Steps you should take when choosing a business name

Naming your organisation is not often seen as the biggest issue when establishing a business, but it can cause rather a lot of issues, particularly if there is more than one individual involved in the process and there isn’t much of a process to developing a name.

So, does a great name help make a business anyway? Or, does a name become great from doing good business?

Well, I believe it’s both! But, why not give yourself the best start on the road to success by developing a name that’s a cut above the rest and one that resonates with customers and separates you immediately from competitors.

Of course, the first thing you need to establish is the legal criteria associated with naming your organisation, as depending on what company structure (sole trader, partnership, llp, ltd, etc.) you trade under, negates what you can and can’t do when choosing a name. This is not a particularly difficult area to navigate around but worth getting geared up before you make a start by visiting the ‘companies house’ website and it will save you time later!

What does the business actually do?

The best place to begin in developing a name is by defining what you do exactly – for whom, where, how and why.

Make sure you think towards the future. If you expand products/services in the future, you’ll want to document it now, as you don’t want a name that doesn’t work for extensions later. ‘Who’ is really important here, have you fully outlined your target:

  • Is it Business to Business? Business to Consumer?
  • How old are they?
  • What social status are they?
  • Are they male or female?

All of these questions will help you later determine whether the name taken forward ticks all the boxes…and it means you can clearly see who to go to and ask to test your name! ‘Where’ is also an important consideration, as a local outfit that wants to stay local may want to draw upon local or regional names to facilitate trust with customers by including these in its chosen name.

Equally if you have plans of trading internationally make sure the name travels! The deeper you can go in outlining the core of your business the better focus you will have and the simpler it is to quantify and qualify prospective names against later.

Furthermore, answer where you want to position yourself against competitors or in the minds of your clients? What will the benefits be to your customer both on a functional level and emotional level? What would you like customers to say about you? Get involved in separating yourself from anyone else that could be in your market and spell the statements out, these will become your unique selling points which will be useful in helping you develop a name.

You can start to now develop your organisational personality / vibe, which customers can relate to, remember and believe in. Often this can be viewed from the angle of what you stand for or believe in, and attribute values that way. But just remember to always look at it from the customer’s angle, as primarily you want to create a successful organisation not an unsuccessful point of view!

Your competition

Once you’ve outlined your business proposition, personality and position it’s time to look at the competition…if there are any! You want to look at the types of names your competitors have gone for and ascertain strengths, weaknesses and look for white space i.e. within the name categories competitors may not have gone for? Names come in various forms and the majority can be categorised as follows:

Descriptive e.g. Cartridge World, Lancashire Plant Hire, etc.

Traditional e.g. Aunt Bessies, Ernest Jones, etc.

Invented e.g. Fedex, Nox, Kodak, Google, Kleenex, etc.

Acronym e.g. NTL, HPJ, RBS, O2, etc.

Practical e.g. Explorer, Munchies, Defender, Sunkist, etc.

Expressive e.g. Pulse, HobNobs, Virgin, Yahoo, etc.

Plot your competitors against these types of names and see where it might be suitable to put yourself knowing the business proposition, personality and position you will hold in the market.

Now let the creative juices run wild. You have used a process thus far and ascertained who you want to be and how you want to express yourself to customers and against competitors, so come up with as many names and category types as you can. Use resources such as dictionaries and thesauruses to help you.

Once you have a list of names you are happy with, it is always advised to do a initial test against competition, as you don’t want the same name as a direct competitor to find the name has already been registered or there are lots of similar names. Do remember that trading names can be just as good in certain circumstances and register a more generic name as your company name; again this is dependent on what structure your organisation will be housed in.

Test your name with prospective clients or people you regard to be acute in this area and record feedback. Also, if you’re investing a lot in your brand or organisation, ensure you check it will have a high chance of getting through the trade marking process…so that you can protect it and the investment you will be making into your brand!

Bear in mind that your business name will be the flagship of your brand. It should work well on all your brand applications, whether in your brand identity or how it sounds when you answer the phone. Make sure it is easy to spell, remember, distinguish, is future-proof, is extension-proof, is effective with the brand, is easy to get a URL for and above all it feels right. If you find yourself getting really bogged down with it all just remember that it is ‘also’ what you do that will make a great name.

About the Author

This article was written by Dave O’Hearns, creative director of Verve Brands Limited.

Verve has a history of successful brand building projects and methodologies to help businesses get to where they want to be and would be only too happy to be involved as a partner in any development. For more information about their approach just visit

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