(photo by Dean Askin)
What’s in a business name? A lot. If you choose a name for your business and you have to explain it to people, you’ve not chosen a good business name that will resonate with prospects and clients. The wrong name can hurt your business big time.
Believe me. I know from experience.
I’d developed the original name for my independent communication business when I was faced with unemployment in a corporate re-organization. At the time, I thought it was a pretty cool business name. That’s because it played on an element of typography—the en space. It’s the dash (–) that is supposed to be used between number ranges. For example, 1989–1995. Trouble is, not many people other than those of us in communication and graphic design can relate to the play on words.
Let me put it this way: be careful and choose wisely. Sometimes your business name can turn out to be nothing more than an inside joke. Avoid plays on words when you’re developing your business name. If it sounds too cute or clever, it probably is.
The actual business concept I had in mind when I chose my original business name was solid. I wanted to align myself with other communication partners to be a “virtual” outsource communication team, not just a lone “freelancer.”
It took me a long time to come to the unsatisfying conclusion that my business name aligned with nothing, and just didn’t resonate. Not with my business concept. Not with anyone. Including myself.
If (or when) you come to that conclusion about your business name, it’s time to re-think, rename, rebrand.
Some companies spend weeks, months or even years—and thousands of dollars—when they’re rebranding. If you’re a small business or an independent consultant trying to name your business, you can consult business-naming experts to work with you. But that can get costly.
Coming up with the right business name does take a lot of thought. It needs to:
- Reflect what you do
- Resonate with people without sounding trite or corny
Is coming up with the right business name and brand identity difficult without consulting business-naming experts? Let’s say it can be challenging, even for someone with a background in branding and communications.
It doesn’t have to cost you thousands of dollars, or take months to do, however. I’m going to show you how you can name your business in as little as an evening—that’s right, an evening. It’s possible to do with only a few simple tools, some of which you’ve probably used before.
What resources do you need to name a business you want to start? Or to rename your business? If you can’t afford to invest in the services of a professional business-name consultant, there are online tools such as Shopify or BusinessNameGenerator.com. However, I think it’s much more rewarding to develop a powerful business name yourself. I renamed my business with:
- careful thought
- a pen
- a notepad
- the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language
- the Oxford Thesaurus
- my MacBook, to do a business name search online
It took me just three hours one evening. Here’s how you can do the same thing. There are four steps involved.
- Think about your mission and the concept of your business.
For example, here’s my mission: We help companies and non-profits communicate more effectively to build their businesses, brands and relationships with stakeholders, customers and employees.
Here’s the concept of my business: Bring together the right people for the right projects so I can offer everything from writing, to design, media relations, to content creation, to photography and project management as a one-stop, “virtual” communication team. Not only do I want to be a trusted communication outsource for clients; I also want to partner with other communication professionals in different disciplines.
- Now think about who you are.
What’s your personality? What’s your reputation? In my case, I’m known for writing with flair and energy, and being able to engage a wide variety of audiences. (I’m telling you this only to illustrate my point. I’m not saying it boastfully, and not without substantiation. I’ve got lots of recommendations to that effect in one of my social media profiles.)
So here are the key words I was working with: partner, flair, energy, style. I started pouring through the thesaurus looking for synonyms and word combinations, and jotting down names that came to mind out of them, on the notepad. Some I liked, some I didn’t. One combination I was keen on was already registered as a business and domain name.
Back to searching the dictionary and thesaurus, and more scribbles on my notepad. Then the perfect combination hit me.
A synonym for partner is “ally.” Another word for flair is “oomph.” The light went on: those two words were the perfect combination for my business name. In a matter of a couple of hours, I had the perfect name, with the perfect tag line.
I did a quick analysis: The name and tag line reflect what I do, and they’re catchy. They’re laser-aligned with my mission and business concept.
- Give it the litmus test
When I ran my rebranded name by a couple of trusted friends and allies, they thought it was catchy, too. And I didn’t have to explain what I do.
If you’re like me, you’ll instinctively know when you’ve hit on exactly the right business name. But give it the litmus test with these three questions:
- Does it resonate with you, and others?
- Is it catchy, but not trite or corny?
- Is it aligned with your business concept?
If you can answer “yes” to all these questions, then you’ll have nailed your business name.
- Register it right away
I was jazzed. I knew it was exactly right. A quick online search revealed there were no other companies with that business name registered in Ontario. In most jurisdictions in North America, you’re legally required to register a business name and pay for a business licence if you’re doing business under any name other than your own. It’s often referred to as a “fictional name.”
Once you’ve developed the name for your business, I advise registering it right away. You never know who might be coming up with the same name at the same time as you! In the 21st century, you can do it in a matter of minutes from the comfort of your couch over the Internet. Long gone are the days when you had to venture to a provincial or state government office to register your business name.
Okay, you’ve come up with a jazzy name that works for your business. What about creating your brand visual identity? I’ll cover this in my next post.