of businesses in operation worldwide. The Small Business Administration estimates that 627,000 new businesses open each year. Your company name is a crucial element of brand identity. It is the written, verbal, and auditory face of your business. Customers will remember and refer to your business directly by your company name. A great name can be the difference in gaining and retaining the attention of a potential customer or getting lost in a sea of competitors.

Naming a startup business is equal parts thrilling and overwhelming. Everything is new and exciting. The sky is the limit. You can choose to name it anything. Perhaps you feel as if choosing the perfect brand name is unattainable, that all of the "good names" are already taken. Don't lose heart. Below are lists of the do's and don'ts of company naming as well as next steps to ensure your company name will be as effective as possible.

Do

  1. Do keep it short and simple. The shorter, the better. Chances are, your most beloved brands have incredibly concise brand names. Generally, the most memorable company names are only 1-2 syllables and are less than 8 letters.
  2. Do choose a name that is easy to pronounce and pleasant to hear. Your company name will be said and heard frequently. It needs to be easy to say, spell, and "have a nice ring to it." Also consider the potential acronym your company name would make to ensure it is not crude or offensive.
  3. Do make sure it is easy to remember. Word-of-mouth is the lifeblood of small business. If people cannot remember your company name, they will not only be much less likely to become repeat customers, but they will also have greater difficulty in referring others to you.
  4. Do consider your target audience. Like the logo design itself, your company name must appeal to the right people. Similarly, your company name should provide an accurate reflection and extension of your business.
  5. Do pick something unique. A unique company name promotes distinction and memorability. Do something different if you want your company to stand out.
  6. Do brainstorm. A lot. With the availability of limitless options come limitless possible outcomes. Consider as many names as you can. Your brand name should encapsulate the essence of your business. Such a concise piece of information is rarely gathered by chance. Grab a thesaurus and look up applicable synonyms to a product, service, emotion, or idea associated with your business. Describe the experience of your customers. Try combining two descriptive or emotive words. Add a suffix or prefix to a word. Use the tools of alliteration, rhyme, word combination, symbolism, and the like. Look to foreign languages, mythology, proverbs, literature, and history. You can even make up a brand name. Take time to explore a variety of company names. 

Don't

  1. Don't put yourself in a corner. While many businesses begin with specific focus on product or service, location, or demographic, one or more of these items are likely to change over the life of your business. Avoid company names that may become inapplicable or limiting as your company expands.
  2. Don't get cute. While odd spellings of ordinary words in a company name provide distinction, they are much more difficult to spell and remember; therefore, they are much less effective.
  3. Don't be too blunt. Getting to the point of your product or service quickly may seem like the most logical approach to choosing a company name. However, an overtly descriptive company name most often will be generic and widely overused, forfeiting both distinction and memorability.

Next Steps

  1. Google it. Tried and true, conduct a simple web search to see if any other businesses are operating under the same brand name. There are instances in which multiple businesses may operate under the same company name, provided they are not in close geographical proximity or within the same industry. Consult the Secretary of State, United States Patent and Trademark Office, and a trademark attorney for more information. 
  2. Research available domains. The inevitable outcome of the existence of millions of businesses is millions of unavailable URLs. Visit a site like GoDaddy.com to make sure there is an available URL associated with your company name. Like the company name itself, the shorter, the better.
  3. Acquire social media handles. Having a consistent, professional online presence is the standard for businesses today. Make sure you're able to set up accounts on all relevant social media sites under your selected company name.
  4. Check availability with the Secretary of State and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Formally registering your business name reserves and protects it, providing legal protection of exclusive use by your business.

Are there any do's or don'ts we missed? Let us know if you can think of any additional helpful tips for naming a company.

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