The power of a name: how to choose a name for your new business

To celebrate the launch of our new book, “Preparing to set up your limited company”, Stela (our marketing guru) has shared her experience with you in this series of blog posts – they’re packed with tips and advice to help you come up with the perfect name for your new business.

Online businesses are no different than other traditional forms with respect to strategy, objectives or name rules.

What are suitable names for a new online busieness

Before you dive into the various ideas that would come to your mind, pause for a moment and think through a couple of things.

  • What are the objectives of your business, and,
  • What do you want to achieve through your company name, in the context of your business needs?

This approach might sound formal, but it’s useful to clarify these points before rushing into the name generation process.

When selected carefully, names have far greater chance of turning your business into a real champion in your target market. Short, memorable, easy to pronounce and catchy names become popular in no time, enabling powerful word-of-mouth opportunities and a potential for a viral spread on the Internet.

Selected words with these characteristics quite often turn into verbs (Hoover, Google), making it even easier for you to jump on the bandwagon of quirkiness and get some free brand-awareness among your audience or even in the media as the community grows.

 As a starting point, bare in mind the following popular criteria:

  • Is it short? (Ideally 5-6 letters, 2-sylables)
  • Is it memorable?
  • Is it articulate?
  • Does it make sense? 

Start with your competition

What’s the secret ingredient that captivates their customers? Think about their branding and names in particular. Find the perspective that is most related to their users and how it impacts their perceptions.

Next comes your audience

Research their behaviours and habits associated with similar competitive products and services. Do they always prefer a certain product because its unique qualities or, is there also some magic behind that brand that attracts them?

Branding is key and it starts with the name

Relate your brand and its name to the values and ethos of the customers that you wish to attract. Assess whether more sophisticated name or a simple clean version of it would resonate better with their emotions and expectations.

All you need is your list of suggested names and a bunch of volunteers. Find them among your circle of friends, family, online community and complete strangers, targeted with the right incentive to give you an honest opinion. Sometimes it takes as little as a cup of coffee to get an independent view on a name – remember this could be essential for your company’s success!

Ask yourself: what I want from a name?

Do you seek to express your brand’s unique personality because you are trying to build a business that is known for its name?

Or are you, perhaps, trying to come up with a practical and descriptive name to start trading immediately?

What are your expectations for growth and expansion beyond the current market boundaries?

The answers to these questions should guide your thoughts and help you better choose a killer business name.

Tips to inspire your imagination

Your company name needs to reflect the values of your business, so try thinking of a word that:

  • Has an inherently personal meaning for you
  • Captures your company’s unique personality
  • Conveys certain benefits, recognized by your users
  • Is memorable

Combining clarity with a touch of personality is by far the most straightforward winning combination for company names. Specific names that provide a hint about your business activity perform better that generic ones, which often need to be explained every time they are mentioned. Being too abstract or too practical is generally risky, but we’ve found a number of exceptions to the rule in the list below.

Descriptive functional names 

such as HotelNight, General Motors, Pizza Express, are concrete and specific and communicate the advertised benefits straight away.

They are not particularly unique, but can be suitable for certain online businesses. If you plan to trade mainly online, your customers are much more likely to find you based on their keyword- specific searches. Google Adwords can come in handy to generate variations of your chosen name and estimate potential search volume and traffic.

Harnessing the power of Google

Many business owners nowadays think ahead of the game and simplify matters for later when in comes to SEO and advertising on the web.

Start-up entrepreneurs often resort to the Google Keyword Planner Tool when choosing a business name. The concept is simple and practical.

When you input keywords or phrases related to your industry and offer, the tool generates popular search terms that people use to find out similar products and services.

It is, indeed, a smart way to identify current search trends and come up with the number one name that is also search engine optimised before your business even starts. Bare in mind though, that such a mechanized approach is useful to pick up fairly straightforward descriptive names, lacking much creativity and unique meaning. While this might help you start off quickly and efficiently, trends change over time and in the long run it might stifle your chances to stand out and could eventually kill your business.

It is also advisable to avoid “Web 2-0”-like contractions, such as: 4u. L8r, x3m and overly trendy names that are very likely to become dated or completely over-saturated in the course of time. Think creatively, but also consider long-term prospects and how your name could open doors easily when your company grows.

Consider global linguistics

If you’re going to be trading overseas, make sure your company name is not offensive and it does not bring negative connotations and unwanted cultural associations outside your home country.

Therefore eliminate every possibility that your name is offensive in other languages or has any negative connotations associated with it. If relevant, consult native speakers who would be familiar with idioms, slang and the cultural perceptions your chosen name brings, to prevent embarrassing situations from the outset.

By all means align your company with the country and the target market where you are planning to trade primarily first, but do consider expansion beyond the current markets and national borders. Crossing national borders nowadays has never been easier thanks to the Internet, hence the importance of choosing an appropriate name which will fit in to the global environment.

Domain name

Consider your domain name in the context of linguistics, too. Nowadays it is extremely important for your business to be easily discoverable on the Internet, and having a website is almost a must. When choosing a company name you need to watch out for available domain names. There are a number of websites where you can check if a name is available to purchase.

Sometimes it is worth considering to purchase several domain names, such as .com and and arrange both of them to redirect users to the same web page.

The same precautions apply to similar names where alternative spellings are possible, such as pane and pain, fare and fair, etc.

This is a precautionary step to protect your brand should a close competitor decide to occupy a similar web address and steal valuable traffic from your site. Such actions would harm not only your online reputation, but your profits too.

Remember social networks

Social networks will often play a crucial role in raising awareness about your business. Therefore, just like domain names, you need profiles with available names on the major social networks that you are planning to use. Even if you are not planning to utilise them at first, it costs nothing to register the name and reserve it for yourself when you decide to start your promotional activities.

Check for common misspellings

If your company name appears in search engines as a misspelling you could lose a significant amount of visitors to undesirable URLs. Perform your research carefully and prepare to act flexibly if issues arise.

Check your name without spaces

Lastly, consider what your name looks like when typed as a web address without spaces and punctuation. There are quite a few negative examples where words chained together change the whole meaning of a name and bring up unwanted associations.

No punctuation and spaces in domain names can cause unforeseen problems:

  • Childrenswear – Children’s Wear
  • Choosespain – Choose Spain
  • Plumbersexmouth – Plumbers of Exmouth

Overlooking this seemingly miner issue could be potentially harming to your business future as a successful brand.

Next in this series:

Building emotional connections

Now that you’ve thought through the essentials of naming a company, take a step further and learn how your name can build an emotional connection with your audience. By doing so, you can harness the power of your clients’ emotions and help them create positive perceptions with your brand.

Finally, we’ve wrapped it all for you in this video where you’d also find out more on trade marks and copyright rules. Discover how the world’s most famous brands named their businesses and find the perfect name for yours!