Article by Simon Lenthen, Business Advisor, Western Sydney Business Centre
There are lots and lots of blog-posts, articles and check-lists that are on the net focused on naming a business. There are also podcasts and videos dedicated to naming a business. So there is a lot of confusing information out there about choosing a business name. Even worse, for every rule of thumb, every thought on getting the right name, every tip, trick and suggestion, there is a name that worked the opposite way. So let’s look at the information and break it down in order to work out how to name your business.
The articles fall into two broad categories; they talk about the process of naming a business, and/or they talk about the construction of the name. We’ll start by getting the process right and then pull focus on the construction of a good name, so in a way we’re working backwards. In fact, if you’re doing it right, you’re not working.
Step 1 – DON’T DO ANYTHING YET.
I call this the research and development phase of business. You have a business idea, you’ve researched the idea, and you’re ready to get out there. STOP NOW. The issue of a business name is important to the operation of a business. Don’t start making sales or telling people you’re with Such’n’Such for several reasons. One: You haven’t chosen a business name. Two: You need to choose a business name and successfully register it. 3. Trading without a registered business name will potentially cut your business income in half. You must have an Australian Business Number before you can run a business. Furthermore, it is desirable to register your business name before you start operating, so that people can feel that your business is legitimate. Even more important – if you don’t have an ABN attached to you, and therefore your business, other businesses are OBLIGED to reduce their payments to you by 48.5% So if you haven’t got your ABN, go away and get it. Then come back here because now we work on your name.
Step 2 – The Short List
Brainstorm a long list of business names. But how do I do that, you ask me. Well there are Free Business Name generators out there. Google. Or wait until we come to the second part of this article. Having generated hopefully 10 – 15 good, not-so-good, business names then you have the difficult task of culling them. Down to 4. Maybe 5.
Step 3 – Testing the Short list.
More than just rolling the names around in your mind, or out loud, you need to check on the availability of the name for registration with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission. (ASIC). Then you need to see if the domain name is available. Consumers tend to search Google using a Proper Noun, and a description of the business. “Smiths Motorcycles” is more likely to be successful than just Smiths alone, unless you’re after chips. This means that having a domain name that matches the business name is not all that important. Tesla Motors does not have rights to Tesla.com, but googling Tesla will call up Tesla Motors because of their search engine optimisation techniques. The final part of this process is to see if your business name is available on social media. Can you set up a page on Facebook that is the same as your name, as well as accounts for Twitter, Instagram and other platforms you may use? Make sure your social media choices are appropriate for your organisation.
Step 4 – Seek objective advice
Some writers prefer you contact business professionals. I am no different, if you’re not sure about a name, then please drop in to see us at the Western Sydney Business Centre. Alternatively do ask friends and relatives, but remember, they may not be able to provide objective feedback and you might hurt their feelings if you don’t choose their name.
Step 5 – Make the decision. Seek the advice provided by experts, or your intuition. Once you make your decision you can commence registering your business name and domain name.
Part Two – The structure of your name.
So now we come to the troublesome part; finding the right name for your business. What is the right name? In general, the people writing about business names agree on the following;
- Your business name must be memorable
- Your business name must be somewhat descriptive of your business
- Your business name is easy to use.
Remember the name: A business name needs to be memorable in that it can be recalled easily by prospective customers and other parties interested in your business. Some writers refer to the name’s stickiness, meaning that it is easy to remember and easy to recall. So what makes a name sticky?
- A name should have only some syllables. Preferably a maximum of three. Hence names like facebook, Myers and Amazon. Longer business names are harder to remember. But some still get away with it, such as Travelocity. Nancy Friedman, writing on Quora, says it doesn’t matter how long your name is as long as it’s memorable, can be branded and is distinctive to your customers.
- Double word Names might be better recalled if they are alliterated, like Just Jeans, Coca Cola or PayPal. The alliteration aids memory. Names should be capped at a maximum of two words.
- Seek assonance – meaning the sounds of the name flow well together and make the name easy to say, people feel drawn to saying them and they feel good on the ear. Names such as Kodak, Xerox, and Kickstarter. Notice too, that the same letter sounds bracket the name, another great aid for memory.
- Also notice that names like Kodak (k) and Xerox (x) contain letters that score well in Scrabble. That’s because these sounds are rare to hear in the English language so it makes them stand out more.
The descriptive name: A business name should be descriptive of the type of product or business that it applies to. In some cases the name of the product became the name of the business. Nike was originally called Blue Ribbon Sports. Virgin received its name because it was a new business and most of the major players had never been in business before.
The easy name. An easy name is a name that can be implemented with a minimum of fuss. It is necessary that the name not be in use by anyone else. This will streamline the development process as well since ASIC will not register a business name unless it is a precise match for another registered name. It also means checking the social internet to see if you name has a domain attached, and pages/profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking sites.
This list is in no way definitive. Some lists come with tips that cover naming mistakes for example. Your starting point now is brainstorm some names, create a shortlist and research your own business. A good business name will give you a competitive advantage over the opposition.