Did you know that Google was named BackRub and Accenture started as Arthur Andersen before they changed their names? It’s true!
One of the most challenging parts of starting a business is to decide on a name. After all, it’s not easy to decide on a name or a phrase that defines what you do and makes you stand out from the competition. Your brand name matters a lot. It can either make your brand or break it. You need to make sure that it properly aligns with your mission and vision and sends the right message.
Approximately 4.4 million new businesses were started in 2020. That’s a lot of names that are being used and taken. To stand out, you'll need to understand what makes a business name bad, how to choose a great name and what to do if you need to change your business name.
What Makes a Bad Business Name
Not sure if your brand name is good enough? Here a few elements of a bad business name.
- Hard to Understand. If your business name causes confusion or people mispronounce the name constantly, then the chances are that your business name isn’t a good one. To establish yourself in the market, you need to make sure to choose a name that conveys what your brand does and is easy to say and understand.
- Too Generic. If the business name is too generic, bland or boring, or people cannot remember it, then it’s time to let it go. "Plumbing Co." may leave no question to what your business does, but it also won't leave an impression. Get a name that distinguishes your business from the others and grabs the attention of the audience. If you want a breakthrough business, you cannot afford to have a mediocre name.
- Based on a Personal Name. A founder-based name may be problematic if your “personal brand” or name isn’t big enough to pull an audience. A customer shouldn’t need to look up your name in order to understand who you are and what you do. You want your business name to be understood immediately and without confusion or the need to use Google. Additionally, having a business named after the founder(s) can cause issues if they decide to leave.
- Location-Based Name. A business name tied to the location will never help you to stand out from the competition. If you have any plans to expand into some other locations (outside of your area), then choosing a location-specific name is not a good idea, as it can be an extremely limiting factor.
- Controversial Language. Never try to create more friction than necessary. Make sure that controversy is not the focal point of the business. While it’s ok to be a niche business, you don’t want to alienate or offend anyone that could cause conflict or bad press.
- Too Lengthy. Choosing a business name with the right length can be the difference between being memorable and being forgotten. A long business name can lead to customers forgetting your name or being confused about what you provide. Those extra words may not create clarity. Consider how the name will look on a website, a URL and any marketing materials as well.
6 Tips to Help You Name Your Business and Stand Out
1. Create a Simple and Easy to Remember Business Name
Word of mouth is the biggest form of advertising when it comes to marketing your business. So, avoid a hard-to-spell name if you don’t want your potential customers to be confused and unable to find your business when they search online.
2. Choose a Name That Has Room for Growth
Never pick a name that narrows down your business scope or is tied to a specific location or product range. This will cause a lot of issues in the long run and pigeonhole you into a corner where you don’t really have any place to grow or expand. So, choose a business name that is focused on the broader vision and does not limit or hinder your business growth.
3. Check for the Domain Availability
Once you have finalized the name, make sure to get your domain name. There are various options like .com, .net and .org. If available, you should always get the .com version of your domain. Also, be sure to grab the name on all of the social media handles like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., so that no one else takes and uses them before you do.
4. Don’t Drop Letters or Use a Weird Spelling
It is better to use the correct spelling of a business name whenever possible. Made up or weird words often make the brand look silly. And people may have a hard time remembering it when you drop letters or use weird spellings that Google won’t be able to find when someone searches for your name. So, using “klever” instead of “clever” may not be the best choice.
5. Try to Avoid Acronyms
Using acronyms is not at all a good idea. If people don’t know your business, how are they supposed to know the acronym? For example, if your business name is Business & Strategy Consulting, the acronym would be BSC. Now, what if people misunderstand the “S” and think it stands for “Sales”? Go with a full name until your company gets big enough. Think along the lines of International Business Machines changing their name to IBM.
6. Use a Business Name Generator Tool
A business name generator tool can be helpful if you find yourself stuck on finding a name. By entering in a few keywords related to your business, this type of tool will provide you with a handful of business name options. This can be a great way to think outside the box.
How to Change a Bad Business Name
If you've chosen a business name and you want to change it to meet the tips listed above, you have a couple of options. First, you can file Articles of Amendment with your state to update this information in their records. You can also keep your current business name, but select a DBA name (doing business as name) to operate under. A DBA, sometimes referred to as a trade name, fictitious name or assumed name, is a name you choose to do business under that can be different from the official legal name. You'll need to check the availability of your desired DBA name and file the change with your Secretary of State.
Remember, a business name is the foundation of your company. It reflects your company’s personality, what you do, how you do, how you are different from others and everything in-between. Choose it wisely to enjoy success and brand name recognition.