How to Come Up With a Business Name: The Ultimate Guide

A business owner has picked a name for her business

What goes into naming a business? As it turns out, a lot! The name of your company can do everything from letting customers know what services you offer to helping you stand out from the crowd. It can showcasee your company ethos and personality.

The right name can also be used to your advantage when setting up your online presence.

Looking to get ideas to name a business? Whether you’re playing around with a few ideas, using a business name generator, or just have no idea where to get started, we can help with the following advice from real business owners (myself included!).

Get Inspired: 6 Ideas for Naming a Business

Tip #1: Be clear and descriptive.

The best names for a business are as clear as possible. It may seem like basic advice, but plenty of business owners have been tripped up by names that were more confusing than intended. While they may seem like a good idea at the time, unique names for a business can ultimately work against you.

There are only a few moments when your customers are exposed to your business name (like maybe seeing your truck, or searching for a contractor in your trade online). A good name for a business is immediately clear, otherwise you risk customers passing you up on you in favor of someone else.

One good rule of thumb is to include your trade in your name. For example, if you’re a landscaper, have some sort of reference to landscaping, lawn care services, or landscape architecture in your business name. It may not be the most creative approach to naming your business, but it is the most clear.

If you feel strongly about naming your company after yourself or a family member, make sure your subtitle includes a reference to your trade. For example, if you’re a general contractor specializing in residential services, and you want your company name to be “John Smith & Sons,” ensure that your full business name is “John Smith & Sons: Residential Construction”.

Tip #2: Look at your competition.

Chances are, if you’ve had an idea for a business name, your competition might have too. That’s why it’s important to perform competitive research before taking all the steps to file a business name. Not only is it embarrassing to discover you share a name with someone else, but you could potentially end up in legal hot water.

Here are a few tips to choose a good name for your business:

  • Do internet research: As you brainstorm ideas to name a business, Google the words you have your heart set on. See what pops up on the first two or three results pages as you. If there are a bunch of companies with your business name, even if they’re not all in your specific trade, cross them off your list. At that rate, there’s too much competition for you to get the online space you need to attract customers. It’s wiser to come up with a new name for a company.
  • Scope out brand perception: See if there are any negative news articles about companies with your potential business name. You don’t want to get confused with another company that’s currently going through a PR crisis. You want the name for a company to create positive feelings, not negative ones.]
  • Review social media: Check for local companies on social media to see if any have the business name you’re considering. This step is important because a Google search may not turn up everyone who has your potential name for a company, especially if it’s a local business that doesn’t have a website.
  • Stay open minded: Just because someone has your name for a company doesn’t automatically mean you should toss out the idea.

However, if they’re located near you, they operate in the same trade, and they have a lot of results on the first page of Google, you should steer clear. It could take years to compete for customer attention online.

Tip #3: Ask for feedback.

It’s critical to find out if your business name ideas resonate with people in your social circle.

If friends and family react negatively to your suggestions for a company name, there’s probably a good chance the name itself isn’t very good. The best people to ask for feedback when naming your business are those who can give you the honest and direct advice you need to hear.

For example, your partner may not give you the most useful feedback on naming a business simply because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Or perhaps you’re speaking with someone who doesn’t understand your industry and lacks the necessary insight to judge if your business name is good or not.

Try to get a diverse group to give you feedback.

If you seek out people who look and think like you, you’re restricting your feedback and could end up missing something critical. Maybe your list of cute business names is fine to certain people, but others with different experiences may be able to point out red flags you might have missed.

Remember not to take feedback too personally. People may not be fully honest with you if you react emotionally to their input. Maintaining your composure will help you get more valuable suggestions.

Tip #4: Take a shower.

Ever notice that you seem to have your best ideas while you’re focused on a mindless activity, like taking a shower? It’s because you’re in a relaxed state of mind. That mindset that could lead to the “eureka!” moments you might need for naming a business.

Science backs up the theory that you have your best ideas while you’re sleeping, showering, or focused on any other type of monotonous yet relaxing activity. When you’re in a relaxed state of mind, your brain is free to go on autopilot, allowing it to pass from thought to thought without inhibitions.

This kind of free association allows your prefrontal cortex to relax and make creative connections that you may not have made while focused on other tasks. It explains why you come up with your best solutions (and perhaps the best names for a business) at seemingly random moments.

Want to take advantage of this relaxed state of mind? Try engaging in more relaxing yet monotonous activities, like:

  • Getting a massage
  • Meditating when you wake up or before bed
  • Listening to calming music in the car
  • Exercising (only if it allows you to focus)
  • Fishing, golfing, or other outdoor activities

Any monotonous activity that requires little mental energy is one that can help fire up the creative process needed to come up with a name for a company.

Tip #5: Don’t get too cute.

Some entrepreneurs think that their business name is the best way to show off their fun personality or unique sense of humor. While that can certainly work (in fact, here are just a few examples of hilarious business names) overly cute business names can go wrong very quickly.

If you prioritize being funny but your humor isn’t really striking the right note with customers, you run the risk of losing them to your competition. If your business’s name is a joke or a pun, it should be instantly recognizable and pertain to the services or products you offer.

If you’re really sold on using a joke or pun as the foundation of a name for a company, make sure to pass the idea behind a dynamic group of people before moving forward. Be sure to find people with various styles of humor to ensure that you get diverse feedback.

Tip #6: Don’t get stuck on one idea.

Finding the perfect business name takes effort, so when you finally hit on a great idea, it’s tempting to cling to it. But if folks aren’t responding well to it, or worse, you find out that your competition has a similar name, you need to let go and move on quickly.

The ultimate goal here is to find a business name that works for both you and your customers. It needs to work for the long-term as well, as it’s difficult to change the name of your business once it’s been established.

Come up with a few ideas to name a business and sit with them. Mull over which name resonates with you the most. What name is the most clear? Which one accurately describes what you do? What kind of feedback have you gotten on your ideas?

Once you’ve found your winning idea, do a quick competition check to make sure no one else has it. If you’re in the clear, register your business with the SBA right away to claim the name.

Naming a business is probably one of the toughest aspects of starting your own company. Luckily, if done correctly, you’ll probably only have to do it once. Follow the advice in this article, and you’ll not only have a business name you love – your customers will love it, too!

After naming your business, don’t forget to get a business insurance quote to ensure you’re covered.

If you’re looking to start a business, we have a Resource Center dedicated to that. Here are some helpful guides to get you on the right track:

How to Start a Small Business: Our Easy-to-Use Guide

The 9 Step Checklist for Starting a Business

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Mariah Bliss

I love writing about the small business experience because I happen to be a small business owner – I’ve had a freelance copywriting business for over 10 years. In addition to that, I also head up the content strategy here at Simply Business. Reach out if you have a great idea for an article or just want to say hi!
Mariah writes on a number of topics such as small business planning, contractor insurance, and business licenses.