Choosing a name is one of the most important steps you will take in the early stages of your business. Your company name ultimately represents the face and the identity of your brand. A good name is both appealing and memorable; it has the power to attract customers and generate brand awareness. A bad name can be easily forgotten or can even turn customers off of your business.

A business name shouldn’t be taken lightly. While a name isn’t completely set in stone, it’s not advisable to change it down the line, since it can lead to customer attrition and confusion. This guide will make it a bit easier to determine a good company name by outlining important considerations and tips for generating a memorable trademark.

What to Consider

When naming your business, there are numerous factors that you should consider. Be sure to think about:

  • Your target market. You want the name to appeal to the type of customers you want to attract. For example, a trendier or edgier name may attract a younger crowd, while one that evokes feelings of comfort and nostalgia may attract an older one.
  • The products and services you offer. While this isn’t always the case, it’s often helpful if your brand name immediately lets people know who you are and what you do, or is at least evocative of your product or service. For example, DocuSign clearly merges the words “document” and “sign” so that the customer understands that this is an eSignature service. However, a memorable or unusual name, such as “Google” can pique the curiosity of customers as well.
  • The length of the name. Keep it short so it is not confusing or hard to remember. A simple, short name can resonate with a market and increase brand awareness.
  • Easy to say and pronounce. Names that are difficult to say may confuse people and don’t encourage people to talk about your brand, which will significantly decrease word-of-mouth advertising. If someone is unsure of how to pronounce your name, they are less likely to use it or refer it to a friend.
  • Memorable. You should come up with a name that is creative and catchy. A name like this will have market appeal and stand out. Avoid plain or overused words that sound generic or cliché.
  • Avoid unusual spellings that are hard to remember. If a person can’t find you easily—especially on the web—they likely won’t try again using that creative spelling.
  • Positive. Words have the power to evoke certain responses and emotions beyond their literal meaning. Consider not only what the word means, but how it makes people feel (for example, “Mom’s Cupcakes” feels more comforting than “Mother’s Cupcakes,” even though they both have the same meaning).

How to Come Up with a Name

Creativity is important when attempting to name your business, as is patience. The process may be difficult and time-consuming, but it is vital. If you’re feeling stuck, consider these tips when naming your business:

  • Use a name generator, such as Panabee, NameFind or BustAName, which will take your ideas, words and other information to help you discover and create a new, unique name.
  • Combine words or use different prefixes and suffixes (for example, “Investopedia”).
  • Try new forms or spellings of existing words.
  • Use a thesaurus, and brainstorm to collect related words that may be relevant or have a catchy sound.
  • Add your location, like your city or state, to personalize. Be careful, though, as this could box you in as you grow and change.
  • Translate languages for an interesting approach (for example, “Ubuntu,” which is both an operating system and a philosophy on human kindness).
  • Hold a contest on a site like Warrior Forum or even Craigslist. Post your ideas and thoughts about your name, and provide a prize for the selected winner.

Test Your Name

Once you’ve come up with your business name, you want to make sure it works for you. Don’t forget to follow these steps:

  • Check to see if the name is protected by trademark. Run a trademark search on the US Patent and Trademark Office site. Make sure you don’t infringe on an existing trademark and that the name is available for use (learn how to do this in further detail here).
  • Run a domain-name search, social networking search, Yellow Pages search, etc. to see if your name is already taken. It may be harder to market and brand your business if the domain name and social network names are already being used. Check out “5 Searches You Must Perform Before You Choose a Name” to guarantee you don’t waste your time building a name that has the odds stacked against it.
  • Narrow down your list, and ask for help. Try out the name on potential customers, friends, colleagues and investors to see how it sounds and to get feedback. You may find people react more strongly to one name on your list over the others.

Pitfalls of a Poor Name

A poorly chosen name can get lost in the crowd if it is too basic, and a confusing one may deter potential customers. If people don’t understand your name and what you are about, they may not trust you or discover your business at all.

No matter what you choose for your name, the most important step is branding that name. Use it continuously throughout your marketing, and ensure people remember it.