You’ve got yourself an exciting business idea, congratulations! Now you’ve got to decide on a business name…
The name you choose for your business or brand can have a big impact on its success. So it’s important to take the time to get your business name right.
The following guide is designed to arm you with the knowledge and tools you need to choose a business name that will help get your business off to a flying start.
Let’s get started!
Create a shortlist
The best place to begin is with a brainstorm session. Start by writing down as many names as you can think of. You can do this on your own, but it’s better if you get a few people together to help you. The more brains the better – and it’s the perfect excuse to catch up over a coffee (or a wine)!
Don’t worry if some of the names you come up with at this stage, are not quite right or sound a bit silly. Quite often a not-so-good name can be the spark for a brilliant one.
Put your business name shortlist to the test
When you have some potential names you like, the next step is to work out if any of them have what it takes to be ‘THE ONE’. The following six questions will help you decide if you’re onto any winners.
For each potential name ask:
1. Is it appealing?
There’s no use in pursuing a name if your target customers don’t like it. Test your shortlist on a potential customer; if they seem genuinely positive about a name, then you may be onto a winner. If they are a bit ‘ho-hum’ obviously that one is destined for the scrap heap!
2. Is it memorable?
Choosing a business name that’s easy to remember can give you a massive advantage; potential customers will be much more likely to think of you when they are looking to buy whatever it is you’re selling.
The other big advantage is that if people can remember your name, they’ll also be more likely to recommend you to others. This can be a huge benefit as word of mouth recommendations or referrals are a major (and free) source of new customers for most businesses.
So give a big tick to any shortlisted names that are easy to remember. And re-consider those that are particularly long, difficult to spell or hard to pronounce.
3. Is it distinctive?
To decide if a potential name ticks this box, you firstly need to ask yourself if you think it’s INTERESTING (or unique) enough. An interesting name can really help your business stand out and be noticed, and can be a lot easier to remember too. It’s also more likely to be able to be trademarked compared to a generic name, which can help protect against copycats.
But being interesting is not enough on it’s own. For a name to be distinctive, it also needs to be DIFFERENT enough from other brands or businesses already out there. If it’s too similar to competitors, it’s likely to create confusion for potential customers. People who have heard about you may accidentally choose or recommend your rivals instead! Ouch.
4. How well does it reflect your unique approach?
Ideally the name you choose should give potential customers a little bit of an idea of what makes your business unique.
For example if you take a fun approach to solving a customer’s problem (and are looking to attract customers who also like this approach), a serious business name would not be the best fit for you. Instead you’d be better to think of names with a bit of spunk to them that express that element of your personality.
It’s not always possible for a business name to tick this box, but it’s definitely worth considering when assessing potential names.
5. Will it still work in five year’s time?
When you first start a business, your product or service offering is likely to be quite focused. But over time as you grow, you may decide to expand or change your offering – either by selling additional products or services, or by targeting new groups of customers or clients.
If there’s a chance you will expand in the future, it’s worthwhile choosing a name that you can grow with. So be wary of names that refer to a specific product or service; or appeal ONLY to a particular type of customer – e.g. customers of a certain age, gender, belief system, cultural group etc.
6. Is your business name actually available?
This is one of the most critical questions! Before you go further with a name, you need to run a few checks to see if you can use it:
This is THE MOST IMPORTANT check to do. Owning the trademark for your name gives you the exclusive rights to use it in the category/categories you plan to operate in. If you can’t register the trademark, then there’s no use in pursuing a name any further.
Visit the IP Australia website and run a search for your desired name to see if it’s already been registered. If not, it may be possible to apply for the trademark. At this point, unless you’re very familiar with the trademark process, it usually pays to engage a trademark lawyer (attorney) who can help to guide you through the application and make sure your trademark is registered properly to avoid any issues down the track.
Business (Trading) name
Unless you’re trading under your legal entity name (e.g. Simpson Pty Ltd), you will also need to register a business (trading) name through ASIC. Search the ASIC database to find out if your preferred name is available. If the trademark is available but the ASIC business name is not, don’t fret. It’s possible to have a business (trading) name that’s different to your trademark. REMEMBER: registering a business name through ASIC does not give you the exclusive rights to the name. If someone else owns the trademark they could prevent you from using the business name.
Domain names / social media handles
While it’s ideal if your domain and social media handles are the same as your trademark, remember that most potential customers will find you online through a search engine, by searching on social media, clicking a link on another website or through your email signature or business card.
So it’s not the end of the world if your domain name or social media handles/addresses don’t perfectly match your trademark. It may be possible to buy an already registered domain name off the current owner, otherwise you can choose an alternative but similar domain name or use a different extension (e.g. .com instead of .com.au). The same goes for social media – just add a prefix or suffix to the name (e.g. you could put “AU” on the end).
FINALLY: Get cracking (or keep brainstorming)!
Do any of the names you’re considering pass the test? If so, BRILLIANT! Get moving by registering your trademark, business name, domain and social media accounts ASAP.
If not, don’t fret! It can often take a bit of time to find the ideal name. Keep brainstorming. Keep asking people for ideas. And keep your eyes and ears peeled for inspiration. Names have a tendency to come up when you least expect it. The great thing is, you’re now armed with the tools you need to quickly spot and assess potential names. All the best!