Your company name is the one thing that people will use to describe you for as long as you’re in business. A great company name is an asset that drives your business forward. The wrong company name is a roadblock to success that will cost you money.
Don’t shoot yourself in the foot with a bad name. Take the time to make sure you pick a name that will stand the test of time and help you grow your business. Follow these simple steps and you’ll land on a name for your company that you’re proud to share.
The 5 Elements Of A Unique Company Name
The first step is understanding the 5 ingredients of a unique company name. Regardless of whether you’re trying to come up with a name for your construction company or tech startup, these rules apply.
- Timeless – Don’t name your company after a trend or fad. All trends end. Following a trend or fad will put an expiration date on your company name.
- Memorable – Avoid generic names that nobody will remember. This is a huge mistake we see repeatedly. Unique names get remembered. Generic names are easily forgotten. A1 Construction is easily confused with A+ Construction.
- Flexible – Leave room for your business to grow and adapt. Don’t name your company ‘Toilet Depot’ and be left scrambling when you want to sell faucets. Nobody wants to buy faucets from Toilet Depot!
- Ownable – Let’s pretend your name is Brad Pitt. You wouldn’t want to name your company Brad Pitt, LLC. Aside from the overwhelming disappointment in every woman’s face when you show up for a meeting, you also have to deal with the fact that you’ll always be overshadowed by your more famous Brad on social media, search engines, and everywhere else. This is a fun example. The consequences can be much worse if you infringe on someone’s trademark and get sued (more on that below).
- Easy – Your name should roll off the tongue. If you have to repeat your name five times for someone to understand, you’ve got a name issue. Take the time to say your name out loud to yourself, friends, and family (more on this below as well).
If you’d like a little more detail on each of these, you can grab the 5 Keys To A Great Company Name Here.
Make Your Company Name Reflect Your Personality
How do you want your company to be perceived? Are you the leading expert in your industry? Are you known for your playful customer service?
Align your name with the emotional response you want from people. A family law practice that prides itself on professionalism probably shouldn’t go with ‘Good Riddance, LLC’ because it doesn’t connect with their personality. For a pest control firm on the other hand, that little bit of playfulness that hits on a benefit could be the perfect fit (by the way, I looked and there is a pest control firm that uses this name…bravo).
Focus on a name that’s in line with your brand personality. Our name, Special Sauce, is a reflection of what you can expect when you work with us. We take our job seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
Consider The Four Most Common Types of Company Names
There are themes you see throughout the name universe. Most company names fall under one of the major categories. You can use these as a starting point to determine what’s right for you.
- Founder – It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out. You guessed it, founder names come from the founder of the company. Almost every law firm and accounting firm (in the freaking world) is an example of a founder name. Tip…don’t go with a founder based company name if you’re in these markets. Take advantage of the opportunity to stand out and do something different.
- Symbolic – These names have meaning the company wants to reflect or embody. Nike immediately comes to mind when you think of symbolic names. Just be careful because it’s really easy to stumble into trademarks with symbolic names. Common symbols have been used, so you have to get creative.
- Fictional – A company name in this category often wants a great domain name (website address). You’ll see countless software companies that use fictional names. They’ll either use creative spelling or complete fabrication to create something new. Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, Reddit, Snapchat, Netflix, LinkedIn, etc….We could go on for days. If you go this direction, carefully review the name to make sure it’s easily said, repeated, written, and spelled.
- Acronym – GE and IBM are two that immediately jump to mind. We don’t recommend acronyms. These names usually fall into the generic category. The majority of acronym names don’t pass the ownable or memorable test.
Make Sure The Name Is Available
Think you found the perfect name? Take a second to cover your tail before you run out and start slapping that name on everything. You need to search three places before you decide it’s safe to run with a name.
USPTO Trademark Database – The United States Patent & Trademark office has a free database you can search to check for conflicts. Follow this link and select ‘Basic Word Mark Search’ from the options you’re given. See reference below.
Once inside, make sure to check the box next to ‘Live’ so you’re only searching live trademarks. Now you’re ready to type your name where you see ‘Your Name Here’ in this example below.
Type in your name and hit ‘Submit Query’. Be warned that you’re going to get a lot of results if you type in a generic term. For instance, the word ‘Western’ draws 1266 results. You’ll want to make your search (and name) as unique as possible to limit the mountains of results you have to review.
Important Note: You’re most likely going to get numerous results no matter what you search. Not all trademarks will be applicable to your business. There are different categories for different types of businesses. For instance, a restaurant and insurance firm can both trademark the same name. These two businesses are in different categories which allows them to both be granted trademarks. However, be warned that large companies will guard their trademarks with vigor. I advise consulting an attorney familiar with trademark law if you’re at all doubtful about a name. The trademark process can be intimidating and confusing. Also feel free to reach out to us if you have some questions.
Google Search – The second spot you have to search is the good old Google machine. This search is much less official and only requires common sense. Open Google, type your name into the Google search bar, and hit search. Review the results to make sure that there isn’t someone with the same business name that’s out there and well established. Be sure to pay particular attention to your geographic area. You wouldn’t want to open Red Bucket Brewery right next to Red Bucket Painting. You run the risk of consumer confusion. Consumer confusion leads to lawsuits.
Domain Availability – The final place to look is at Godaddy.com (or whatever domain registrar you like). You’ll need a website for your business and you want to make sure there is a decent option available. We recommend sticking with .com extenstions unless you have a very compelling reason to do otherwise.
Say And Send Test
Once you narrow your list down to a few good candidates, put them through the Say & Send Test. This is a simple exercise to make sure the name you pick is practical in all forms of communication.
- Say It – Start by saying the name out loud to yourself. Once you’re comfortable with the results of hearing it out loud, find a friend who knows nothing about your business and tell them about it using the name. Does the name roll off your tongue naturally in conversation? Do they easily understand the name? Ask them what the name of your business is after the conversation. Do they remember the name? Don’t just ask them if they like the name. People will tell you what they think you want to hear. Take this more scientific approach.
- Send It – Open your email and put together a signature file using the company name. How does it look in your outbox? Now send the email to yourself. How does it look in the email when you receive it? This may sound like a silly step, but it will help you view the name as though it’s being used.
Coming up with a unique company name is no picnic, but it’s worth the effort. Spend the time to get it right now to avoid hassle and expense tomorrow. Follow the steps above and you’ll land on a solid name. You can also grab our 5 keys to a great company name guide to speed the process and make sure you’re checking all boxes.
Each Friday we send an email for entrepreneurs and marketers with tips on how to stand out in a sea of boring businesses and copycat brands. You look like the kind of person who appreciates that sort of thing. Imagine what we can accomplish if you mix our proven strategies with your big brain. Sign Up Right HereAndrew