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Business Names: Do's and Don'ts

Coming up with the perfect company name might seem like it could be a lifelong process. A business name that's available, resonates with your current target market, and can stand the test of time will serve as a business asset. With careful consideration, you can find one that works for you and allows you to grow your business.

Aside from legal requirements, the business naming process depends on your personal goals for the business. The following tips are designed to help as you brainstorm ideas for naming your business so you can choose one that fits your needs and meets applicable legal requirements.

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The Do's: What To Consider When Naming a New Business

Do consider making the name descriptive so that potential customers are immediately informed of the purpose of the business. Research has shown that businesses with names that identify their products or services are oftentimes more successful than non-descriptively named businesses. You might also want to consider:

  • Making the company name description general enough so that you can expand in the future.
  • Long-term goals for the business. If your business grows over time and your legal name doesn't align with your business and marketing model, you can register for a Doing Business As (DBA) and market under another name. This means your legal business name could be different than your brand name used on marketing materials, digital advertising, etc. A DBA can also be used if you have your entity type in the name, like Limited Liability Company (LLC).
  • Names of competitors in your same market and how similar or dissimilar your business name will sound in comparison. For example, you probably wouldn't want to name an e-commerce business that competes with Amazon something like Amazin or Amazone.

Do consider the oral impact of the name. How will the name sound over time? Try writing down a list of words that could describe your business, then mixing them up into different combinations and saying them out loud to see how they sound. Ask yourself:

  • Is this easy to understand?
  • Are there characters, like hyphens or dashes, that could cause confusion?
  • Will other people be able to easily pronounce this?
  • Is the name easy to remember?
  • When spoken aloud, does the name sound unique?

Also consider the meaning of your small or large business name in other languages. Is it offensive or offputting? Try to consider universally-accepted phrases or names so that your business has the opportunity to expand to other markets.

Do consider the visual impact of the name. How will it look? Is the main visual logo something that you can imagine in Times Square on a jumbotron? Think about visual marketing like:

  • Smartphone apps and how logos appear on phones
  • Website design and visualization
  • Signs, advertisements, business cards, and non-digital marketing materials

The Don'ts: What To Steer Clear of When Picking Your Company Name

Don't select a name that is extremely long, confusing, or could be interpreted negatively in other cultures or in other languages. Make careful considerations if you're wanting to add hyper-specific identifiers like:

  • Geographical indicators (especially if you think the business could expand to other areas)
  • First or last names associated with you or family members
  • Trends or fads that could pass quickly and appear outdated
  • Government names or phrases used by a branch of government

Don't consider names that are very similar to other businesses in your area. This will cause confusion, frustration, and could leave you subject to legal issues. Steer clear of choosing names that:

  • Already exist and are recognizable business entities like Target, Walmart, Amazon, etc.
  • Use names of celebrities, athletes, or presidents — living or deceased

Don't choose a name that's too general or limiting over time. While you can register for a DBA and use a shortened version of your business name, you want to avoid confusion with your target market. A DBA might be appropriate if:

  • You want to use abbreviations or a shortened version of your business's full legal name
  • Your legal name doesn't match your business as it evolves over time
  • You want to use an acronym for your business

Related Resources and Legal Materials When Choosing a Business Name

As you start to consider names for your company, whether it's a small business out of your home or one that you want to grow and expand across the globe, be sure to do your research. Here are helpful resources as you go through the naming process:

The Choosing Your Business Name section contains additional resources to help you get started, including state-specific resources to help you refine your search and follow state registration procedures.

Talk to an Attorney for Legal Advice on Business Organization

There are a lot of steps to take when starting a business, and picking the right name is one that carries significant weight. It's a good idea to contact a lawyer in your area who can help with choosing a business name that meets all legal requirements and can guide you through the process of starting your business.

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