• Kionna Willingham

How to Create a Business Name That Doesn’t Suck

Selecting a business name is easily one of the most overlooked steps in starting your business. It’s important to take your time with the naming process. Your business name will not only be the first impression of your business but should also represent your strategy, target audience, and business objectives.



Does a name really matter?


Of course, that’s a rhetorical question. I’m sure you know how much it really matters. The problem is that most don’t understand the discussions that have to happen before you can even begin the brainstorming work. We’ll discuss these questions in more detail below.


I need you to think about some well-known businesses today, what do you think when you hear their names? Some businesses take the literal approach, while others prefer a metaphorical approach like Under Armour and Apple. Both names are used to represent their company’s vision rather than the actual product. The name of your business must properly reflect your overall brand. Think Disney or Nike. What do you associate them with? Your brand should inform your audience on who you are and how you’ll help. I’ll show you how.





The Secret Ingredients


The business name is often one of the first items selected when creating a business. Unfortunately, most first-time entrepreneurs put very little thought into selecting the business name that fits their vision.


This is due to vision and business not being clear at the time a name is selected. You must make sure you are clear on the following questions BEFORE you sit down to brainstorm.


  • What will your business offer?

  • What problem do you solve?

  • Who are your customers?

  • What is the culture of your business?

  • What do you see in the future of your business?

  • How do you want future clients to feel when they work with you?


These are the most important questions but there are others that should definitely be considered depending on your industry. Download our FREE Brand Questionnaire to go deeper on this.


Rather you complete the questionnaire or answer the questions listed above, it’s important that your answers are detailed and concise. It does you no good to be vague in your responses. You must seek clarity before taking the next step.




You’re now one step closer to finding a suitable name for your business and establishing your brand identity.


First, write down any initial ideas that you have for your business. Keep things out of your head and on paper for this exercise. I want you to write everything no matter how ridiculous it may sound to you now.



After you answer the brand questions and write down some ideas, put yourself in the place of the audience. Look at each name and ask yourself a couple of questions.

  • Does this sound like a company you would work with?

  • What are some of the first impressions of each name?

  • Are there any other words or phrases associated with your service?


Finally, does it appeal to your ideal customer? Generally speaking, you always have to think of the target audience. It might sound good to you, but ultimately all parts of your business need to appeal to them.



The most satisfying brain dump you’ll ever do


By this point, you’ll have a clear understanding of who you are and how you help. It’s time to start transforming your notes into brand name ideas. Try to come up with about 15 - 20 names. Don’t worry about how bad they sound, I promise there is a method to the madness.


If you get stuck, think about some keywords of your business and write those down first. From there, you can start letting your creativity run wild. Continue writing down anything that comes to mind.


Still feeling stuck? Try out these name generators for ideas:


One of my favorite ways is to use a thesaurus! Finding synonyms of words you want to use can make for a standout name. For example, one of our clients started an event planning business. In our Brand Naming Workshop, a consistent theme of stress-free and ease continued to come up in our discussion.


They wanted potential clients to know the process will be easy and stress-free but they also wanted to demonstrate that it was of ease and almost second nature for them as well. However, Easy Event Planning doesn’t quite excite anyone. We did some research and came up with Effortless Event Design which created the desired effect among testing the name in user groups.



Different Types of Names


It’s time to start looking at options. Do lots of research, use keywords of your business activities as an example. There are a few different types of business names you can think about.


Obvious: This one is self-explanatory. Your business name will reflect directly what your business is, for example, Bed, Bath, & Beyond. While these might be easy, they also have less availability.


Name-Based: Naming your business after it’s the founder (you) is also another choice. Similar to the obvious name, multiple people share names. You might run into another of your business with possible spelling differences.


Trendy: True to its name, trendy business names reflect trends. These have two potential issues to look out for:

  • Trends are subjective

  • Trends can die off quickly, so choose wisely.


Compound: This type of name combines two words to form a name which is usually descriptions of the company. YouTube is an example.


Blend: Blend names capture the essence of compound names, but using partial words instead of whole ones. Wikipedia for example.


Real-World: Real-world names are often unrelated words that have been changed to be linked to certain businesses. Amazon is a major example of this.


Prefix + Suffix: These types of names consist of a word with a prefix or suffix attached. For example, Spotify and Shopify. These names can be good, but face the con of being too abstract.



Keep Going. You’re almost there.


Make sure to test each name by saying them aloud as practice for talking to others. If the name is difficult to say, or too long, it might not be the perfect fit. Your business name should be short and memorable. Also, try getting feedback from those around you. Chances are, they’ll notice something that you didn’t. As you continue, try to narrow the list down to 3-5 names.


Once you have your list narrowed down, it’s time to do some digging online. Imagine becoming fond of a name, only to find out there are 5 more businesses with the same name. To avoid this, do some online searches on sites like godaddy.com for domain availability and visit your Secretary of State's website to complete a corporate search.


You don’t want to have to deal with future lawsuits or worse-caught up in the crossfire of another business. You should also avoid making your name too limiting, for example, a location-based name. In theory, it sounds suitable, but what if your business wants to expand in the future? These are important points to keep in mind.




Here’s what you should avoid


I’ve told you what you SHOULD do, but what should you avoid? First, stay away from foreign names if you aren’t completely sure of their meaning universally. Secondly, while it’s important to stand out you don’t want to have a name that’s too difficult. Make sure to keep your name simple and to the point. Nobody wants to say a mouthful when recommending a business. Make your name something that easily rolls off the tongue. Similarly, make sure it’s not a generic name. Remember my client story? Which would you rather hire? Easy Event Planning or Effortless Event Design? That’s the difference between a name and an inclusive brand.


Now that you’ve completed that process, what next? Once you’ve settled on a name, you can:

  • Complete the Brand Questionnaire

  • Set up your Business Social Media

  • Develop your marketing strategy

  • Create your brand’s visual identity



Want the help of a pro with the next steps for your business? Schedule a discovery call with our Brand Strategist, Chryssy!


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