woman standing in front of whiteboard brainstorming
Finding the perfect name is one of the most critical steps in starting a business. — Getty Images/andresr

Choosing a name that both captures your business idea and reflects your brand personality can be a daunting task. However, it's important to spend time developing the right name to create the right impression of your business.

Your name should differentiate you so your business stands out from other companies. It should also be memorable enough that your customers can easily recall, pronounce, spell and type it when they want to get in touch with you.

If you're stuck on what to call your business, there are a few things you can do to generate and test your ideas. Here are five steps to help you choose the right name for your business.

Brainstorm your idea

Deciding the right name for your business starts with a brainstorming session. Whether it's just you jotting down ideas on a notepad or a formal meeting with partners and team members, getting some thoughts out — even if they're not perfect — can help you narrow down options and move toward a great business moniker.

According to SCORE, you should consider the emotions associated with your business. How do you want your customers to feel when they interact with your company? Make sure these emotions and any name ideas generated from them reflect your company's mission and the perception you want to create among your target audience.

SCORE also recommends considering the following as you come up with name ideas:

  • Length. A short, catchy name (think Uber and Etsy) might be easier to remember and spell than a multi-word name.
  • Location. Incorporating your city or region into the name can help you stand out from other businesses in neighboring areas with similar offerings.
  • Future growth plans. Your name should grow with your business and not pigeonhole you if you decide to expand from your initial product or service line.
  • Potential visual representations. How will your name look on a logo and on various marketing materials?

Your digital presence will serve as your "front door" for many customers searching for your business online.

Test your idea and seek initial feedback

Ask for people's opinions on your name ideas. Work with family and friends whom you trust to decide if the name fits you and your business. You can also poll people who represent your target customers and find out what they think.

Search for existing registrations and trademarks

Before you get too attached to your chosen name, check the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as well as your state's business registration database to make sure it hasn't already been registered by another business owner. If your name (or one extremely similar to it) is trademarked, you will not be able to use it for your business.

Check search engines, domain registries and social media

Your digital presence will serve as your "front door" for many customers searching for your business online. Run a quick Google search to see what kind of search results are associated with it. If any negative press or questionable content comes up, you may want to rethink the name or try a variant of it. You should also search domain registries and social media sites to make you can register a suitable URL and social media handles.

Register your business name

Once you've chosen a unique, available business name, register it with the government and begin marketing your brand. You may also wish to set up a trademark for your name. This will protect your business by providing you with exclusive rights to your own name and logo, and the right to pursue legal action for infringement.

Already have a business name? Learn what to do next in our step-by-step startup guide.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published June 26, 2019