Home – New Forums Starting your journey Business name: one word or two?

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  • #992721
    FreeBeer
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    Hi everyone, newbie here, looking forward to joining in the fun, and seeking some input on my first major decision! Hopefully the title says it all, otherwise read on at your peril…

    I recently started a local service business under my own name, but I want something more snappy and memorable. I put together two small key words (one adjective, one verb) that when combined are, I believe, both of those, and pretty descriptive of the services I offer (It isn’t actually Free Beer, obviously, but let’s pretend). I googled the combination, with almost zero hits worldwide (other than random connections), so right now it’s wide open for me. I even got the eBay user id, which is almost unheard of these days!

    If it helps, many of my customers are not highly tech savvy or even own a computer. Word of mouth is vitally important, and most of my advertising will be local print, flyers, and vehicle signage, but of course I will have a facebook page and website too.

    I guess the pros and cons of each approach, as I see them, are:

    One word pros:
    Totally unique word
    Business name exactly matches domain name etc
    Seems obvious, my initial thought was to concatenate

    One word cons:
    Not so easy to visually identify the two words (although still pretty easy)
    Some customers might search as two words anyway
    Less options with visual layout on signage etc
    May leave the option open for competitors to register or just use the two words together
    I’m already going with a slightly ‘witty’ and franchisey name rather than a totally straight, dry one, concatenating it might be a step too far for some older / more conservative customers
    ASIC registration for the single word isn’t possible online, it requires human scrutiny (although I don’t foresee problems)
    Not sure if ASIC system will automatically protect the two word form If I register the concatenated name.

    Two word pros:
    It’s two short words, and apparently nobody else has EVER put them together in this context!
    Registering the two word name (in any arena) probably protects against the use of the concatenated form, more so than the other way round
    More options with signage layout
    Easier for people to identify the two separate words
    I can register the two-word format with ASIC online

    Two word cons:
    Possibly leaves the concatenated form vulnerable (although probably less risky than the other way round)
    Is two separate words less catchy than joining them into one?
    Not sure of any others?

    I don’t have the money for trademark lawyers yet, so I just want to make the best start I can through the usual channels. Any thoughts?!

    #1187737
    FreeBeer
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    Nobody?!

    TL,DR:
    Is it better to own a two-word phrase or a one-word name?

    #1187738
    objectman
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    I’ve got an almost one word business name “Geoffrey Multimedia” – reduced to just Geoffrey in most cases. I know you’re not too worried about the web (which to me is intriguing to say the least) but even my own business name doesn’t really say what I do. I find clients who call their business “Geoffrey Plumbing” or “Teaman’s Gate Repair” tend to do a little better attracting non-time-wasting clients . . . on the web at least.

    On that subject. Domain names do well when the product is mentioned in the URL – e.g. “http://www.jeffs-plumbing.com.au

    As you were ;)

    #1187739
    GuestMember
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    I can add a few thoughts:
    Search engines can differentiate most words. We used a hyphen to great effect on the domain name whilst using separate words elsewhere, though.

    Single words are easier to remember. It’s more likely already in use. I couldn’t find your actual idea and perhaps you don’t want to disclose it, but if you mean a portmanteau (words mashed together, like dadpreneur), that would lend itself to domain name availability if unique. This also lends itself to trademarking and less likely to be in use.

    Last thought for now: be very careful that a domain name containing two words doesn’t also read as something else. Some businesses got quite a way into their marketing before getting feedback that there is an unintended reading of it.

    Itscrap.com (IT scrap)
    Whorepresents.com (Who represents)
    Penisland.net (Pen Island)
    Expertsexchange.com (Experts Exchange)
    Speedofart.com (Speed of Art)
    Mp3shits.com (MP3s Hits)
    Powergenitalia.com (Powergen Italia)
    Childrenswear.co.uk (Children’s Wear)

    #1187740
    FreeBeer
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    Hahaha, good advice there, and thanks for the replies.

    I’m not comfortable disclosing the actual name just yet for obvious reasons (it isn’t a portmanteau, it is simply two common words that would either be joined together to form a unique name, or left as two words as a phrase). Neither options are currently taken, nor are they found together anywhere on the web, so I am keen to ‘own’ both versions once I start marketing. My feeling is that the phrase is clever, funny, quirky and memorable, might even get a little chuckle from people when they see it, so I’m very excited about it.

