On average, 77% of customers make purchase decisions based solely on a business name.
Naming your business isn't as simple as picking one you like. The name needs to follow state naming guidelines, resonate with the brand's customers, and, most importantly, be available across all different marketing channels.
Follow our seven-step guide on how to name your LLC or small business and get one step closer to starting your business.
7 Steps to Naming a Business
How do you come up with a business name that stands out, shares your brand values, and generates trust and loyalty? Consider these key points when naming your LLC:
1. Make It Original and Memorable
Having a name that's too similar to another name is a big no-no. Customers may think your business lacks originality.
You might not have the gift of words to be able to quickly think of an original and memorable business name, but don't worry. You can use the following creative strategies to name your LLC and find a distinctive name that pops:
Use Clever Word Play, Synonyms, or Alliterations
Wordplay, alliterations, or synonyms are creative naming strategies that can pack a punch for your target audience.
Online directories like WordHippo and VisualThesaurus are great resources for finding inspiration. Consider popular idioms, books and movie titles, or famous quotes. A play on words can make people laugh and stick in their minds. Rhyming and alliterating words can be found on RhymeZone and Alliteration Finder.
One of the easiest ways to come up with a business name is to combine two words. Microsoft, Instagram, DoorDash, and Upwork are just a few examples that use this popular naming trick.
Here's a quick strategy: Write down all the words associated with your business within a stipulated time (anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes). Then, do a trial and error to see if you can combine any of those words together for a strong, relevant name.
What do the names KFC, BMW, or H&M have in common? They're all examples of brands that use an abbreviation as a name. If you're thinking of naming your fitness business "Julia Fitness Classes," for instance, "JFC" is a short, easy-to-remember alternative.
2. Keep It Simple to Spell and Pronounce
The best business names are those that have an elegant simplicity, like Apple and Uber. They're both easy to spell and pronounce.
Your selected name might look great on paper, but it might not sound quite right. Try out alternatives in conversation, test them out with friends, and continue refining the name until you find one that's easy to spell and say aloud.
Complicated names with bizarre spellings and numbers (e.g., ”4” instead of “for”) in your name can backfire, as they make it harder for customers to find your business.
3. Future-Proof the Business Name
Avoid picking a name that's too specific. You might not have any intention of selling more than one product or expanding your business, but things might change.
For example, due to shifting profits, Dunkin Donuts dropped "Donuts" from its name in 2018 as a way to emphasize its beverage and breakfast offerings.
Similarly, it would be wise to stay clear of a name that mentions a specific location, like "Jewelry of Chagrin Falls." Customers might get the impression that your business only services that location. However, if the location is your USP "unique selling point," then by all means, go for it.
Future-proof your business name by using your brand's overall value or story instead of a specific product or location. These are more likely to grow as your company grows.
4. Consider Business Branding
The name doesn't just have to sound right — it has to look right, too. Business names, in combination with logos and images, are integral to brand recognition.
Test out a few names against a mock-up logo, on a letterhead, or on business stationery, and make sure your chosen name works in all places. Canva and Fiverr Logo Maker are two tools that can help you test out your business name's visual identity and logo.
5. Compliant With State Naming Laws
While naming your business, don't forget about legal compliances based on your type of business. Each state has its own naming restrictions, and it's best to check with your Secretary of State to find the latest guidelines.
For instance, in New York, small businesses need special permission to use the following words while naming their business: academy, blind, trust, acceptance, exchange, conservatory, union, and savings.
The majority of states also have naming requirements based on types of businesses. Limited Liability Companies (LLC) may be required to have some form of identifier in the official business name, like "LLC."
If you're thinking of starting your business as a sole proprietorship and want to conduct business under a name different than your legal name, check the DBA "doing business as" requirements of your state and locality.
6. Determine Business Name Availability
You might have found the ideal name, but before you can officially make it yours by registering a business or filing a DBA, the name needs to be available.
Here's how you can check if your business name is taken:
Search State Records
Most states have an online database — typically through their Secretary of State website — where you can easily search available business names. Many of the state websites also provide search guides that will help you conduct a thorough search and identify names that are a bit too similar to your preferred name.
Incfile's Business Name Search Tool is a quicker way to find if your chosen business name is available. It's an all-in-one database that will allow you to see if your ideal business name is free for use in multiple states.
