5 Proven Steps to Take When Naming a Business
I have heard the story countless times. An entrepreneur has their product or service ready, they have spent money on a logo, they have informed all their friends and family about their company, and then they hit a significant roadblock. The name that they have used on everything and have told everyone about is not available. The once-excited business owner is now deflated and scrambling to come up with a new name and rework everything they thought was finished.
Don’t let this happen in your business. The name you select is very important because it is how everyone will identify your company. It also takes a lot of work to change a business name once in use and made public.
To ensure you are selecting an available and usable name, you need to do work up front. To help guide that work, I encourage you to complete these five steps before naming a business.
5 Proven Steps to Take When Naming a Business
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1. Research industry norms
Identify your competition and create a list of the company names. One thing you might notice is that most of the names follow the same trend.
The three most popular industry norms when it comes to names include:
- Inclusion of owner or partner’s names – Elise James Design Studio and Dr. Jenna Elwart & Associates
- Industry or product offering descriptor – Total Lawncare and Landscaping and Orange Theory Fitness
- Abstract/Anything goes – Apple and McDonalds
Your company name is often one of the first details about your company that a customer encounters. Names that follow the norms can help to build trust before the customer knows any other information.
Have you ever played the game “One of these things is not like the other”? When your business’s name does not follow the standard, a customer is more likely to see it as out of place when viewing your company’s name alongside your competitors.
While businesses not following the norms can succeed, know what you are getting into before you move forward with a name.
2. Check domain availability
Your company name should always match your web address. Therefore, domain availability will often dictate the name you use for your company and should be checked as soon as you think you have come up with a possible name.
A domain is the identifier in your website address. In the web address www.jamievc.com, jamievc.com is the domain.
Checking the availability of a domain takes more than just trying to go to the website. Many domains are owned but currently do not have an active site. Therefore, you need to check the domain availability through a domain register like GoDaddy.
If the name you want is not available, select a new name.
Having a web address that differs from your company name will confuse your clients. They might wonder if they are in the right place. If they fear that they are on the wrong website, they can believe it is a phishing attempt and become hesitant to complete online purchases.
If you discover that the web address is available, make the purchase as soon as possible. Domains are a low investment, and you can always decide not to use it later.
Even if you do not plan on using the web address right away, you should check and purchase the domain. This ensures you have the domain name that matches your company name is yours when you are ready to move forward.
Yes, you still need to complete this step if your company is brick and mortar. Read this post to learn more about why your brick and mortar company needs a website.
3. Check state availability
Next, you need to check to see if the name is free for use within your state.
To reduce confusion, states do not want businesses with similar names. In all states, you can search the database for free before you are ready to register your business or apply for a Doing Business As name.
Each state has different rules when it comes to using similar names. Check your state’s rules for more information.
When you do register, your state will only check their database. This means that someone can register the name in another state. This is why it is essential to check for website availability and to complete the next step before you determine the name is available.
4. Check for trademarks
In addition to checking the availability of the domain and the name within your state, you also need to check for existing trademarks. Because different companies can register the same name within various states, trademarks are often the best way to ensure national naming rights.
When you are searching the database, you want to confirm that there is not a live trademark for a similar name that is used in relation to similar products or services. The names do not have to be exact, but similar according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office standards.
If there is a live trademark similar products or services, you cannot use the name. If there is a trademark, but it is being used for products or services in a completely different category, you can use the name.
However, once again be careful with using a name that is being used by someone else. If people are going to think of the other company when they hear that name, you might be doing your business a disservice.
5. Complete an online search
The last step is to complete an online search for the name. While the name might be 100% available for use, there are most likely results that will appear when you complete an online search.
Take note as to what appears on the first page of the results. What you see is what your clients will see – especially until you have strong SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Are you ok with your clients seeing these results? Is there anything there that could offend or confuse your audience? If you do not approve of what you are seeing, it is best to select a different name.
The name is a significant detail of your business and is a detail that is hard to difficult to change once in use. Complete these five steps for any name you think you want to use for your company. While you might not be able to use the first name you think of for your business, the perfect name is out there.