How to Name a Business

Posted by Jake on 6th December 2014

Your business name is fundamentally important, it’s the part of your brand that is present in just about everything you do –  from your business cards to your invoices, from your networking meetings to your telephone conversations, and from your website to your social media.

It’s at the heart of everything you do and a great opportunity to engage with your audience in a meaningful way – time after time.

That said, business owners often don’t give their business name much consideration and end up storing problems for the future.

Changing your business name further down the line can be time-consuming, frustrating and expensive.

There are many different ways to approach naming your business, some are more effective than others.  We’re going to the look at some of the common techniques used and the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Naming a Business After Yourself

Historically one of the most common methods of naming a business was to name it after the founders.  Think Ford, Cadbury or more recently Dyson.

We’d also place names composed of initials in this category, such as the car brand TVR – named after their founder Trevor Wilkinson.

Strengths (+)

  • A good choice if you want to leverage your own reputation or personal brand – if you are the ‘David Beckham’ of your industry, then flaunt it.
  • Can be suitable where you want to convey the image of a professional services business such as an accountant, solicitor or architect.

Weaknesses (-)

  • Doesn’t communicate the benefits your business provides or the products that you sell – your business name is potentially meaningless to your customers.
  • It may put off potential buyers if you ever intend to sell your business.
  • Your name be difficult to pronounce or spell for international customers.
  • A missed opportunity to develop a catchy, memorable brand name.

Using Keywords in Your Business Name

In our recent post on keywords, we explained what keywords are and why they are important in search engine optimisation.  More and more businesses are including keywords in their business name to increase the traffic from search engines.  Our client Salsa Dance Leeds has used this technique effectively to drive new customers from search engines.

Strengths (+)

  • Including keywords in your domain name, can be a good way to increase visibility in search engines – because your domain name is an important ranking factor.  You can of course, have a different domain name to your business name but we wouldn’t recommend that you do.
  • Your name ‘does what it says on the tin’, it is very clear to people what services you provide.

Weaknesses (-)

  • You may be missing the opportunity to develop a catchy, memorable brand name.
  • It can be difficult to trademark ordinary words from the dictionary and protect your identity.
  • You may want to diversify in the future and your keywords may restrict the areas of business that you can move into.
  • Even without keywords in your domain name, you can still appear for high value keywords with the correct search engine optimisation.

Including a Location in Your Name

Similar to including keywords in your business name, you may be tempted to include a location.  This location may well be a keyword itself, or you may simply want to affiliate yourself with a particular location.

Strengths (+)

  • Local keywords in your domain name can be an effective way to get a leg up in search engine results and also ensure you receive relevant, local traffic.
  • Great if your business has local appeal and always will, for example Leeds Guide, the magazine dedicated to what’s on in Leeds.
  • You can tap into the reputation of a particular location, for example Kensington Couture says something quite different to Huddersfield Couture, because Kensington has an established reputation for great fashion.

Weaknesses (-)

  • Limiting if you want to expand outside your chosen location in the future.  For example, customers searching for an electrician in Manchester may think that ‘Electricians Leeds’ don’t service their area and pass over them – whether or not they have become a national company!
  • Unless your chosen location has a good reputation for your products or services, you’re not conveying any benefits to your customers.
  • Adding a location can make your name very long, and hamper memorability as a result.

Conveying Features & Benefits

A feature of a product or service is something that it has, whereas a benefit is the thing that it does for the customer to improve their situation.

Customers are particularly interested in the benefit that a product or service will give to them.  Therefore a viable naming strategy is to include the benefit that you will convey to your customers.

For example: Hotmail, Tasty! Sandwiches, and Amazing Glazing.  Notice that these three examples include both a feature – mail, sandwiches, glazing; and also a benefit – hot, tasty, amazing.

Strengths (+)

  • Your point of difference is at the heart of your brand.
  • As customers buy based on the benefits, these names can be very effective and meaningful.
  • Potential customers will know what you do and how you do it, from your name alone.
  • May include a relevant keyword.

Weaknesses (-)

  • If you have a benefit in your name then you need to live up to it or you will end up a laughing stock!
  • May be restrictive if you want to diversify into new markets.

Creating a New Word

Creating a new word or a misspelling of a dictionary word is increasingly becoming a viable strategy for finding a unique name in a cluttered namespace.  Google is an intentional misspelling of googol – which is an incredibly large number.

Using something completely out of context can have the same effect as creating a new word – e.g. Apple or Amazon.

Strengths (+)

  • A great opportunity to develop a catchy, memorable brand name.
  • You have much more chance of finding your domain name, trademark, company name, and social media profiles available.
  • Easier to protect than words in a dictionary.
  • Can create something truly unique, which makes people stop and think.

Weaknesses (-)

  • People may not know how to spell the name, the best names of this type have an intuitive spelling.
  • Until you’ve built up some brand awareness, may not have relevance to your audience.
  • For many potential customers, names like this just won’t make sense!

What Next?

Although there is no ‘one size fits all’ naming strategy, for a professional name generation project we tend towards creating a new word, that both communicates some benefit and includes keywords where appropriate. Which is no mean feat!

Hopefully the above list has sparked some ideas and got you thinking about names in new way.

Once you have some ideas for a name, the hard work really starts.  Why not test your business name ideas against our checklist, the properties of great business names or if you’ve found a name you’re happy with find out if your business name is available.

By Jake

I'm web designer in Leeds with a background in design, marketing and programming; I put together top class websites with lots of users to create a buzz around your business.

I invest my heart and soul into every piece of work I do, and build long-term relationships as a result.