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What are Good Business Names for a Company?

There is a great deal of importance in picking the right company name. Picking the proper name can get people talking and get a lot of media buzz. That means free advertising. Picking the wrong name can be a black mark on a company and keep it from getting out of the gate. The ideal name expresses the true nature of your business, its specialty, and the products and services that you offer. Think Volkswagen (“people’s car”), Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Whole Foods. But also think Apple, McDonald’s and Target.

Here are some thoughts about name choices. The favorite sound for the majority of people is the “K” sound, whether made by a “C” or a “K.” Another favorite is when two words start with the same letter. Think Coca Cola or Krispy Kreme. Though not business names, think also of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Roger Rabbit and Bugs Bunny. Those names are just fun to say. They trip off the tongue like, well, the tick-tock of a coo coo clock.

So, instead of Mike’s Painting, how about Mike’s Meticulous Painting. Instead of a burger shop called Bob’s Restaurant how about Bob’s Big Burgers. Rather than My Town Furnishings, how about Frank’s Fine Furniture. Make your business name fun, memorable. Make it have an impact. Normal is boring. It fades into the background. Be different. Stand out. Get people talking.

Another consideration is the availability of a domain name for your website. If you don’t have an attention getting, first-rate website, you will lose the younger three-fourths of your customers. The Yellow Pages are dead. The newspaper is dying. If your temples are too grey to realize this (like this writer’s are), it’s time to wake up (like I had to do) and get over it.

So, this speaks to uniqueness. Make up a cool sounding word. As you likely know, Google wasn’t even a real word when the name was invented. It was the misspelling of the intended word, Googol. But when the mistake was discovered they found that the domain name was already taken. Pierre Omidyar wanted for his planned business name, Echo Bay Inc. But it, too, was taken. He came up with “eBay” on the spot and registered it instead. Upwork provides a website where freelances and promote their services. PatPat offers a mobile app that offers daily deals to moms. These unique names were chosen, in part, due to the availability of the domain names.

Just about any name can work if it is backed up by an incredible product or service, especially if it is promoted well. The Beatles was thought to be a terrible name for a band. But they sure didn’t let that stop them. Ritz-Carlton, on its own means nothing; but their incredible customer service and beautiful hotels have made the name mean luxury vacation properties.

Can Experts to You Help Choose a Business Name?

If you are having difficulty, asking an expert for help might be a good idea. This may be very beneficial if you are very particular or if a name choice may have a significant impact on the prosperity of your type of business. There are firms that employ trained professionals who help choose company names. Additionally, many of them can help with trademark issues to both protect you and keep you out of hot water.  They may also help design a company logo, a website, business cards and a letterhead.

Enrolling experts can be expensive. A firm helping you come up with a name might cost $80,000 to $100,000. A company such as this may also help you come up with a catchy phrase to promote your business as well as creative branding ideas. There also are naming services that charge only $50 to $100. If you are having difficulty, spending a reasonable amount in the beginning may help your business in a big way in the long-run.

How to Choose a Business Name

What do you want your name to communicate to the public?  Steve Jobs thought of the name Apple because he thought it was “fun, spirited and not intimidating.” The name should support the spirit of your enterprise. It would be helpful to have a good story behind the choosing of the name that will touch people’s hearts in some small way.

Like the small rudder on a big ship, the more that your name conveys to customers about the essence of what you do, the less effort you need to put forth into describing it. People relate to words that they can understand. There was a sign in one of the shops in a strip-center in a California town named Manuels’s. It was difficult to find anyone who knew what the business did. Shorly thereafter, there was a new sign on the unit: For Rent.  Want to buy a specialized battery? Why not go to Battery Town? That was the name of the business that took its place. It has been in that the same location for many years.

Using real words that people can relate to is important according to naming consultants. People like words that they can understand and that are familiar to them. That is the reason why experts in the field encourage people to shy away from names that have initials, lots of numbers or made-up words that are hard to relate to.

In addition, don’t let a name limit you. A name such as Cincinnati Fishing Rods may be okay if that’s where you are and that’s all you sell. It may be difficult, however, if you want to expand outside of Cincinnati or sell more than fishing rods. What if you want to sell lures, bait, nets and boats?

The name should have a meaning that you and your customers can relate to. It should tell something about your business, if possible. It could relate to what you do, where you are located, or something unique you. Holes, Inc. in Houston does one main thing: cuts holes in concrete. 15th Street Fisheries is a waterfront seafood restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. If you’re ever in Ft. Lauderdale you have a good idea where to find it. Starving Students Movers, Inc. is a heartwarming name of a successful moving company started near Los Angeles in 1973 by two youngsters fresh out of high school.

