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Six Top Tips to Name Your Business

By David Leonhardt

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Every business has a name. And if you are thinking of starting a business, one of the first questions you’ll face is what to name it. There is more than one way to name a business. Here are a few approaches you might like.

Owner’s name

This is the most obvious way to name a business: Joe’s plumbing. McDougall and Son. Alice’s Restaurant. Name it for the person. This tells everybody who the owner is, so it does create some affinity on a personal level. It works well for businesses where you will come in very close contact with your customers, so it is an approach used frequently by restaurants, garages and the trades. Often law firms and accounting services are named after their founders.

The downside to this is if ever you want to sell your business, it might look a bit silly. That hasn’t hurt McDonald’s, which was founded by the McDonald brothers in San Bernardino. Ray Kroc bought the rights to the name. After all, who would eat at Kroc’s? On the other hand, nobody minds eating Ben Cohen’s and Jerry Greenfield’s ice cream.


Memorable name

For branding purposes, choosing a memorable name is a great idea. You want people to remember the name so that they can search for it. A memorable name is unique. Yahoo! always jumps to mind when I think of a memorable name. IKEA is memorable (and also named after the company’s founder Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd, by the way). Other memorable names that jump to mind are Google and Xerox. They are unique and short and easy to remember.

Easy to spell

Being memorable does not make a name east to spell. An easy-to-spell business name can be critical for your success. If you hear about a company on the radio or from a friend, or you remember having seen the name in a magazine or on a billboard, you will need to be able to spell the name to find it online. Best to keep it to 5-10 letters.

This website is named SmallBusinessNewz. The name works because it is strictly online. People come here through a link in social media, in an email or on Skype, or perhaps from a link on another website. If this website needed to be accessed as the result of radio ads or a mention in a magazine, the name would cause problems because of the “z” at the end.

Business location

If you want to build an affinity with your community, why not name your business after your community? That’s what Paramount Roll and Forming did back in 1963, when it opened its doors in the Los Angeles suburb of Paramount. Since then, they moved their plant to Santa Fe Springs. The name might have become very awkward if it had been the reverse, but fortunately the word “Paramount” stands on its own.

Generally, this works best for companies that are bound to a location, such as restaurants or dry cleaners or towing companies. A company like Denver West Towing, will never have to explain its name to customers in Philadelphia. I recall a tiny strip mall diner near where I grew up called Miss Pierrefonds, named after the town I grew up in.

The only major companies that typically use location-based naming are airlines. Think Cathay Pacific. Think Air Canada. Think American Airlines.

But few companies named for their location become major brands, for the simple reason that, apart from airlines, location-based naming is small-town thinking to begin with.



Concept name

One of the best ways to name your company is after a concept. A great example of this is IBM, which stands for International Business Machines. Note that the concept is specific, yet broad. Had they named it International Mainframes, the brand would sound obsolete by now. If they had named it International Computers, it might soon become obsolete. Already, the “computers” we use today do so much more than computing.

Volkswagen is another great concept name. Translated from German, it means People’s Car, a car that is affordable for the masses. Eighty years later, the concept lives on.

Microsoft is another fine example of a concept that keeps on working. The name stands for “microcomputer software”. If Bill Gates was naming his company today, he might call it Microapp or Mobiapp. Or he might still call it Microsoft. As long as devices remain small and rely on software, the name won’t go out of style.

Keep in mind also that technology changes. We still call our desktops “computers”, and those mobile devices that do everything but butter your bread are still called “phones”. But already the word “computer” is fading and the term “smart phone” is all but gone. And how many readers know what a gramophone is? Or a record player? Or a cassette tape?

So be very careful not to name your company for technology that might not exist ten or twenty years from now. That is the genius of IBM and Volkswagen.

In my own experience, as I moved from a marketing focus to managing a team of eclectic writers, The Happy Guy Marketing was not as relevant for ghostwriting autobiographies, self-help books and screenplays. So I “rebranded” THGM Writers for my writing website, without changing our name.

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About the Author:
David Leonhardt runs TGHM Writing Services, helping clients select the right words to move mountains. If you have mountains of potential clients to move, his team will be happy to help you.
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