In retrospect, 2020 was a banner year for entrepreneurship. Due in part to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, more businesses are being launched than ever before. For example, the third quarter of 2020 saw the most applications for employer identification numbers since the government began keeping records in 2004.
While there’s a lot to consider when starting a company, few things are more important than the business name. While it may seem like a simple exercise, this decision will have a lasting impact on your brand and your ability to compete. Here, then, are a few things to think about:
Think of your company’s backstory and develop a list of options. What inspired you to start a business? What are your points of differentiation? What do you want to be known for in terms of the product or service lines you provide? Those are all good starting points, but you won’t want to settle on just one option quite yet. As you’ll see below, there are other things to consider that may rule out some of your choices.
Expand your list using search tools. While you may identify several good options from your original ideas, there are great web-based tools that can help, too. Shopify Business Name Generator, for example, suggests ideas and simultaneously checks domain availability.
Ensure that it’s easy to spell and say. While it’s valuable to have a unique name (more on that below), it’s equally important that it be easy to pronounce and easy to spell. The former makes it more likely your customer will share your story, and the latter is critical given how much of your success will be dictated by your ability to be found via search engines. In short, keep it simple and phonetic, if possible.
Make sure it’s not already taken by a competitor or not too close to an existing business name. Established companies will have an advantage in terms of recall, so don’t risk confusing your company with another. For Indiana-based businesses, start by checking the state’s Business Entity Search website at inbiz.in.gov. If you find a name that’s the same as or close to one of your choices, it’s likely better to consider other options.
Don’t choose a name that might limit you. Picking a name with a geographic component (“Northeast Indiana Widgets”) or too specific in terms of a product or service might inhibit future growth. Strike a balance between something that isn’t overly broad and gives you the ability to adapt as needed.
If possible, find an option with an available .com domain and do some test searches. While there are a wide variety of domain suffixes (.biz, .co, etc.), .com names are still the best choice. Finding one that matches your business name might be a challenge, but you can also get creative with phrases that build off your identity or reinforce important touchpoints. For example, a client of mine chose “betteryourcompany.com” for his consulting business when there were no great choices available related to the company name. In addition, you’ll want to see what happens when you drop your company name into Google and other search engines. If the phrase is too common, you might get lost in the shuffle.
Get feedback from people you trust. Don’t ignore the human element. Once you’ve identified some finalists, share those options with people you trust to give you honest feedback. Don’t respond too quickly to any single opinion, but if you hear consistent thinking from a few people, you’ll definitely want to listen.
While this may seem like a lot of work, it’s important to remember that your business name will be your first impressions for years — and ideally decades. A little forethought can go a long way toward making sure you’re happy with it in the long run.