Choosing a name for your business can be easy or complex. But it’s a vital step and can be a determining factor in your future success. Today, when word-of-mouth, internet searches, and social media are all key to marketing success, a business name that’s hard to say or spell, or unclear about what your company does, can doom your business from the start.
Before you choose your business name you must be clear about what your business will do, who your customers will be, and what image you’re trying to create. Once you understand that, try brainstorming different possible names. Don’t name your business after yourself (unless you’re a celebrity) it doesn’t convey what you do and makes your business harder to sell in the future.
Think about your long-term goals as well. If you live on the coast and open a pizza parlor called Beachside Pizza, you’re limiting your expansion possibilities to other coastal areas.
Before you get too attached to a name, do a quick online search online to find out if the URL is registered to anyone else. Once you’ve brainstormed about 10 names. Review them and assess whether they’re easy to say and spell, how it would look on a sign or website, whether it could possibly have any negative connotations, and how it compares to your competitors’ names. What perceptions does this name evoke? Does it say you’re serious or fun? This should narrow your choices. Once you’ve compiled your short list, the Small Business Administration recommends you:
1- Check for Trademarks. Use the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) trademark search tool to see if a similar name, or variations of it, is trademarked.
2- Check state filing offices. If you intend to incorporate your business, contact your state filing office to check whether the possible name already been claimed or is being used. If you find a business operating under your proposed name, you may still be able to use it, if your business and the existing business offer different goods/services or are located in different regions. Consult with an attorney to make sure you don’t violate the law.
3- Register your domain name. To claim a website address or URL, your business name needs to be unique and available. After you’ve searched the web to see if anyone is already using that name, check whether a domain name (or web address) is available. Use the WHOIS database of domain names. If the name you want is available, be sure to claim it right away.
4- Claim Your Social Media Identity. It’s a good idea to claim your social media name early in the naming process even if you are not sure which social platforms you’re going to use. Create a social account on all the relevant platforms, so no one else can claim it.
5- Register Your New Business Name. If you are naming your business something other than your personal name or the legal name of your partnership or corporation, you’ll need to register as a “Doing Business As (DBA) name or trade name. (This process doesn’t provide trademark protection.) Registering a “Doing Business As” name informs your state government you are doing business as a name other than your personal name or the legal name of your partnership or corporation.
6- Apply for Trademark Protection. A trademark protects words, names, symbols, and logos that distinguish goods and services. Your name is one of your most valuable business assets, so it’s worth protecting. This is not an expensive process.