How to Name a Small Business: Keep It Short and Sweet

Deciding what to call your company is probably one of the most fun and exciting aspects of starting a small business. You might have launched this venture by scribbling business name ideas on a bar napkin while hanging out with friends.

But naming your small business is also serious business. Your decision could affect your ability to reach a broader audience and grow. And making the wrong choice could even get you in legal trouble.

Be catchy but relevant

When deciding how to name your business, the key is to find a name that fits who you are and what your business is about. Obviously, you want a name that stands out — one that’s catchy, even quirky. Remember that we live in a world where young, successful companies go by such names as Google, Twitter and Lyft.

The U.S. Small Business Administration encourages you to ask: “How will your name look? — On the web, as part of a logo, on social media.” The SBA urges you to consider this: “What connotations does it evoke? Is your name too corporate or not corporate enough?” After all, imagine if Twitter were instead called Microblogging Network, Inc.

The legal site Nolo suggests avoiding a geographical name or one tied to a specific product line, mainly because it could make it tougher to branch out into new categories or expand into another city or state. Imagine Amazon under a different name … like Seattle Online Bookstore.

Let your name tell a story

What you name your business will inevitably have an impact on how you present it to the world, gain attention and attract customers.

Sometimes, it pays to think outside the box. That’s been the experience of Matt Rizzetta, president and chief executive of a 20-person public relations firm based in New York.

He could have called his company Rizzetta Public RelationsHow to Name a Small Business. But instead, he chose North 6th Agency, or N6A as it’s known today. North 6th refers to North 6th Avenue, the street where his grandparents lived in New York. The name was a tribute to his grandparents, whom he described as “hardworking immigrants” from Italy.

Having a story and a clear message behind your small business name is a point Ivana Taylor, CEO of Cleveland marketing company Third Force and founder of DIYMarketers, stresses.

“Before you select a name for your business, before you run out and get business cards, before you spend a single cent or a single minute on any kind of advertising or promotional effort, invest your time and effort in crafting a killer marketing message,” she says.

7 keys to a great name

Taylor, whose company gives marketing advice to small businesses, offers these tips for coming up with a company name:

Make it short. “Remember, your domain will also be used for social media profiles, so shorter is better,” she says.

Make it memorable. “We don’t just type anymore, so make your name easy to remember,” Taylor says. “Also, if you have the kind of business that you’ll be promoting via video or radio, you’ll want to be able to say it and have people remember it.”

Make it pronounceable. This is just as important as being memorable, Taylor says, “because if people can’t pronounce it, they won’t be able to remember or spell it.”

It should be “descriptive” or “brandable.” Taylor cites her own company name, DIYMarketers, which she said is “so clear, so brandable you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand what kind of site this is.”

Go for a .com extension. “I always aim for a domain that has a .com extension as well as an open .net extension,” she says. Not only are these the most common extensions, but often, users “are on autopilot and they enter dot-com,” she says.

Make sure you can use it

Just as crucial as a business name idea that fits the personality and goals of your small business is figuring out whether someone else is already using it.

This last point is the most important, especially if you want to steer clear of legal headaches in the future. You’ve no doubt heard the horror stories of small businesses that found themselves mired in legal battles with corporate giants over what these companies were called.


This article originally appeared on NerdWallet by Benjamin PintelThank you for this week’s guest blog post.

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