How to choose your small business name

How to choose your small business name

“What’s in a name?” as Shakespeare asked. Well, it probably won’t be much of a shock to you that choosing your small business name is actually a really big task! Your business name will be one of the first things your potential customers and clients see and hear, and it will be the most important thing they remember, more so than your flashy website or your fancy logo.

So why is picking a good name so important? How do we know if it’s a good name? Should we pick a descriptive name or a name you can make a brand out of? What message do you want to convey with your business name? 

I have all the answers and much more below, and as usual, if you have any queastions please feel free to contact me and I’ll be happy to try to help answer them!

What's in a name? It could be everything!
What’s in a name? It could be everything!

What’s your story?

When thinking about your small business name, you must think about your story. Think about your core values and what drove you to making your business. Deciding what matters most to your business, and ultimately your brand, will help you choose your name as well as your branding, company ‘voice’ and colours. 

You want your name to reflect something about your business. Your quirky style, or your family name maybe. It would be a bit strange if your business was a florist called “TechRight Services” or something completely strange. However, you can be quirky with it. Maybe you’re a florist that specialises in bouquets for the rock and goth scene? ‘Thorny Roses’ might be a fun and cheeky name!

Are you making home-made bath bombs? You’ll probably want something that shows off your relaxing and natural side, relying on colours on the green and pink side. Maybe you’re a personal trainer, and your main client base is early morning boot-camps for women. You will want to pick a name and branding that reflects energy and strength, as well as trust.

Descriptive vs Branded Names

There are really two types of business name: the brand name and the descriptive name. That’s not to say that these can’t be one of the same thing.

Here are some examples of brand names:

  • Nike
  • McDonald’s
  • Asda
  • Barbie
  • Avon
  • Black and Decker
  • Amazon

Whilst most of us know what all of the above companies actually ‘do’, their brand name doesn’t really tell us at all. Would you guess that a company called Nike made sportswear if you knew nothing about it? Or Avon made makeup? Would you think Amazon was something to do with the rainforest? If you were familiar with the popular kids’ nursery rhyme, you might even be forgiven for thinking McDonald’s was something to do with farming!

On the flip side of the coin, we have the descriptive brand names. Here are a few examples that we’ll delve into a little later:

  • Coca-Cola – a cola drink originally made with cocoa leaves.
  • Millie’s Cookies – delicious cookies and other sweet treats.
  • Burger King – the king of all burgers?
  • T-Mobile – networking and mobile phone providers (cell phones for our US friends).
  • Dominos Pizza – a popular takeaway pizza company.
  • Pizza Express – a specialist pizza restaurant famed for being fast and efficient.
  • British Airways – one of the original commercial airline companies.

A descriptive brand name tells you what the company does. Many companies have started off with a descriptive name and slowly dropped the rest of it over the years, like Boots the Chemist, who are now just Boots with subsidiaries for pharmacy, opticians, etc.

Both a brand and a description

Some companies have started with a core brand name and added others as they’ve grown. This is particularly true for one of my favourite companies, Virgin. The name itself isn’t very descriptive of what they do. It was a tongue in cheek name picked by their founder, Sir Richard Branson

As the decades have passed, however, and the company has grown, we’ve seen them add many more names to their collective hat that describe what each section of the business do.

For example, they now have:

  • Virgin Media
  • Virgin Mobile
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Hotels
  • Virgin Galactic
  • … and many more!

Using a ‘name generator’

At this point you’re probably thinking it’s really hard to pick a name, I’ll just go with a name generator. There’s actually more credit in this than you’d originally think, so hear me out.

There are lots of name generators all over the internet, and I wouldn’t suggest using them for your final name, but they can be great to get some ideas!

A quick Google search will throw up lots of name generators, and they aren’t all created equal. I quite like this one by BusinessNameGenerator.com. Just pop in a few related words and it will give you some good ideas. 

Most are fairly terrible, but if we use our florist example from above, some aren’t too bad and get you thinking a bit. They aren’t perfect but I think there is definitely room for a bit of extra help if you’re struggling.

Thorny Roses - pick a memorable name
I don’t think “Thorny Roses” would suit this place, do you?

Is your small business name taken?

Once you’ve come up with a shortlist of possible names it’s worth checking to see if they are taken elsewhere. The easiest way to do this is to a quick Google and see what comes up, but don’t forget to check Companies House too. If nothing comes up, pop over to a website host and check to see if your preferred domain is available. Sometimes companies with similar names will register similar domains so that their customers or clients don’t get misled and go to a different website. 

Fun bit of trivia: This is the idea behind the “Compare the Meerkat” adverts. It sounds very similar to Compare The Market!

>UK Small Business Web Design: The Average Cost<

Click above to find out what you should REALLY be paying in this article.

Do bear in mind that if you’re going into business as a Sole Trader, you don’t have register with Companies House. You will need to register yourself as self-employed and HMRC will usually ask for your business name or trading name. As a Sole Trader, you are the business. You may have many businesses operating under many names, but you are recognised as one business for tax purposes. This is different for Limited companies.

Feedback, feedback, feedback!

You’ve thought of the perfect name? You’ve already got some logo ideas, you’ve checked Companies House and you’ve had a good Google to find out if anyone else thought of it? You’ve also checked and your preferred domain name is available? What next? 

SLEEP ON IT!

I can’t stress this enough! Unless your name is something very special that you know you never want to change, or it means something deeply to you, make sure you give it 24 hours before you decide to go with it.

In that 24 hours of waiting time, check with family and friends, hey does this business name sound ok to you? You may think that ‘Fluffy Wuffy Fwower Power is a great name for your florist shop, but your family and friends may help you to see that maybe it’s not the best.

Equally, they may decide that the name you’ve picked is absolutely perfect and you’ve got your first brand ambassadors!

Recap: How To Pick A Name for Your Small Business

So here’s a bit of a recap on how to pick your small business name:

  • Decide if you want it to be a band name or a descriptive name
  • Keep it simple
  • Get some inspiration
  • Do some brainstorming
  • Come up with a shortlist
  • Check to see if it’s already been registered
  • Get some feedback from family and friends
  • Sleep on it

I hope you’ve found the post useful. If you have please consider sharing it on Pinterest or with your own friends and family. 

How To Choose Your Small Business Name | The Small Business Question

Have you picked the perfect business name? Maybe you’ve been trying for ages and need a bit of inspiration? I’d love to hear in the comments!

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