Naming your business is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make as an entrepreneur. Get it right, and the world is your marketplace. While a wrong decision can be costly. Here I list everything you need to consider, with examples of how I’ve learned my lesson, and how other companies have learned theirs.
The does what it says on the tin approach.
For small start-up businesses, this is what I always encourage. If you’re small, it’s absolutely fine to appear small. You’ll attract clients with the right type of work for you.
Consider what your potential customers are going to search for online. If they’ve never heard of Jimmy John’s Salsa Classes, they won’t Google it. But if they’re looking to salsa in Swindon, or to cha-cha-cha in Chester, that’s what matters. Register salsadanceswindon.com with a domain service provider such as nearlyfreespeech.net.
I’ll admit, that I learned from experience. My first step into business was a digital publishing company called Coffee Yard Media. There were three of us. A year later I took full control and rebranded to Courtyard Media. The business still sounded bigger than just myself. It was becoming more apparent that while I could likely still make a living with my expertise in London, there wasn’t a requirement for that service elsewhere. So I became a general graphic designer, working with small businesses. Rebranding (again) to Abell Design was perfect. You get what it says on the tin. Grace Abell designs. If I ever do grow my business, it won’t necessarily require a name change.
I’m a big believer in doing what feels right. You need a name that you believe in, before you persuade others to believe in it too. We all make mistakes in business, it’s better to learn fast and improve quickly. Like naming a baby, it’s sensible to aim for a name which is easy to spell and pronounce, hopefully won’t go out of fashion too quickly, and be something you’re happy to live with for a long time.
The eponymous approach
Some firms are almost always going to be named after the founders. Solicitors being the prime example. They need to build trust in their clientele because you might be depending on them to represent your interests after a failed marriage, house purchase or bank heist.
There is evidence to suggest that companies named after their owner are more likely to succeed. There is certainly a degree of clout for a customer to pick up the phone and speak to someone whose name is on the product.
Along with the ‘does what it says on the tin’ approach, this is the route I took. I was in the position where I had recently married but felt conflicted about taking my husband’s surname. I had gained a few years of industry experience with my maiden name. Therefore, at work, I tried to double-barrel, while legally, I had changed my surname. If this sounds a bit confusing to you… after a few months, I applied my new surname Abell universally. It’s a positive sounding name, additionally, my husband could work under the same brand. While I felt that rebranding was a big risk to take. Ultimately, the work shone above and beyond that.
The creative approach
Google, Etsy, Skype… and what the heck is a Moonpig?
Web-first companies have created their own memorable words, in order to snag a domain name. If they’re market pioneers, there isn’t a quick and easy term already for ‘send-personalised-birthday-cards-to-your-friends-via-internet-order’ so they need to establish themselves as the first company to become known for offering a certain service or product.
Whichever your approach is… the one following thing you absolutely have to do is your homework.
Research. Your first port of call for any idea is Companies House. Here you can see if another business name has been registered in the UK. After that Google. Other companies with the same name. There are other Abell designs out there, like there are 385,000 results for Johnsons Plumbers and 1,630,000 results for Stevenson Accountants. If it’s your name, you can use it. When incorporating, you might need to differentiate yourself, by adding a place name, i.e. Smith Tuition (Middlesborough) Ltd.
Don’t forget to check out the names of your direct competitors. Is there anything about their name which makes them successful? Do they sound trustworthy, exciting, organic, luxury, or sporty?
Ensure your business name doesn’t have negative connotations. A health food shop wouldn’t call themselves McDonald’s, even if that was the owner’s surname. While you can’t get a universal insight into what everyone associates with a word, do ensure that it evokes a good feeling within the culture and industry you’ll be participating in.
Coca-Cola is one of the few exceptions where a brand name has grown into a new meaning, despite it being made up of two strange words, hyphenated and retracted to Coke of all things. Unless your company was established in 1886, I’d advice against attempting this. It’s easy to dream big. It’s easy to create a hashtag. But business success takes hard work. There is room for everyone at the table, so introduce yourself proudly.
My start up clients usually approach me with a business name already chosen. But if you’re still struggling after reading this, a creative naming service is available as part of a branding package with Abell Design. I’ll do all the legwork for you, while you concentrate on your business. Email me firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.