Naming Your Organization – How to Choose the Right Name for Your Business
Naming your organization is a big deal. Just like your parents chose your name, now it’s time to name your baby.
People get all kinds of hung up on their business name — and honestly, with good reason. It can make or break you.
As with most elements of marketing and branding, naming your business is part art, part science.
Photo Credit Le Van Hieu
Choose your criteria
Throw everything at the wall
Go with your gut
Step 1. Choose your criteria
Before you choose a name, I strongly recommend developing your brand strategy and position. You need to know what your brand is about and what differentiates you to best choose how to express that brand through a name. You need to understand your ideal target audience to have an idea of what they might think and feel about your name.
When you’re ready to focus on naming your company, start by coming up with some criteria for your name.
Ideally you want a name that helps the right people find you — quickly. You want a name, and sometimes a tag line, that will help people understand what you do, what is unique about your approach, and/or who should be interested in your products or services.
But wait, you’re thinking. Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Tesla, Walmart, Target. Do any of those names help you understand what the company does? Nope. But do you have a multimillion-dollar marketing budget? Probably also nope. So take the easy help when you can get it. Office Depot, General Motors, General Electric, The Home Depot, American Airlines. Ya dig?
This is a lot to ask from a name. And you don’t want to cram all of these elements into a name either. If you’re lucky, you might get one or two. It’s a lot, I know. Don’t hurt yourself.
At the very least, you want a name that will resonate positively with your ideal target audience. You want something that won’t have negative connotations. Your name needs to make sense with your market, your audience, and your product/service. It needs to fit your brand’s personality and tone.
“At the very least, you want a name that will resonate positively with your ideal target audience.”
Step 2: Throw everything at the wall
Ok, so now that you did all that work coming up with your list of criteria for choosing a name, forget about it. Don’t be mad! I promise we’ll use it.
Write down all the words that you can think of that have to do with your business. Think about words that have to do with what you do. With how you do it. With who you serve. Where you’re located. What differentiates you? What adjectives describe your brand? Words words words.
Now try writing down some actual names. Try some basic ones on for size, like “Your Name LLC” or “What You Do Services” or “Who I Work With Practice”. So for example: “Tasha Prados Marketing Services” or “Tasha Prados Strategy Consulting” or “Global Marketing and Strategy Consulting” or “Strategy Consulting for Entrepreneurs.”
But those are kinda boring, right? And hey, maybe you’re in a more conservative, formal type of industry. Nothing wrong with boring sometimes. But it’s ok to stand out.
Look at your list of words. Try combining some of them. Play around. Sleep on it. Come back in the morning and brainstorm again. Ask colleagues for ideas. Do this a few times over the course of at least a week.
“I promise you will think of random business name ideas while you are working out or washing the dishes that you want to add to the list.”
Step 3: Go with your gut
When you feel like your name might be among this amalgamation of word vomit — or that you’ve completely exhausted your repertoire of ideas, dust off those criteria you started with. What potential business or nonprofit names on your list can you cross off because they don’t meet the criteria? What names can you cross off because, well, they are dumb? Narrow down the list. Whittle and whittle away.
Likely you will feel drawn to a few names. Make yourself a shortlist. This is your organization; you are the decision-maker. You have to like the name. Did I think anyone would know what “Duraca” meant? Nope. But it’s me and I love it. It cannot be confused with my competitors. At least the “Strategic” gives you some idea what we’re about, right? ? And it’s accompanied by “Business, Marketing, and Strategy Consulting” which definitely tells you what we do.
Step 4: Check it
Not done yet!
Search your name. Is someone else using it already? Are the social media handles available? Is the domain available?
Next (if you’re American), check if your idea for your organizations’ name is legally taken. You’ll need to set your business or nonprofit up as a legal entity, so make sure your name is available for the organizational structure you want to pursue. This is very much outside the scope of this article, but make sure you do things like get a federal tax ID number, register for state taxes, and register for any licenses and permits you’ll need. These will vary based on what your legal entity is, where your business is run, and what products/services you sell.
Decide if you want to trademark your business name at the state or federal level — you definitely want to make sure your business name doesn’t conflict with an existing trademark. Your state won’t allow another corporation or limited liability corporation to be formed with the same name, so if you’re just starting out, you may not need a trademark. If you are creating a physical good or product, especially one you intend to patent, or anticipate rapid growth and a massive valuation, you may want to consider trademarking.
I know, those last two paragraphs were a lot. Still with me? If your organization’s name passed these legal hurdles, you still want to make sure your ideal target audience doesn’t hate it — or think it means some unintended dirty word. You never know. If your idea for a business name didn’t work out, that’s ok. Rinse. Repeat steps 1-4. You got this.