Here are some ideas to think about when looking for a good business name:

  • Think about your customers. What type are you trying to draw? (Farmer’s Market attracts health conscious shoppers.)
  • Try to touch the heart. (All Smiles Dental Care, for example.)
  • Pick a name that conjures up good feelings or makes you grin. (Cherry Smash is a very fun and popular ice cream parlor. )
  • Make it clear and don’t confuse the public. (The owners of Chutney and Pickle could have picked a better name for their tasty Indian restaurant.)
  • No inside jokes. You’re attracting customers, not amusing yourself.
  • You can only use “Inc.,” “Corporation,” “LLC,” or the like if your business is actually registered as such.


Business Name Choices: Think Outside the Box 

There are so many business names that have already been taken, sometimes we have innovate. If someone has filed a legal trademark, that can legally block you from using the name, especially in the same trade class. So why not just make up a word that sounds cool and, as a bonus, conveys good feelings about your business. A company called NamLab came up with the following names: CompUSA, Acuvue, Acura, Olive Garden, Sentra, American Century, Viactiv. These names were probably chosen because they have a cool sound or a convey a meaningful connotation. Another naming consultant called Matchstic thought of these business names: Prism, Yaystack, Karoo, Design Bloc, and Pursell Farms.

Matchstic believes that made-up names can be more attention-getting and thought provoking than real words at times. Their motto is, “We believe a brand is a reputation—driven by a collection of perceptions, emotions and experiences.” They continue that brands are human and are created for people. They say a brand name needs to do the following:

  • Make sure the market “gets” you.
  • Conveys a clear message
  • Beat the competition
  • Tells a better story
  • Have a clue about how to position a new product
  • Stand out in the marketplace
  • Be special and not a “me too” commodity

They go on to say, and we paraphrase, that the brands that rise like cream to the top have the following traits:

  • Meaningful – A passion from the heart that pushes stakeholders ahead for the common good – not just for profit alone.
  • Ownable – Brave determination to segment a meaningful niche in the marketplace.
  • Supported – A pledge, beginning with the most senior executives, to lay out actions that support the place and values of the organization.
  • Valuable – A sincere and heartfelt passion that motivates one to pay the price it takes to achieve goals in an honorable fashion.

Coined words and phrases don’t work in every case. If they convey a clear and simple connotation and are in the right industry they may be appropriate. As more and more names and Internet domain names are snapped up, expect more and more newly invented business names to creep into the marketplace. For such a name, professional assistance may be in order.

Sometimes, naming organizations will come up with names that are from words or derivations words that can be found in the dictionary. Consulting firm Zinzin though up the name GoGo, the in-flight wi-fi company; Fluent, a home automation company,  and TruTV, a television network brand.

Ask Around: “How do you like this name?” 

Once  you have your list, ask around. Ask friends, relatives, employees and others. It works. It is pretty easy to narrow down a list by taking an informal survey. You will find, more often than not, that one or two names are loved by a majority of the people you ask. Make sure also to do a trademark search to make sure you’re not stepping on any toes. Hiring an attorney or specialty firm that specializes in searching and filing trademarks is a good idea.

It’s better to spend a couple thousand dollars up front. Imagine printing thousands of business cards and letterheads. Then you invent and fabricate a fantastic product en masse with your company name indelibly emblazoned on its surface. Next, out of the blue, a giant competitor drags you through court for the next two years with their $1500 an hour trademark attorney who brings you to your knees.  Better to spend a little up front than be sorry in the end.

Summary: Zeroing In on the Perfect Business Name 

Okay, so hopefully you’ve done your homework, or will soon, and you’ve come up with a handful of names that pass the sniff test. You have some names you and your family and friends are excited about. What now?

Review what we’ve discussed. Which of the names best communicates to your customer? Which name will generate good feelings about you and your company? Which one tells the public what you do?

The final decision is up to you. What will most help you reach your conclusion? Do you prefer to ask around? Or do you like to go solo and trust your instincts? Would you feel more comfortable hiring a professional? Try a little artistic flare, even if the best you’ve ever done is a mean stick figure, and try to see if you can think up a logo to go with your name. See other names and logos you like to get ideas. Say the name to yourself and then speak it out out to see how it tickles your fancy. How would that sound on TV, radio or online media?  Then make a decision and go with it. Trust yourself. You’re probably better at this than you think.

The pros can take a long time to come to a conclusion. Sometimes it takes them one month to half a year. Though you probably don’t want to take that long, you might want to roll it around in your head…and the head of others for a bit. And, hey, if you don’t like your first choice it can be change quickly. Corporate documents are easy to amend through a company filing agency…such as the one whose website bears the article you are reading right now.

When you make up your mind, get busy and start doing what it takes to provide an incredible product and/or service and promote your brand. Life is short and the world needs to know your name…and your company’s name. The name you choose is tantamount to creating a powerful company. Your company name is your first step toward building the strong company character of an enterprise that can support you and many others for the life of your business.