How To Come Up With A Business Name [Step-by-Step]
We live in a start-up culture where new businesses are constantly popping up, and then disappearing just as quickly. For a brand new business, your company name is the first thing that potential customers will see, so you need to make sure it’s a good one.
Before you begin, this process will be much easier if you use our Business Name worksheets, which contain all of the information you need to come up with a winning name.
Old school ain’t so cool anymore
Business names used to be simple. They used the names of business founders like David Jones or Barnes & Noble. Some used a description of what the business did, like AT&T or Telecom. Creating company names was straight-forward, straight-laced and straight-up-boring.
Things are different now. With such a crowded marketplace, you’ve only got seconds to catch the attention of your market, appropriately describe your product, and be memorable enough to make an impression. That’s a lot of pressure for just your company name!
Stage 1—Key principles
Before sitting down to come up with ideas for business names, ask yourself the following questions.
- Why does my business exist? How can I connect my purpose with my business name?
- What are my long-term goals for my business?
- What are the values of my business and how might I reflect them in my name? (For example – is ‘trust’ a key value?)
- What are the names of my competitors? How can I distance myself from them?
- Who are my customers? What are they looking for? What will appeal or not appeal to them?
- What am I offering? (If you have multiple services, like electric and solar, your name should reflect both)
- What common or trademarked names are similar to my ideas? How can I move away from those?
It’s also important not to feel constrained by your keywords—cast your net wide!
Stage 2—Brain dump
Answering the above questions should put you in a clearer frame of mind, and allow you to start the process. But before you start, make sure you’re armed with three things: time for the process, an open mind, and a variety of people you can bounce ideas off. A good old Thesaurus never went astray, either!
Ever played Taboo or Scattergories? If so, they’re going to come in handy.
Your objective for this section is to think of as many words as possible that are associated with your brand. Just get them all down, primary school style, on a big piece of paper. Use colour, symbols and word associations. Look up synonyms in your thesaurus.
A technique called Googlestorming is useful for business name generators. Search for related products, concepts and ideas. Selling ice cream? Google words associated with it— cold, ice, frozen—and see what you can come up with. Try to approach this task creatively, and think outside the box to help you find that innovative, catchy name. Keep bouncing around concepts, but keep them simple, marketable, and memorable.
Lastly, get together a brand summary. Put together a profile reflective of the below points.
- What do you offer?
- Who is your target market?
- Who is your main competition?
- What are the three primary values of your brand?
- What is your brand’s style? (Traditional? Fresh? Fun? Exciting?)
- Why do people choose to spend their money with you?
- How does your product make people feel?
- What industry terms are associated with your business? (Authenticity? Accredited?)
- What are the personality traits of your brand?
Once complete, compare these to your brain dump. See any commonalities?
Now that you have plenty of ideas, can you see any obvious connections or combinations? If possible, organise what you’ve already got into categories. You can try categories such as playful, descriptive, metaphorical or symbolic, and conjoined or linked.
If your product is technical and service-based, perhaps being descriptive (an accurate reflection of services) is the sensible choice. Are you offering two services or are there two concepts or ideas with a clear link between them? Perhaps conjoined or linked should be your choice?
Brainstorming a business name
Open our Excel worksheet that you downloaded earlier, and add as many business names as possible, just filling out the first column for now. Or if you chose not to download the worksheet, feel free to make your own simpler version.
If English wasn’t your best subject at school, we’ve got some tips below for creative ways to join words and phrases.
- Alliteration (a repeated sound or letter at the beginning of each word). Look for adjectives (describing words) related to your words from Stage One.
- Idioms are common phrases (almost like clichés) that have coded, understood meaning. There’s a list of them here that can help you make some connections between words.
- Can you make an acronym? (First letter of each word put together to create something new)
- Can you use metaphors, similes or imagery?
- Are there different colours that you can associate with your brand? Red may mean exciting (like in Red Balloon). Golden may symbolise something precious and memorable (like in Golden Octopus Foundation).
By now you should have at least ten healthy names. Call in your support team! Can they spot any more great combinations? Remember—you’re looking at creating a business name that is simple, honest, and reflective of your brand. Two (or three or four) heads are better than one.
Here are a few tools that might help you finalise this stage of brainstorming a business name:
- Dot-o-mator: This tool reflects names currently available. It helps you combine beginnings and ends to come up with a new list of names.
- Business Name Generator: Select a few keywords and then watch a list generate for you.
- Naming By Write Press & Rhymer By Write Press: This combines keywords with similar names or rhyming words.
- Brandbucket: (Be careful here – cost can be a factor). Buy your domain and they’ll help with your logo and name.
- Power Thesaurus: Another tool to use to come up with synonyms for your business name.
- Rhymer: Another tool which finds rhymes to help compose a business name.
- Adjective: Place the words you like the most from your brain dump before or after the random adjective generator. Even use this to create the adjectives to best describe your business to create this list prior to trying to combine words into business name ideas
Stage 4—Scoring and shortlisting
Complete the remaining columns on your worksheet (aside from “Shortlist Decision”), to create a much more scientific approach to your selection.
Once you’ve completed each column, you can update the final “Shortlist Decision” column. If the “Business Name Score” is 10 or greater, select “Approved.” Otherwise, select “Rejected.”
Once done, reflect on the questions you asked and answered in stage one before proceeding, and remove any names that aren’t suitable, as well as any that show as “rejected.” If possible whittle your list down to three names.
If you have a trusted professional network, send your shortlist to them for opinions and feedback. Maybe they’ll be able to see something that you don’t?
Stage 5—Check availability
Congratulations, you’ve got your top names! Don’t print those business cards just yet, though. First you need to check if they’re actually usable.
Try this for the final elements of creating a business name:
- Google your top three choices. Eliminate anything that is close to a competitor in the same market. You need to avoid potentially detrimental brand confusion.
- Check to see if the domain name is possible. If you’re in Australia, try very hard to get ‘.com.au’
- Passed that test? Head to the ASIC website to check if the business name is available for use. You can search their business name register at this link.
- IP Australia will also reveal if there are any existing trademarks for your top business name choices.
- Concerned about the social media aspect? One thing to look at in this scenario is the user name availability across diff social media platforms. Ideally you would want your social media usernames consistent across all platforms but in reality that can be challenging. Don’t be afraid to create variations, for example, the Wall Street Journal named their Twitter handle simply “WSJ.” At Media Heroes, we use “MediaHeroesAU.” It’s still worth a check and a nice easy tool to check all your platforms is Namecheckr.
Stage 6—Lock it in!
Victory is so close! There’s only one thing left to do…lock it in!
After your victory dance, make sure you thoroughly complete all registrations for your name of choice before you go ahead and start building everything. Once that’s complete and confirmed, you can move on to logo development and the creation of your brand.
Seatbelts on, all arms and legs inside the vehicle and get ready for savvy digital marketing to rocket you to new heights!
Any other hints for creating a business name?
- Make sure it’s easy to hear, say, spell and understand.
- Unique doesn’t necessarily mean obscure or mysterious—make sure your customers can connect your name to your product.
- Your domain name doesn’t have to exactly match your business name!
- Don’t go too niche in case your business model changes down the track.
- Give your product and your hard work the respect they deserve by letting the experts help your customers find your business online.
There are a lot of people ready to give you advice about how to create a business name, but at the end of the day it really needs to be your decision alone. With any luck, you’ll be associated with this name for years to come.
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