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How to choose a business name


What’s in a name?

Short answer – a lot. The very first thing potential customers are going to remember about you is your name, because it’s the first contact they have with you.

So when it comes to choosing a name, it’s not a decision you should rush. Try to come up with something that’s unique, effective, descriptive and memorable. You want your business name to have an impact on people, so that it’s not easily forgotten and ties into your industry.

What you decide to name your business will set the tone for how you’re subsequently viewed in the business world, by both customers and your competition. You should aim for something that suits your business best. Some of the best global businesses have changed their names from their original choices. For example, Google was originally named ‘Backrub’ when it was first created in 1996.

Get your thinking cap on

The very first step is to take a deep breath… and relax. Hardly anyone thinks of the perfect name straightaway, those ‘lightbulb’ moments are rare. So if you’re worried that you don’t have any ideas yet, don’t panic. Getting stressed won’t help. Get together with some friends, family or business colleagues (or a combination of all three) and have a brainstorming session.

Consider your business concept and then try some word association exercises around it. A phrase can be shortened to a name, and words from different phrases can be combined to match your business concept.

While you’re brainstorming, try to remember that:

  • Simple is best – names that are too long or complicated can be hard to remember, and above all, you’re aiming for something that’s memorable.
  • It should fit with who you are – in other words, a name should describe what you do or what you sell. Again, it shouldn’t be too long.
  • It might be funny to you, but others might not get it. So it’s wise to avoid puns and jokes, unless you’ve been lucky enough to come up with a really clever play on words that’s instantly recognizable. If you can think up a slogan or tagline that works well as an accompaniment to the name, so much the better.
  • If you can work your competitive advantage into the name, that’s a bonus. Your competitive advantage is what you do better than anyone else. If you can include that in the business name, your competitive advantage stays front-of-mind for your customers.

Once you’ve decided on a name, it’s important to protect it, along with the rest of your business’s intellectual property. You can protect your business name with a trademark through the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

So start thinking. Coming up with a business name should be a fun exercise, and although it’s an important decision, getting stressed about it won’t help. Get together with friends and family and toss ideas around. You may find you’ve got more choices than you thought!

Get help

Contact a Meridian Small Business Advisor

Learn About Small Business at Meridian

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