Choosing a Business Name? Avoid These 6 Mistakes

by Patricia Schaefer

Choosing a good name for your business isn't easy. You want it to reflect your business' personality and be catchy without being silly. Before you make your final decision, be sure you avoid these business naming mistakes.

Choosing a business name
Image source: Photospin.com

A business name that is appealing and memorable can do wonders for a business's bottom line. On the other hand, no matter how great a business is, an inappropriate or poorly-chosen name can have a negative impact on its success -- especially when first starting out.

Some aspects of selecting a business name are subjective and reflect the personal wishes and preferences of the owner.

There are, however, some mistakes that business owners make in naming their establishments that just don't make good business sense. Avoid these and you'll be on the road to having a business name that will serve as a real asset and hopefully bring many profitable returns.

1. Getting stuck in alphabet soup

A business name that comes at the beginning of the alphabet can be a plus since many business listings are alphabetical; however, some businesses have taken this strategy to absurd levels. Phone book pages produce a staggering number of businesses starting with the letter A, a number of which are somewhat nonsensical: "AAAAA Locksmith" and "AAA Active Appliance." Other than another word that starts with the letter A, what purpose does the word "Active" serve? Using A, B, or C as the first letter of your business name can help get you an A+ in profits, but be sure the name is something that makes sense and is something you can be proud of.

2. Using names that are too long, or difficult to understand, spell or pronounce

The idea is to get people to remember your business name and to be able to understand it, spell it and pronounce it. It should also be short enough to fit on a business card or display on a sign. I doubt the "Floccinaucinihilipilification Company" name would be easy to pass along by word-of-mouth or found readily in a phone book, directory or on the Net. It actually is a word that means "nonexistence" and that's probably what would happen to any business using it as their name; namely, no longer exist.

3. Picking business names that limit business growth

Choose a business name that is wide-ranging enough to give your business growing room.

Geographic business names are popular; i.e., Hidden Springs Housecleaners. But what happens if your business takes off and you'd like to expand the geographic area you cover or even go national? Unless you're sure you want to stay in one particular location, avoid using geography in your business name. The same goes for naming a business after one product or service: "Al's Refrigerator Repair Service's" name would need to change if Al decides to take on air-conditioner repair. Lastly, stay away from names that describe current fads or trends: When the new "Millennium Diner" opened in 1999, it sounded timely -- six year later, it sounds dated.

4. Letting the grey areas get you discouraged or immobilized

A business name should be one or more of the following: memorable, descriptive, imaginative or distinctive. How to go about this is where the "experts" disagree.

A good way to start is to write down key words that describe what your business is and does, and what you pride yourself on. Use a dictionary and thesaurus to find different words that express these things. Also look for famous expressions that might pertain to your business.

So, let's say "Mary" has a small business selling her delicious fruit tarts, and she considers herself to be the best at what she does. Mary names her business "Queen of Tarts" because: she loves the play on words, it expresses what her business is and does, and the word "queen" is perfect -- she's female and her thesaurus shows that "queen" also means "person of authority."

The following techniques of naming businesses are ones that naming pros both love and hate, depending on which pro you speak to. Review the following "bones of contention." It will be up to you to decide if any of these feel right for you and your business name. Keep in mind your target market, the key elements of your business and mission statement, and -- above all -- trust that feeling in your gut.

Alliteration: The repetition of the same sounds at the beginning of words

If your name is Cathy, and you're selling collectibles, you could name your business "Cathy's Collectibles."

Coinage: The invention of new words

"Forever Nailz" salon and "ErgoGrip" pens

Descriptive Words: Words in a business name that convey immediately what your business does

"Frank's Reliable Lawn Care" and "Commercial Cleaning Corp."

Puns: A play on words

"Hair Force One" and "Shear Artistry" haircutting salons

5. Being an island

You've thought up 15 business names that are in the final running, and you think they're all pretty good. Now is the time to get some feedback. Run those names by some close colleagues, family and friends. You might be surprised at the number of things they bring to your attention that you've overlooked. A little constructive objectivity goes a long way when choosing a business name.

6. Failing to check if your chosen business names belong to another business

Before settling on a final name, you'll need to ensure that you won't be violating someone else's trademark rights to a particular business name. You want to avoid being forced to change your business name in the future and possibly paying money damages.

Here are some ways to avoid using a name that's identical or confusingly similar to the one you want to use:

  • Type your prospective business name into a few search engines to see if the name comes up.
  • Check with your county clerk's office to see whether or not your potential name is already on their list of fictitious or assumed business names, also known as d.b.a.'s (doing business as).
  • For corporations, LLC's, and limited partnerships, type in "Your State Secretary of State" on your favorite search engine to do a business name search on your state's database.
  • Search the federal trademark database to see if a chosen name has already been registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). You can do this through their website, www.uspto.gov. Once there, go to "Trademarks" and then "Search Trademarks."

For a fee of at least a few hundred dollars, you can also hire a professional search firm to do a trademark search. Just the peace of mind alone that nothing has been overlooked can make this investment worth your while.

As far as naming your business, there are professional naming firms that will come up with a great name for your business, but costs can be prohibitive. David Burd, President of The Naming Company, quoted "$15,000 to $20,000" as a typical fee to have a professional team come up with a business name. For large corporations, Burd said, fees could easily go to "$50,000 to $60,000."

Coming up with a business name isn't particularly easy, but if you avoid these common mistakes -- and invest some time and thoughtful effort -- a great business name should be well within your grasp.

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Copyright 2013 Attard Communications, Inc

About the author:
Patricia Schaefer is a staff writer for Business Know-How. She can be reached by email at pschaefer@businessknowhow.com 

 

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