Who knew? April 9 is “National Name Yourself Day,” a day when you’re encouraged to give yourself a new name for one day. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? And if you search for the hashtag #NameYourselfDay on Twitter or Instagram, you’ll surely have a few laughs upon seeing the new names people adopt for the day.
But selecting a name for your business is no laughing matter. It requires serious thought because a business name serves as the cornerstone of your brand.
- It serves as your brand’s first impression, affecting how prospective customers perceive your company.
- It differentiates you from your competitors.
- It affects your company’s capacity to become memorable.
Tips for Selecting a Business Name
With so much riding on a business name, how do you go about choosing the right one? Consider the following tips:
1. Think about your company’s culture and vibe.
Make sure your name authentically projects the tone of your business and your approach to what you do. Consider how you would describe your company’s aura (such as formal, edgy, academic, approachable, serious, or light-hearted, etc.)—homing in on some adjectives can help you assess whether potential names will be a good match. Having a name that reflects the vibe of your business will help customers know what they might expect from buying your products or services.
2. Be mindful of cultural and societal sensitivities.
Take care not to select a name that will offend, alienate, or outrage the public at large or segments of your market. Unless your brand will be intentionally controversial, names that hint of political, religious, ethnic, or other biases will hurt rather than help you build your business.
3. Keep the future in mind.
Most businesses evolve over time. So when you decide on a name, think about your long-term vision. Avoid choosing a name that will limit you as our business grows or changes. For example, the name “Smith’s Hockey Shop” would become obsolete if the Smiths decide to expand their offerings to equipment and accessories for a variety of sports.
4. Check availability before putting the name on a website and marketing materials.
This is critical because if another business is using your desired name, you may not be able to use it legally. You’ll find free name search tools online, and many states offer a name search option on their websites so that you can see if any other businesses in your state have claimed the name you want to use.
If you believe you may eventually want to expand your business in other states, you can check on the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s website to see if anyone else has registered for or been granted a federal trademark for your proposed name.
You Decided on a Business Name. Now What?
Attorneys that specialize in business formation and trademarks can guide you in taking steps to protect your business name.
Sole proprietorships, if they use a name other than their owner’s legal name, must get approval to use that name by filing a DBA (“Doing Business As,” also known as a “fictitious name”).
By registering a business as a legal business entity (e.g., LLC, Corporation), a business name becomes protected within the state of registration, helping to prevent any other registered entities within the state from using it. Obtaining a trademark protects a name throughout the entire United States.
SCORE, of course, can also help you as you decide on your business name. With expertise in marketing and branding, our mentors can offer valuable input and feedback. Contact us today to connect with a SCORE Maine mentor!