Naming a Small Business

Naming your business seems like an easy task but don’t take this decision lightly, you will be living with this name for many years to come and believe it or not a business name can make or break a business.

Naming a business is the first and most critical piece of marketing for your new business. A well chosen name can aid marketing efforts by communicating the business purpose, creating a good image, and forming the first emotional connection with customers. A strong business name will help build a strong brand that customers recognize and trust.

The name of your business must reflect the structure under which you will operate your new business – you will need to determine if you want to operate the business as a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company or corporation. You can find the implications of each structure by visiting the website of you local small business administration office.

A good place to start the naming process is by writing down the answers to the following questions:

1) How would you describe your target audience?

2) What problems will you business solve for this audience?

3) What are 5 benefits that your business will offer to your customers?

4) What are the names of 4 competitors in your local area?

5) What characteristics will differentiate your business from these competitors?

Use these prompts to put together a list of 4-5 potential business names. Make combinations of words that you listed for characteristics, benefits, problems etc but avoid making the name too long as a shorter name of 2-4 words will be more easily remembered by customers.

Next test the names you have against the following criteria for a winning business name:

1) Is the name meaningful? Does it communicate the services provided by your business?

2) Is it easy to understand and pronounce? Easy pronunciation is important as you will want people to be able to easily pass on your business information to other via word of mouth.

3) Can the name grow with your business? It’s important that your name isn’t restricted to a certain city or location – if in the future you choose to franchise or expand you will want to retain your existing business name.

4) Will the name work in print? Experiment with different fonts and logos with the business name to make sure you are happy with the way it will be written.

5) Does it spark interest and express a desirable image?

6) Is it authentic to you and your vision for the business?

Once your new business name has passed these tests the next step is to ensure that the name is not being used by another business. You will want to ensure that your name is unique and avoid infringment on the trademarks and rights of other businesses.

The first place to check if any trademarked names are similar is at the US patent and trademark office. At their website you can search the database to check if you name has been registered by another business. Make sure there isn’t a very similar or identical name in use by another business.

Another place to check is on the internet. Many businesses will register a domain name that is the same as their business name. Using a search engine such as or check that there are not any businesses that have websites with similar names or that you can find any businesses with similar names.

Finally take a look at your local yellow pages to make sure that there are no local businesses operating under similar names that have not registered trademarks or are not listed on the internet.

After you have finished these checks you can be confident that you can use your new name without problems.

A good final test of the name is to run it by family and friends and solicit their comments. Ask them how they feel about the name and if the name gives them a clear description of the services that you will be providing in your new business.

Once you are happy with the name you are ready to start preparing marketing materials such as business cards, fliers, and brochures. Look out for my next article on marketing for small business at my blog – Working with Pets.