Conduct a Trademark Search
Searching state records is the first part of covering your bases. But some names are protected and off-limits at a national level. How to check if a business name is taken at a country level? Perform a nationwide trademark search via the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website. This will protect your business from running into trademark infringement lawsuits.
Run a Domain Name Search
Once you have determined that your selected business name isn't trademarked or in use, run a domain name search. Having a website is a must in today's business landscape, and it's best to have a domain name that matches your business name as it builds brand consistency.
Domain name providers like GoDaddy, Hostinger, and GoogleDomains allow you to perform free domain name searches. If the exact domain name extension isn't available as a .com, alternative TLDs (top-level domain) you could consider are .net, .site, .online, and .xyz.
Social media presence and marketing are among the top ways to get more eyes on your business. Covering your search bases here will again ensure there's branding consistency, which could generate 10-20% business growth. Use Namechk, NameCheck, or Inc.com to identify available social media usernames across multiple channels.
7. Test Your Business Name
Just as you test-ride a car before buying it, you need to test your business name in the real world before officially filing the paperwork for it.
A/B testing is one way of the easiest tests to perform on a business name, and it works well if you're torn between two or more. Here's how to go about it:
Get a group of 15-20 people that represent your target audience. You could tap into some family members, friends, workmates, and willing strangers.
Split the people into equal groups, and share the first name option with group A. Make sure to ask them to pronounce it.
Ask group B to spell the second name option.
Next, switch the names and repeat the process.
Go with the name that gets the highest number of correct spellings and pronunciations.
What If Your Business Name Already Exists in Another State?
You have zeroed in on the perfect name, but there's a potential caveat — the name business name could be taken in another state. Don't panic. There are a few things you can do to officially give your business your desired name:
Keep Business Local
If your business name is taken in another state, what can you do? If you intend on keeping your business local and within your state borders, you should have no problem registering your business name. However, this might create some issues if you do decide to expand your business outside your state in the future.
Consider a Name Transfer
If you are adamant about securing full ownership of your prospective business name and have plans to expand the business, consider requesting a name transfer from the other business entity. Name transfer forms are typically found on each state's Secretary of State website.
Doing this will give you the option of lawfully expanding your business to other states without infringing on trademark laws. However, this decision is completely up to the other party, and they might hold you to some conditions or expect a financial transaction in return.
If neither of these options is panning out for you because you do have expansion plans or the company isn't ready for a name transfer, you will have to revisit the drawing board. Go back and follow the seven steps on how to come up with a business name.
Create and Trademark Your Name with Incfile
Creating a business name is an arduous task. Incfile has several tools and services that can ease the business naming process for you:
Incfile Business Name Generator Tool
It can be challenging to come up with an available business name that's catchy and abides by state naming laws. Need some help spurring your creativity?
Incfile's Business Name Generator can help you brainstorm a few names. All you need to do is to enter relevant keywords related to your business's products, services, or niche, and we'll suggest a few unique and memorable brand-appropriate names.
Incfile Business Name Search Tool
Going through each state's business entity search tool can be cumbersome. You have a whole lot of other things to take care of as you get ready to start your business.
Incfile's Business Name Search Tool provides you with a one-stop search portal that answers your main question, "How to check if a business name is taken." Enter your desired business name, type of business (is it an LLC or Corp), state, and voila! The database will let you know if the name is available.
Incfile Trademark Package
A trademark will help you get legal protection for your brand and prevent anyone else in the nation from using your business name. Trademarks are popular, but they can be extremely difficult to secure. According to the USPTO trademark dashboard, only 45% of applications get approved without any objection, leaving you with an over 50% chance of rejection.
Incfile's Trademark service provides you with legal guidance from an experienced trademark attorney, assistance with the filing of the trademark application, and a thorough search of the trademark directory. The service provides everything you need to get approval from the government office so you can protect your business name and brand.
Choose Your Name and Start Off Right
Finding the perfect name for your business gets you one step closer to becoming a true entrepreneur. Incfile's Start a Business Guide can facilitate your entrepreneurship goals and allow you to focus on getting your business off the ground.
Swara Ahluwalia is a freelance content writer with experience in the technical, B2B and SaaS domain. She also has curated content for various lifestyle brands. In her downtime, you will most likely find Swara training for her next marathon or spending time with her two daughters.