Naming a business takes some careful thought and consideration. A good name captures the essence of what your business is all about and stands out in customers' minds.
How to Name a Business:
The first step is to get together with your co-workers, business partners, and employees to share ideas. Writing down any and all name ideas on a whiteboard could help you to come up with something brilliant. At the very least, it will help you to narrow down your options.
During your brainstorming session, the following questions might be helpful if you need some direction with name ideas:
- What do we want this business to be known for?
- What is unique about this business?
- How do we want people to feel when they think about this business?
- Is there a root word that we want to include in the name?
- How many words do we want to have in the name?
You can create new words using a combination of other words or prefixes, but avoid using anything that is long or difficult to pronounce. You want your business name to be unique but memorable.
2. Search names.
Do a quick Google search to see if there are any businesses that are already operating using one of the names that you would like to use. It will be confusing for your customers if there is another business with the exact same name.
If you don't find anything by doing a quick Google search, dig a little deeper and see if anyone has a trademark on one of the names that you would like to use. If a trademark exists, you cannot use the name as doing so could lead to legal problems. Whether the name is actively being used or not, a trademark indicates that someone owns the legal rights to it.
3. Test name options.
At this point, you should have several different options for your business' name. A good step to take at this point is to test potential names and see how people react to them. This is similar to what a political party does in the lead up to an election campaign: they conduct opinion polls to find out how voters will react to something.
You can conduct opinion polls by sending out surveys to a sample group. You can ask people to respond by rating their preference of 3-4 names. Short surveys can be created online using tools like Survey Monkey or Google Forms. It's best to have a question at the end of the survey that asks them to explain what they like most about their number one choice.
Your survey audience should represent people who would actually be your customers. For example, if your business wants to target young adults, then you should survey a group of young adults. This will give you a more accurate idea of what that demographic likes best.
4. Trademark the name.
A trademark is absolutely essential if you want to retain ownership of your carefully chosen business name. Filing a trademark is not expensive, but it will give you legal protection in case someone else tries to use the same title.
File a trademark through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. All you have to do is go to uspto.gov and complete the online registration. When you complete the registration process, you will have to pay a fee of between $225.00 and $400.00.
Make sure you file for a trademark as soon as possible, because it can take up to six months to get a response from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
5. Register the name with your state.
Most States require business owners to register their business name once they have created a legal business entity. Typically, this can be done via your state's Small Business website. In most cases, users can log into the website, fill out a name registration form, and pay a small fee.
Registration with your state is not the same as a trademark. A trademark gives you legal rights to a name, while registration with a state notifies the state government that you are operating a business entity under a specific name.
6. Start marketing.
Now that you have a name that you can be proud of, it's time to start marketing your business! It goes without saying that your business name will be on every piece of marketing material that comes out of your office.
With a good name you can create messages that will draw customers in and introduce them to your business for the first time. You can use marketing automation software to help with some of the marketing tasks.
A natural next step is to create a logo that features your business name. Logos are a visual representation of your business that can easily be added to brochures, websites, business cards, videos, web advertisements and more. You can design the logo yourself or hire a professional graphic designer to do that job.
Cost of Naming a Business:
Type of Fee
U.S. Patent & Trademark Office filing fee
$225.00 to $400.00
State Business Registation
$101.00 (on average - varies by state)
Trade Name Registration (DBA)
$5.00 to $50.00 (varies by state)
Business Naming Services:
Not everyone has the time, creativity or resources to create their own business name. Naming services do the job for new businesses by gathering all of the necessary information and developing a name or names that represent the core identity of the business.
What do they offer?
Some business naming services offer nothing more than a name, while others will provide a complete package that includes:
- New business name.
- Customer research.
- Business tagline.
- Branding strategy.
- Domain name.
- Marketing materials.
If a company lists itself as a "name generator", that usually means that all they do is provide you with a name for a small fee. Small business consulting companies and marketing firms are more likely to offer a complete package.
How much does it cost to use a naming service?
Prices vary widely among naming services. Shopify and Anadea have free name generators, but all they do is give you a few ideas for a company name. Comprehensive naming services from a branding agency could cost between $5,000 and $10,000. Economical services like SquadHelp offer a basic naming/branding package for $199.00.
How to Name a Business FAQs:
How do you find out if a business name is taken?
There are a variety of ways to confirm whether or not the name you would like to use is taken. First of all, you can search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database to see if the name is already trademarked. You can find out if anyone in your state is already using the name by performing a search on your state's official small business website.
Can I have the same name as another business?
If no trademark exists then you can take the name, even if someone else is already using it. However, it's not a good idea to take a name that someone is already using. Competing with someone else for the same name could make it harder for people to find your business and could lead to confusion among customers. It's best to use an original idea.
How to Create a Business Name:
- Search names.
- Test name options.
- Trademark a name.
- Register the name with your state.
- Start marketing.
How long does naming a business take?
It really depends how long it takes you to come up with a name that you like. You can register a name with your state almost immediately. The longest part is obtaining a trademark from the U.S. Patent Office, which can take up to six months.
Can you tell me how to think of a business name?
Sometimes people struggle to think of a business name because they haven't put much thought into what they want people to think about when they hear about their business. Start by writing down a list of traits that you would like people to associate with your business and then go from there.
How do I name my brand?
If you have a brand for a specific line of products or services, pick a name that is related to that particular subject and that cannot be easily confused with the name of your business.
How to check a business name:
- Do a quick Google search.
- Check local business listings.
- Check with your state business registry.
- Search the U.S. Patent and Trademark database.
Names like Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon and Facebook are all familiar to us, but at one time they were just ideas. A good business name starts as a carefully researched idea, and you'll know it's good if it resonates with your customers.
To learn more about starting a business, check out How to Start a Business.