Business Naming – How to Come Up with a Great Business Name

Naming a business is a struggle for many of us small business owners.  Many of my website design clients are coaches and consultants and there is often a lot of indecision about whether or not to use their own name when they are choosing a domain and business name.

Coming up with the perfect name can be a major headache.  In the first six weeks of his life my son had three different names as evidenced by the newspaper announcement, the photo album and finally the birth certificate.  I registered his name on the 7th day of the sixth week, the deadline in the UK for registering your child’s birth and I remember stopping in a phone box on the way down to the registrar’s office to have a final name conflab with my husband.

It wasn’t that we were unsure what to call him, it was that we couldn’t agree with each other.  (Those who know me, say nothing).

Now when it comes to naming your business you won’t get the opportunity to argue with your target market, they will vote with their feet if you don’t get this right so it’s no wonder we put a lot of energy into this important aspect.

Without doing a count-up I can be pretty sure that my coaching and consulting website clients are split about 50 / 50 on this.  Coaching and consulting are personal, high value (read high investment) services so many clients opt to use  their own name on their website, eg Marie Taylor Online, Fiona Jacob, Grace Marshall, Judith MorganAnne McGhee etc  Their clients are buying them and their expertise so it makes sense to keep their own name prominent in the domain.

Others prefer to use a name that suggests what they do, who they help or which has visual / metaphorical impact such as Ignite Consulting, Coefficient Coaching, Write Dance Training, Female Breadwinners etc.

Using your own name is the more straightforward choice but with a business name, it can suggest a larger organisation (watch this, it’s not always a plus), it can use an important keyword phrase and will be more appropriate where the business is not just about one individual but one that is likely to grow.

So back to the wretched question – how to come up with a great business name, particularly if you think you’re not that creative.  Start simply with these three questions:

  1. What’s your primary offer eg coaching, Reiki, outplacement consultancy.  Whether you use this in your business name or just in your strapline, web copy, page descriptions, it’s the obvious starting point.  So obvious in fact that we don’t always remember that the world wide web is full of people who haven’t a clue who you are.  Tell them.
  2. What benefits does your service bring?  Healing, greater confidence, reduced stress, happier employees.  Don’t just think about the obvious ones like ‘more time’ but about how your clients feel when they have ‘more time’ eg fulfilled, on purpose, full of vitality.  Again write these down.
  3. What adjectives or verbs would you use to describe your offering?  Would it be characterised as speedy, affordable, luxury, professional, heart-centred, wise..?  Jot down any that come to mind.

With these three points written down – primary offer, benefits and descriptors – go to one of my dear friends, and scan down to locate synonyms for the most promising words you’ve put down.  It has to be said this exercise may take a little time but it’s rather more strategic than scratching your head.

Some other points to consider when choosing your business name:

  • When people are looking for your service, what are they googling?  Pat Flynn has built a highly successful business because of his professional, abundant attitude to sharing his expertise but it is no drawback at all to have used an attractive keyword phrase as its name: “Smart Passive Income“.  He’s opted to be clear, not clever – see next point.
  • However bright your target market, don’t make them think too hard or try to impress them with how clever you are. Obscure Latinesque words like one domain I came across recently was hard to pronounce and had no obvious meaning.  “Wreck-a-Mended” is a clever pun for a car body repair garage.  Almost too clever – they must surely cause confusion for their prospects and get fed up spelling it out.
  • By contrast I’ve never had any problem remembering the URL for the online tennis lessons site called Fuzzy Yellow Balls.  Would someone google the name?  Absolutely not but once heard, never forgotten.  Keep it simple.   Branson named his company “Virgin” because of their youth when starting their first venture while “Innocent” drinks are completely pure, and the simplicity of the name reinforces that idea further.
  • So you should also consider if any of the primary words you identified in 1 – 3 above – or indeed your own name – are part of a common expression.  For example, Heather Waring’s coaching business is naturally called “Waring Well” while Marie Taylor’s is “Taylored Coaching”.

Should you involve others in the naming exercise?  Hmm, yes, but be circumspect about who you choose.  My name partner is Judith Morgan but you will have a Judith too, that is someone creative who understands your business.  I also find Facebook groups or other targetted forums can be a great way to get feedback but it’s best to provide people with 3 or 4 choices to vote on, rather than offering them a dozen.  And don’t expect others to do all your thinking for you, it doesn’t present you in a very positive light if you can’t even manage this on your own.

My favourite business name of them all might be the people who make the most superb business cards, Moo.  Three little letters – in fact, two.  No obvious connection to paper or to business.  Is the relevance simply communication?  I don’t know but it works for me and that’s what matters.  Because ultimately it’s your target market you need to please so do consider asking 3 – 6 potential clients what they think of your final two or three before making your final choice.

What did you opt for when it came to naming your business?  How did you finalise your choice?  And do you think you made the right decision?  Do share your experiences or favourite tips on this universally challenging problem that entrepreneurs invariably face.

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2 Responses to “Business Naming – How to Come Up with a Great Business Name”

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  1. Chris Berry says:

    Business naming is pretty difficult, but I also think making up a design for your business card is hard to. You have to get the right design, colours, pictures and all sort of other things.

  2. Hmmm…my business name is Working Mystic. It didn’t start out as a business name. It started out as a blog post. I noticed one day that people think of mystics as holy, mountain men in robes. I wanted to be someone out in the world WORKING while continuing to be just as “spiritual” as one of the mountain men. I don’t really see much use for mountain mystics. They’re cool, but they’re not dealing with everyday life. So, lot’s of people see it as mysticism is for “those” people. It makes it inaccessible.

    I want mysticism for my colleagues so that they can be clear, centered, and conscious while they are making decisions that determine the unfolding of the business world, and ultimately, the world at large.

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