    My own business right now, and for the foreseeable future, is a combination of services that isn’t unique. There are lots of people doing the same things, but I think I’ve stumbled on a fun way to name my business that incorporates key words from my two main services so that it is quite apparent what I can offer – especially with a byline or two underneath the logo to hammer home the connection. It also just happens that combining the two keywords leads to a colourful image, that is also kind of relevant. Surprising then that nobody else has used it! As well as hopefully being an asset to my business now, it is also possible in the future that I might look at franchising the concept to others, or selling the business to someone of that mindset, which is why I’m so focussed on getting this detail right.

    I am leaning toward the two word option, because it seems to me that to be able to coin such a simple phrase is powerful and I should take it. By ‘owning’ the phrase I suspect that it would be difficult for somebody else to simply drop the space and claim a unique name. However, if I ‘own’ the unique name, it feels like I have less ownership over the phrase and it is left somewhat unprotected.

    Sorry to be so abstract, I hope this all makes sense, and I promise I will reveal all when I’m happy with my position…

    #1187741
    GuestMember
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    Yeah, it is a bit abstract so I’ve struggled. However, I do understand public disclosure, having patented an invention! Hmm. Is the decision based around domain, trademark, and/or branding? That would help focus advice. Sorry if you’ve already explained. If I keep going with the questions, I reckon I can work out what the name is, like that game. Only kidding. ;)

    #1187742
    FreeBeer
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    The domain choice is obvious IMO – no spaces or symbols. Registering and trademarking the actual business name requires me deciding on whether or not it has a space though!

    For businesses that actually trade online it’s probably quite an easy decision – for example, RedBalloon is one word, as it is all about the domain name. I just wonder if going with one word is a bit too trendy and ‘web 2.0’ for a real world service business whose customers probably don’t even have computers.

    There’s a female plumber in the UK with a clever name – her URL is http://www.sugarplumb.co.uk, but she’s chosen Sugar-Plumb with a hyphen as the actual business name. I’m not a fan of hyphens, so for me the choice would have been between “Sugar Plumb” and “SugarPlumb”.

    Another (entirely fictitious, and painfully tortuous) example might be Current Jamb, for an electrician and carpenter. The URL would probably just be currentjamb, the question is whether the actual company name would be better as Current Jamb or CurrentJamb?

    #1187743
    GuestMember
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    That’s a good point about fashion. Some businesses are left stranded by that. I didn’t know RedBalloon was one word and maybe there’s a lesson in that? You need advice from a Trade Mark attorney but disclaimers aside, my understanding is that you can’t TM ordinary phrases that are already in popular use, possibly the design, but not the expression. Sticking words together can make them uniquely yours.

    As a personal preference, I’ve liked all of your single word examples best. It makes it look like a name rather than just words. But I think the holistic feel of a logo is probably what most people remember.

    One word of comfort… almost any name is good if it becomes synonymous with a brand, service, quality, or whatever. You soon forgive.

    Look at bands. Metallica. What a painfully cheesy name for a heavy metal band. Maybe there’s a story but most people won’t know it. The Beatles. Cheesy spelling. But you rarely think about it.

    You care about your name and it’s great to put the effort in but I’ll share something I’ve learned in business decision making. Sometimes, when you can’t decide between this and that, the truth is, they’re both equal. I’ve wasted a lot of time on this.

    Perhaps relieve yourself of the responsibility and ask a representative and random sample of 50 target consumers. But to do that you will have to disclose. They’re the people that matter most. Hope something there helps.

    #1187744
    FreeBeer
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    Thanks Paul, I’m sure you are right and that in reality it matters little. I know of one successful business owner that would deliberately leave all his advertising copy to the very last minute, then write it (or dictate it) in a single pass and off it went for publishing. His theory was that he could spend two minutes on it or two weeks, and at the end of the day it would make no difference!

    Just to clarify though, it certainly isn’t a common phrase at all – Google returns almost no results for it, just the usual articles where the two words happen to span separate sentences or somebody misspelled something. So as a phrase it is unique and mine for the taking, which is part of the reason I’m tempted to leave the words apart – simply because I can!

    Anyway, thanks again for the input, I’ll probably wring my hands over it for another few days then I’ll need to pick an option.

    #1187745
    PaulChau
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    I think that your business name is going to be a very sensitive issue. Unless you’re owning a franchise like my storage business and don’t really have a say in the company name, at the end of the day, you’ve got to live with the name of your company for a long time to come. So choose something that you like or even love!

    #1187746
    chopesandbro
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    Great thread and replies.

    For us

    We named it after our two dogs

    #1187747
    JacquiPryor
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    Hi all – thought I’d quickly chime in on the trademark front; it’s unlikely to matter too much when it comes time to register a trademark whether the name is one or two words. (This advice may alter once the actual words are known – so for now is general).

