Out of the many aspects of starting a business, choosing a name seems to be among the easier tasks. However, it’s common for entrepreneurs to feel conflicted or unsure about which name to use. Even though you can come up with a business name in as short as a day or even decide on one in a flash of inspiration, this isn’t a decision to make lightly.
After all, your name will represent your business, even more than the logo. It’ll shape the first impression of potential customers, and it’ll stay with your business indefinitely, remaining at the head of your branding amidst whatever changes lay ahead.
By following a systematic, thorough approach, you can whittle down the possibilities to a single name that’ll fit your business well. These steps will guide you through choosing the perfect business name:
1. Reflect on your branding
Your business name has to align with your branding while remaining flexible enough to cope with changes ahead. Before you can list down your ideas, reflect first on your business’s branding:
- What’s your business’s core selling proposition?
- What makes you different from other brands?
- What are your business’s core values and overall vision?
- What image does your business want to portray?
- Who are your customers, and how can your business resonate with them?
- How would you like to expand your business in the future?
Whatever name you choose for your business, it’ll appear all over your social media, website, products, and business cards—practically anything that’s associated with your business. A good understanding of your business identity and branding from the start forms the foundation for naming your business.
2. Brainstorm on possible business names
This is the fun part of the process. First, prep your creativity and list down some keywords that you associate with your business, as well as their synonyms. For example, a fitness studio might have words like “power,” “agility,” and “strong” in the list, while an online shop selling travel bags would have “convenient,” “durable,” and “travel.”
Once you’ve come up with a list of around 10-20 keywords, you can move on to brainstorming actual names. Keep it light and easy—you’ll be filtering the names later, so the emphasis right now is on idea generation.
You can put together two or three keywords, play around with individual keywords, or even write down creative made-up names that reflect your branding.
For inspiration, look at existing business names:
- Grate Expectations, which is the name of a fireplace specialist, displays a brilliant use of Dickensian wordplay that’s instantly memorable
- Netflix is a portmanteau of the words “network” and “flicks”
- BBC has a very formal name (“British Broadcasting Corporation”), but it’s well-known by its acronym
- Coca-Cola draws on alliteration to come up with a name that’s catchy on the ears, and it has survived from the 19thcentury until today
- Spoon Me, a frozen yoghurt shop, is striking and witty, making it a standout among more conventionally named yoghurt places
- Elder is a local tech startup that matches carers with older people, and you get what it’s about right away because of its straightforward name
To give you more ideas, you can check out online tools too and add names that you like to your list:
- Shopify Business Name Generator
- Oberlo Business Name Generator
- Anadea Business Name Generator
In general, business name generators will give you an extensive list of possible names based on the keywords you enter, and you can even customise these by specifying preferences like name length and style.
3. Evaluate your list
Now that you have a list of possible business names, you can narrow it down to the best few. Evaluate each name on your list based on these characteristics:
Easy to Remember
The best business names exemplify good branding: they make an impression, and they stick in people’s minds. This means that a business name shouldn’t be too long or complicated, to the point that your customers will struggle to remember it. You’ll also be using your business name for your website and social media profiles, so a name that’s easy to spell and keep track of will help people find your business online. At the same time, avoid falling into the trap of having a name that’s too similar to that of your competitors’, which happen often with businesses in the same industry.
Aligned with your Business
Based on the reflection you did on your branding before, does the name match up to that? Brand marketing must appeal to emotions, so consider what images and feelings the name evokes and whether it’ll be appealing for potential customers. One general practice is to have a name that’s relevant to your business, clearly portraying what it’s about. While it’s less recommended, some businesses take a risk and choose made-up names like Etsy, Cazoo, or Zego. Because your business is constantly evolving, the name must also not be too narrow or limiting, in case you decide to expand your market or move to another niche.
Legal and Available
Another factor to consider is whether your business name is available and legal. For UK-based businesses, you can conveniently check if your business name is unique with a quick search at Company House. Beyond this, your business name has to follow certain rules, such as not using offensive or sensitive words and not being too similar to another existing business name.
Since digital presence is now key for businesses, you also have to consider the availability of a domain name that matches your company name, preferably ending in “.com.” GoDaddy lets you search for existing domains. If the website URL you want is no longer available, try tweaking the URL a little by adding words like “shop” or “services.”
Narrow your list down to only business names that satisfy all three characteristics and choose the top five or less.
4. Get feedback
With only a few names left, you can branch out and run these along other people to get a different perspective. Talk to the other decision-makers in your business, preferably one-on-one or in small groups to avoid conformity to groupthink. But don’t just stop there—what’s more important is getting the feedback of your target market, whether through online surveys or focus groups. You can also post on anonymous forums such as Reddit while remaining discreet.
For additional certainty, some business owners even run A/B testing on the potential names. This works by making separate landing pages for each with everything identical except for the name, driving traffic to the pages, and looking at which has the best performance.
Based on your own brainstorming and analysis as well as the feedback of other people, you’ll be able to arrive at one business name that outdoes the rest.
Choosing the perfect business name
The name you come up with will always be associated with your business, and changing it will take major rebranding. Your business name is how people will get to know your business first. When you put in time and effort into choosing the perfect business name, you’re making a major investment that will pay off in the years to come.