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Choosing a business name

Imagine your business name printed on a business card and you leave it in a public place like your favorite coffee shop.  If someone finds it, would they immediately understand what your business does by its’ name?  Your business name is the first impression a potential customer has of your business. 

 

There’s no precise formula for choosing your business name.  The best name depends on several things; from the kind of business you have to your own style and preference.  An effective business name has five elements:

 

  • Tells who you are.
  • Tells what you do.
  • Tells how you do it.
  • Sets you apart from your competitors.
  • Peaks customer interest.
  • Invites further investigation.

Suggestions for Choosing a Business Name

Here are a few suggestions that can help you choose the right business name for your business.

 

  • A general rule that works is picking a name using the first letters of the alphabet.
  • Avoid similarities with your competitors’ names.
  • Keep in mind, if you name your business after yourself, it will be more difficult to sell it.  But, if you grow large enough, you can license your name for use on products not created by you.  For example: Martha Stewart and Tommy Hilfiger.
  • Make it unique, memorable, recognizable and distinctive; but keep it simple.  Choose a name that’s easy to spell. This makes it easier for people to type in your web or email address.
  • Your name shouldn’t imply anything inappropriate, especially if you plan to conduct international business.  In Marcia Yudkin’s article How to Avoid a Business Naming Disaster,” she discusses the legal ramification of rushing to name your business without doing your research. 
  • Steer clear of words or phrases that may become outdated.
  • If you want to appear larger than just a one-person business, choose a one-word name, but leave your name out of it.  For example:  MicroSoft, Startbucks, or Borders.
  • To appear larger and still want to make sure your clients see you as the main expert, use your name, but add to it.  For example:  John Smith and Associates or Smith and Company.
  • Use caution when using humor to name your business.  Humor is relative and not everyone sees humor the same way.  With that said, here are a few humorous names that have worked for the owners’. 
    Kid
    NappingCenter
    (children’s pre-school,)  A Clean Sweep (cleaning,)  The Royal Flush (plumbing,)  Sew What (a tailor,)  Kitchen Divas (catering,)  That IT Guy (computer repair,)
      Lawn Enforcement (landscaping,)  Ask Me
    Inn (hotel,)  Chore Chasers (personal service,)  Back By Monday (your guess as to what this company does,) Audie & Joyce Beauty Salon & Mini Storage (go figue this one out,) and Tanning, Saw Sharpening & Groceries (whoa, caution is the operative word here.)
  • If you’re focusing your service or product on your local market, consider using the name of the city or town in the name.  For example:
    HoustonShoeHospital, Houston Grime Busters, Texas Cable Doctors.)
  • Reserve your URL before filing your business paperwork.  If you’re not a technology company, you’ll want your business domain nameURL  to be a .com.  But if you're a technology company .net is acceptable.  Even though .biz might seem like a good idea, people still type .com as their default before any other ending.  You don't want to make it hard for people to find you.  Check for your name on the original domain name registrar NetworkSolutions® and AnyNameFree for availability and suggestions.
  • Incorporate a visual element  into the name.  Generally we are hard-wired to “see” images when we read or hear language, and incorporating a visual element into your business name can be a powerful aid to customers’ memory (and a powerful advertising tool.

     

Companies that started with one name and changed it later:                      

Now: AOL (America Online) - was Quantum Computer Services          

Now: Google - was BackRub                                             

Now: Healthy Choice - was: Diet Deluxe                                       

Now: MaAfee, Inc. - was: Network Associates                             

Now: Nintendo - was: Marafuku Company            

Now: Pepsi-Cola - was: Brad’s Drink                                           

Now: Yahoo - was: Jerry's Guide to the WWW                 

Now: Sony - was: Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo K.K.                   

 

Name “Keeper”

Once you have found a name that you believe is a “keeper,” be sure to run it by several people to make sure you haven't overlooked anything and that the name "fits" your business.  Over the life cycle of your business, your name will help you to establish your business brand and stand out from your competitor's.

 

The steps to registering your business name can be found on the Internet.  If you’re interested in developing a witty business name, check out Comedy Writing Secrets  by Melvin Helitzer (Writer’s Digest books.)  In his book, Helitzer describes a brilliant way to develop a business name or slogan. (Have a thesaurus nearby.)

 

List of Resources 

Remember that I’ll continue to add to this list.  Greater Houston area Chambers of Commerce include:

Great Houston Partnership (The granddaddy of
Houston
area Chambers of Commerce)

African American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston

American Indian Chamber of Commerce

Asian Chamber of Commerce

Central Fort Bend Chamber Alliance

Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce

Deer Park Chamber of Commerce

East End Houston Chamber of Commerce

Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce

Galleria Area Chamber of Commerce

 

Galveston Chamber of Commerce

Greater Conroe/ LakeConroe Chamber of Commerce

Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce

Greater Southwest Chamber of Commerce

Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce

Houston Chamber of Commerce


Houston
Christian Chamber of Commerce

Houston Citizens Chamber of Commerce

Houston Heights Association

Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Houston InTown Chamber of Commerce

Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce

Houston West Chamber of Commerce

Humble Area Chamber of Commerce

Katy Area Chamber of Commerce

Kingwood Chamber of Commerce

North Channel Chamber of Commerce

North Houston Greenspoint Chamber of Commerce

Pasadena Chamber of Commerce

Pearland Chamber of Commerce

South-Belt Ellington Chamber of Commerce

South Houston Chamber of Commerce

The Greater Houston GLBT Chamber of Commerce

Acres Home Citizens Chamber of Commerce  (At this time, their web site isn't functioning. You may reach them at 713/692-7003.)

 

 

Next Article:  “Choosing a business location, location, location.”

Comments

  • James 5 years ago

    Lea-Ann, GREAT article! With so many people turning to entrepreneurship in today's business world this is sage advise!
    One of my all-time favorite "Whoops!" was the car: NOVA. When they tried to sell it in Mexico, it bombed. Why? Because "NO VA" in Spanish means...."doesn't run!".

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