    Take the RedBalloon example; one of their earlier (word) trademarks actually has “Red Balloon” as two words; later marks show it as one. The logo marks however are indexed by the Trademarks Office and not the actual applicant, so, when the name has appeared in logo format that Office has chosen to represent it in word as either RedBalloon or Red Balloon.

    In any event, when they first registered their trademarks the result would have been the same (in terms of being approved) whether it was as Red Balloon or RedBalloon. Trademarks are not judged 100% on the exact phrase/word/logo etc that is filed. There are many factors considered by the Office in determining whether a mark is acceptable or not.

    So, if in this case the two separate words in question are each indicative of the type of product or service you’re supplying they may prove difficult to register as a trademark in the future.

    Take your “FreeBeer” example (and let’s assume you’re using the name for a service that provides beer that does not cost money). Ok – so this is one word, and ‘technically’ the word “FreeBeer” isn’t a common word (or even a real word) – however, the two elements Free + Beer are; bringing them together as one is not enough in the eyes of the trademarks office to stop the mark being descriptive on the whole.

    If the two words (either together or separately) forms a business name or ‘brand’ that others are unlikely to need to use to describe similar services then you may have something that can be trademarked.

    The trademark should be registered as you intend to use it. Infringement then (generally speaking) happens when someone else uses something confusingly similar. So, if you registered two words as your trademark, and someone else started using them as one name then you may still have a case and vice versa.

    With that said – I’m not sure it has to matter too much the exact name you register with ASIC; will you have a logo that you will use to promote your business?

    Your business name could be “Free Beer” (two words), but in your logo/promotional material it might look more like “FreeBeer” (like the Red Balloon example).

    I hope this helps and provides some food for thought. If you would like to send me a direct message with the actual word combination, I’d be happy to give you some further comments. Obviously, at this stage everything’s a bit ‘general’ without knowing the name involved. All the best :)

    #1187748
    PaulChau
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    I think that your business name is going to be a very sensitive issue. Unless you’re owning a franchise like my storage business and don’t really have a say in the company name, at the end of the day, you’ve got to live with the name of your company for a long time to come. So choose something that you like or even love!

    #1187749
    Snakeman
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    Talking trademarks and the one word versus two words options, I shall add my view to the equation.
    If you are good at what you do and attract business, you will also attract thieves, bootleggers and trademark infringers.
    This is what happened to us with three of our registered trademarks and in the context of different combinations of the same or similar words.
    I invented the concept of educational reptile shows for kids and so registered the trademark “reptile parties”.
    Now we have imitators across the planet. After I registered the trademark for the words “reptile parties” thieves tried to steal our clients by using SEO.
    People search for us by name “reptile parties” and so thieves try to optimize their sites for the term and then when they usurp us in search, are clicked on and so our clients are stolen from us, without us even knowing it.
    When we clamped down on the illegal SEO, the thieves simply started using common variants, including the phrase “reptile party”, with Google treating both as the same thing.
    So we had no choice but to also register the words “reptile party” as well. Now the thieves still illegally use our trademarks to steal our clients (including via dozens of bogus domains they control and use to backlink using our trademarks), but we are slowly getting on top of them and intend suing the stand out infringers, having briefed lawyers on one such matter as recently as today.
    Similar happened with the Snakebusters trademark and an infringer calling himself “snakebuster”, (we sued him and won and also took out registration for the snakebuster trademark after the fact).
    Same applies for our snakeman and snake man trademarks, which were registered at the same time later on and in the knowledge thieves would claim spelling difference (one word versus two) as a basis to allow infringement (and yes they tried this unsuccessfully).
    In other words, don’t just try to register your exact words trademark (if you can), but also go for variants as well that infringers may use to try to steal your clients, including via SEO and search, which is where a lot of people get all or most of their new business these days.
    All the best
    The Snake Man

    #1187750
    16k_zx81
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    yeah Ok, Ill chime in

    First business name iteration denoted the service area for the business

    Within 2 years it expanded. had to change business name

    changed business name to (city)(service) and got (city)(service).com.au

    — this was killer for SEO and got me lots of business through the website

    Caveat was lots of long words made for an elongated logo.

    — elongated logo actually very difficult to work with in a number of contexts, compared to something with a more even aspect ratio

    So, not sure if any of this relevant to you, but just throwing it in the ring (because your decision wasnt already complicated enough, it would seem!)

    Best of luck w it

    J

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