Like Shakespeare said: “A rose by any other name would not sell as well.” Finding the right name for your business—one that will attract customers and speaks to the brand identity you want to build—is one of the most crucial steps when starting a small business. Pick right, and you’ll win customers and influence your industry, a la Dale Carnegie. Plus, you’ll avoid the costly process of a rebrand down the road. Why Your Business Name Is So Important Your business name plays an important role in quickly conveying your offer to potential customers in just a few words. Whether you sell a product or a service, the business name you choose needs to quickly describe what you provide. And when done well, it can help you stand out from your competitors. Types Of Business Names There are several different naming strategies you can choose from. It may be worth trying out a few different tactics to see what you come up with. Descriptive names - This is a straightforward name that immediately tells your audience who you are and what you do (for example, Bank of America). Acronyms or initials - Using your initials or some other type of initial is easy to memorize. You may, however, have issues in getting a proper trademark for an acronym business name. Suggestive names - This is a creative strategy that can be easier to trademark than other options. Salesforce, for instance, suggests that you'll get help with your sales without being entirely literal. Arbitrary names - This strategy may be a little riskier, but you can use a totally unrelated name for your business (think Apple or Google). How To Name Your Business 1. Brainstorm In brainstorming, there are no bad ideas. The best way to come to the right business name is to consider as many possible names as you can think of. Write lists. Make word clouds. Poll friends and family about the words they think of when you describe your business. Say yes to everything, write it down, and then see what sticks with you. 2. Confirm availability Before you go any further, make sure your best business name ideas are available to use. There are a few places to check: Federal trademarks Secretary of State in the state you're incorporated Domains to ensure you can get an affordable website address 3. Test with audiences Next, test out a few different options with your target audience. You could post a poll on social media or with any business networking groups you're a part of. It's nice to get some third party perspectives to account for any unintentional blindspots. 4. Check naming rules for your business structure Your business structure may impact your legal business name. A limited liability corporation, for instance, typically needs to end in "LLC." A c-corp typically needs to include the word "corporation." A sole proprietor, on the other hand, can simply just use their personal name for their business. Navigating Trademark Law When Naming Your Business Trademarks—the legal protections for business and product names—protect other companies from using the same business name as you, assuming someone else isn’t already using it. Follow these two simple steps to utilize trademark law to your advantage when naming your new small business. 1. Search for Existing Trademarks Once you think you have a name idea for your business, the first step you should take is to run it through the trademark search database with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. There are a few different ways to search the database. For our money, the new user function is the simplest and will meet most small business needs. To ensure another company isn’t already using it, simply search the name you’re considering for your brand. If a result comes back indicating that someone in your industry is already using the name, then you may want to select a different option. At best, using the same or a similar name as an existing brand may prevent you from securing a trademark and protecting your business. At worst, it may lead to legal action against you. The loophole: if a name, or word mark, is already trademarked in an unrelated industry, you may still be able to use it and secure a trademark. Even though it’s legal, it still may not make business sense to do so. Consider what confusion this may cause your potential consumers and difficulties it may add to marketing your business. 2. Avoid Generic Terms and Geographically Misleading Names There are two key types of names you’ll want to avoid. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will not approve trademarks for generic terms, which basically means that you can’t use your product name to name your business. So, as much as you may be tickled by the meta-humor of naming your construction business “Construction,” your restaurant “Restaurant,” or your healthcare office “Healthcare,” it is best to choose a different direction. The second category of un-trademark-able names is what’s called “geographically misdescriptive” names. While this term can certainly impress people when you throw it out at a cocktail party—trust us, we’ve done it—it can be a confusing mouthful, so let’s break it down. Geographically misdescriptive names refer to cases where a location has a specific meaning for a product class, like Champagne for sparkling wine or Italian for shoes. The U.S. Trademark and Patent Office bans the use of these locations in product names when the product does not originate from that region. You cannot, for example, name a sparkling wine made in Spokane, Washington “Spokane Champagne” or a shoe designed in California and manufactured in China “Italian Stallion,” because each name suggests to the consumer that the item was produced in the Champagne/Italian region, respectively. Searching For Other Uses Of Your Business Name Trademark searches are an important step in researching whether your business name is already in use, but you shouldn’t stop at “legally in the clear” when naming your business—or probably ever. Google Your Potential Business Name Search engine marketing is an asset for most businesses, unless your business name makes you really hard to find. Try searching your business name to see what the results are. If there are already other businesses that come up, a historical event, or something else of the same name, it may make marketing your business more difficult. This issue matters because it will make it more difficult for your customers to find you, in turn reducing your business. Search Local Listings Is someone in your area already using a similar business name? Check the yellow pages to ensure that your business name will be as unique as the services you plan to offer. Check If the Domain is Available While you may not have plans to launch a website right away if you are starting, say, a food truck, you want to know you have the option. Check domain registration sites like GoDaddy or Google Domains to see if the URL for your business name is still available. If it is, that’s a great sign! And be sure to snag it right away. Even if you don’t have plans to use it right away, you’ll want it later. And once you build a valuable brand with that name, which we know you will, the domain may be more expensive. Research Social Media Handles Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay. The best way to get the word out across channels is to stay consistent with naming. Search your business name on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and any other social platforms you may use. If the business name is still available, lock it down. If not, pick a username that works across all channels so your loyal fanbase can easily find you on every platform. Other Guidelines For Naming A Business Use these guidelines to keep your business naming process as successful as possible. Think ahead - Don't be too restrictive, otherwise you might have difficulty pivoting or taking on new opportunities later on. Research - See what other brands are using similar wording as your new business name. Do some digging on a search engine as well as social media platforms. Keep it simple - Avoid choosing words that are difficult to pronounce or spell. Consider all the forms in which your business name could be used, including speech, text, and abbreviations. Naming your business is the first step to launching and growing a company of your own. When you're ready to scale to the next level, Lendio can help you apply for a small business loan.