Choosing a name for your small business

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After all the hard work of planning, conducting research and fundraising, the small business owner may be forgiven for thinking that choosing a name for the business will be easy.

There are those who would disagree, amongst them well-paid consultants whose service offerings include the critical task of coming up with that magical name that will spell success. They would have the small business owner believe that the ‘wrong’ name choice will be catastrophic, conveniently ignoring that there are other factors such as what the business does, how it is managed and its location. Debate about the relative importance of a business’ name aside, small business owners still need to go through a process of deciding on one.

Those who opt not to engage a consultant to assist them can adopt the following do-it-yourself approaches:

  • Basing their decision on available domain names, thus ensuring their business name and the domain name used on the website’s URL are the same – The upside of this is that consistent names might be easier for customers to remember. On the other hand, there are those who argue that the domain name and the business name do not have to be the same, and the domain name should instead contain descriptive words that convey what the business does and are therefore likely to rank highly in search engine results.
  • Selecting a suggestive name instead of a descriptive one – A suggestive name does not have an immediately obvious connection to the product or service, and challenges customers to apply their minds. It can also be abstract, drawn from ordinary words in the small business owner’s preferred language (and which may or may not be symbolic in some way). A descriptive name, on the other hand, spells out what the business does upfront, but runs the risk of being mixed up with other similar sounding businesses in customers’ minds. It can also be a headache if the business changes direction, rendering the name inaccurate.
  • Naming the business after the small business owner - This is a quick fix but can be problematic in the long term when ownership of the business changes hands (but the business has built up a strong reputation and customer base under the founder). Small business owners should search trademark and business registration databases to ensure that the names they are considering have not already been appropriated.

Small business owners should also bear in mind that naming their business and marketing the business are two different things –marketing is essential to raise awareness of the business’ existence in the marketplace and to ensure that customers make the desired positive associations with the business’ name.

How important do you think a business’ name is? How did you choose yours? Do you have any regrets about the name you went with?

 

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