The ultimate guide to naming your business

Decision-making is the bedrock of running a successful business. Therefore, the first decision you make – naming your business – can be just as important as the one-thousandth. But it doesn’t just begin and end with selecting a name that you think sounds catchy. This decision calls for some real self-analysis and strategic forethought. After all, it’s part of your business’s identity.

We’ve broken down some tips from experts on how to approach the process of naming your business, and how that decision should shape others moving forward.

Define your business

“As an entrepreneur, naming your business is one of the first and most important branding decisions you will ever have to make,” says, Shayne Tilley, head of marketing at 99designs. “With brand name recognition the ultimate goal, it’s worth taking some time to consider the big picture — especially if you’re the only person running the show.”

This means taking some time to define your business before you start thinking about what you’re going to call it. “Your name, logo and visual identity need to be the face of a coherent and authentic story that reflects your company values, identity and mission,” Tilley explained.

Tanya Neufeld, brand and ad strategist for small businesses at The Strategiste, agrees. “A strong business name must be relevant enough to attract the right customer, while allowing room for pivots as the business comes into its own.” 

Understanding what your business is, who your customers are and how your business might grow in the future is key for evaluating potential business names.

Brainstorm name ideas

Once you’re clear on the mission, values and target customer base of your business, it’s time to start brainstorming name ideas. Tilley suggests not limiting yourself during this stage of the process: “While you will have to think about things like domain availability, at the early stages, quantity is better than quality when you’re coming up with ideas.” 

Tilley also suggests not completing this task alone. “If you can, pull in other people and create a brainstorming environment where people feel comfortable in sharing wild suggestions—you might just strike gold.” 

Neufeld advises small business owners to think about whether their business will communicate its primary product or service through its name, branding or both. “Business names that explicitly say what they do can also be beneficial for SEO , which can be even more important for local business,” she explained. 

However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t think outside the SEO box. “Completely unrelated abstract names can also work (e.g. Apple) if the rest of the branding is exceptionally clear as to what the company offers. In fact, such names can be more memorable. For example, Talking Shrimp is a respected copywriter in the online space—but the name has nothing to do with what she offers.” 

Consider growth potential

Keep in mind that a good business name also includes room for your business to grow and change. 

“My own brand and ad consultancy is called The Strategiste, with the full legal name being The Strategiste Consulting,” Neufeld said. “While I specialize in Facebook advertising, I support small businesses with more integrated content and marketing strategies, sometimes even delving into operational streamlining and sales strategy. As my team grows and my offering evolves, the company name remains relevant and I have options.”

Tilley suggests asking yourself how your business fits into the larger industry, and how that might affect its growth potential: “Before you land on a name, think about defining what you want your business to be, and how it fits into the competitive industry landscape—is it a digital disruptor targeting young consumers, or a more classic, traditional player?” 

If you want to grow your business, resist the urge to name your business after yourself, even if you are a solopreneur. As Neufeld puts it: “Naming a business after oneself can limit potential to sell the business in the future and guarantees the need for a rebrand in under a year’s time.”

Don’t forget about social media

As you begin narrowing down business name ideas, you’ll probably start looking into whether those business names have already been registered by other businesses in your state—or whether the name is already associated with an established online presence. 

You should also start searching social media accounts to see if your desired business name is available. If you can’t own your business’s name on all of the major social media platforms, it might not be the right name for your business.

Try not to be one of those businesses that goes by one handle on Twitter and a slightly different handle on Instagram or Facebook. “This lack of cohesion confuses the customer and can make your business look extremely ‘young’ and unestablished in its early days,” Neufeld told me. “When you make a choice [about your business’s name], align this across all possible channels and own it, even if it feels premature. People will be more likely to take you seriously if you take your own branding seriously.”

Keep that last piece of advice in mind as you decide what to call your business. No matter what name you choose, people will be more likely to take you seriously if you take your business and branding seriously—so follow these steps to find the best name for your new business, and use that name to help your small business grow.