Naming Your Business: Top 5 Factors to Consider
Posted by Merrin Muxlow on August 25, 2009 in Business Management, Business Start Up Advice, Internet Marketing, Legal Matters for Business, Marketing, Patents and Trademarks [ 2 Comments ]
You’d probably think twice before going for a trim at Yummy Hair or getting an oil change at Sham Auto Repair, right? Choosing a business name is one of the most important decisions an entrepreneur can be faced with- the name will stick with your company for years into the future, tell customers what your business is all about, and determine branding, online marketing, and advertising strategies. Here are a few things every entrepreneur needs to consider when selecting a business name:
The “Sticky” Factor
Choosing a memorable business name can be tough. Many branding and online advertising experts advise starting with brainstorming or mindmapping. While bouncing ideas off a few trusted sources is smart, try to avoid involving too many people (employees, spouses, silent partners) in the naming process. If you’re in need of a little inspiration, check out sites like rhymer or wordlab. Noemata and bubbl are also good places to start or to browse if you’re fresh out of ideas.
Sure, you know a few search engine optimization basics- your business name should be simple to search for and easy for prospective clients to identify. But did you know that many common search terms are delivery devices for malware? According to a recent study by McAfee, certain popular terms, celebrity names, and phrases link to malware sites that can crash the computer where the term was searched- not entirely your fault (unless your business offers that dangerously named “Jessica Biel Screensaver”), but a bad first impression nonetheless. Do a little research, and avoid choosing a name that’s too similar to a dangerous, obscene (likely to be blocked) or otherwise undesirable search term.
Copyright and trademark issues don’t just prohibit you from calling your own burger restaurant “MacDonalds.” Licensing regulations can impact logos, tag lines, graphics, and overly similar company names alike. Yes, it’s time consuming to perform a U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office search, but the effort will be well worth it if you find that you need to make modifications to all of your promotional materials before they’re printed. Check out the SBA website’s tutorial on copyright and trademark issues for more information.
In an ideal world, your domain name would be the same as your business name. This isn’t always possible, especially if you have a name with a common term in it. Try to avoid modifying the name beyond recognition (“PriceLogic” shouldn’t ever become “PryceLogixNetworkOnline”). You can also choose a catchy tagline or a descriptive domain. For example, one local taco shop went with www.eataburrito.com. Instead of a popular domain that might be unavailable (drsmith.com), try something descriptive (Marina del Rey Opthamology or Marina Eye Doc). Even if your name is available, you should still be careful- some businesses who register their full company name don’t count on the way the words read as a single block of text. It always helps to get a second opinion before you commit to a domain.
If you plan to do business in foreign markets, you’ll need to consider the language and cultural implications of your business name. We’ve all heard about the Chevy Nova and its unpopularity in Spanish speaking countries- naming the U.S. model the NoGo probably wouldn’t have been a smart move, either. While services like Google Translate are free and easy to use, they aren’t able to translate the cultural or slang implications of a certain name. Ask a native speaker what they think of a prospective name before committing to it.