10 Tips for Naming Your Business + Free Business Name Generator
This article is part of a larger series on Starting a Business.
We created a business name generator to help you get started with brainstorming around business names. Simply enter your information below to get dozens of possible names for your new venture. We also put together tips that can help you on how to choose the right name for your business.
Business Name Generator Terms
Below are terms included in our business name generator. You can select each one and learn its business connotation.
10 Tips for Naming Your Business
1. Study the Environment
Learn the environment—you need to understand your industry, your competition, and your customer in order to know which direction to take your name. Market research on these three topics will unlock a myriad insights into your business strategy. Do your homework with naming a business by studying the following:
Learn the Industry
Conducting industry research will reveal a number of facts about your industry, including industry trends, growth rates, key products and services, key customer markets, volatility, and current technological impact. This can also provide some insight into keywords that are common vernacular in the field. This will provide a suite of words, terms, and trends to utilize when considering the big picture of naming the business.
Learn the Competition
The only thing worse than coming up with an unsuccessful business name is coming up with a business name that’s already in use. Not only should you check with your Secretary of State to make sure business names you’re considering are available, it’s helpful to check into the competition to see what they’re calling themselves. If all your competition is named for the owner, is that a trend you want to follow, or a trend you want to buck? Knowledge is power, and learning about the competitive environment you’re entering into will help you position yourself comparatively with a smart business name.
Learn the Customer
Know thy customer. It’s an adage to live by. The customer is the beating heart of the business, and if a business owner hasn’t bothered to tap into the customer persona and perspective, the business is existing in a silo and has little chance for real success. Once an entrepreneur has developed a customer profile to live by, he or she can better understand what makes the customer tick. And knowing what makes the customer tick can help the entrepreneur use terms, vernacular, alliteration, and visualization to appeal to the end-user.
2. Check the URL Availability
One relatively easy way to select—and eliminate—name ideas is to simply see what’s available. Even if a name is available with your Secretary of State, that doesn’t mean the right URL is still up for grabs at a reasonable price. You may lock in the name “TheUnderground” only to learn that www.TheUnderground.com is already taken, and www.Underground.com is available for the low, low price of $1,999.99 for the first year. No money-strapped startup wants to be confronted with this ugly surprise, so do the research now to prevent grief later. The good news is that new Top Level Domains (TLDs) or extensions (the .com part of the URL) are coming available all the time. We’re no longer limited to .com and .org. Among new options are .net, .biz, .live, .info, .life, and much more. And hopefully, soon, they’ll be just as easy to find as the .coms of the world. Check out the Bluehost domain search, which we find to be one of the more informative options.
3. Try Out Literary Devices
Literary Devices are tools used to make words and phrases more dynamic, relatable, memorable, and interesting. Companies use these tools for naming constantly. Here is a handful of common literary devices that can help you come up with interesting and impactful business names. Once you learn them, you’ll see that literary devices are at work in business names all-around us.
- Alliteration – defined as “conspicuous repetition of identical initial consonant sounds in successive syllables in a group of words (usually at the beginning of the word),” alliteration is reflected in two-word business names that all start with the same consonant. Good examples of this on the Fortune 500 list include Best Buy, Land O’Lakes, Coca-Cola, and Comcast.
- Assonance – pretty much the same thing as Alliteration except the repetition is in vowels, not consonants. Examples of this among Fortune 500 companies include FedEx, PayPal, and CarMax (say these names out loud, slowly, and you’ll hear the device at play).
- Consonance – a similar device to alliteration, except the repetitive consonant is more often at the end of a word or phrase rather than the beginning. You’ll recognize consonance in Fortune 500 companies like AT&T, Principal Financial, and State Street.
- Imagery – just as it sounds, imagery intentionally associates a visual image with the word or words put forth. Imagery helps with building a memorable logo and visual identity in association with the business name. Clear examples in Fortune 500 include Apple (not only do we picture an apple, Apple made it part of the brand identity), Target (again, we picture the target that was intentionally built into the Target brand), and Caterpillar.
- Personification – refers to “the practice of attaching human traits and characteristics with inanimate objects, animals, and phenomena.” An example of this in the Fortune 500 world is Intuitive Surgical along with Spirit Airlines.
- Portmanteau – not for the faint of heart, this device can work wonders for creative thinkers. It refers to the practice of joining together two or more words to create an entirely new word. We see this often in pop culture couple naming, but also in Fortune 500 company and product names like Netflix (internet + flicks), Pinterest (pin + interest), and Yelp (Yellow Pages + help).
- Rhythm and Rhyme – remember nursery school? Simply put, a rhyme is when multiple words sound alike. Rhythm is either a non-rhyme with a rhyme effect or a rhyme that has exceptional rhythm and pattern. Rhyme and Rhythm devices create a synergy that make a name pleasant to read, fun to say, and memorable. Examples on the Fortune list include Prudential Financial, Medical Mutual, and Johnson and Johnson (while not technically a rhyme, the rhythm in the repetitive names evokes the same effect … there’s a law firm in Richmond, Virginia, with an unforgettable name of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen).
4. Consider Interpretation
Sometimes business owners choose names from another language, or a made-up word that is spelled in a confusing way. Granted, some made-up words (Uber, for example), can sit well as business names, but others don’t factor in the audience, our associations, our memories, and our spelling abilities.
Another naming blunder also crosses international lines. Even juggernauts with globally-recognized names like Coca-Cola sometimes experience the punishing effects of name interpretation (or mis-interpretation). When taking their product to China in 2013, Coca-Cola’s name translated directly to “Ke-Kou-Ke-La,” or Mandarin for “bite the wax tadpole.” With only minor adjustments to the character spelling and phonetics, Coca-Cola revised its Mandarin name to “Ko-Kou-Ko-Le,” meaning “Happiness in the mouth.” Interpretation is everything.
5. Map Out Branding Elements
Your business brand identity is composed of a handful of key elements, and the name is part of that essential collection. When mulling over name ideas, consider what makes sense with the rest of your brand puzzle:
- Visual – the visual elements of your brand identity include anything viewed, including your graphic choices, colors, formatting, layout, and fonts.
- Voice – the voice of your brand is represented by the language; this includes the business name, product names, slogan, tagline, and various communication mechanisms like the language and vernacular on your marketing materials, website, and social media.
- Physical – anything about your brand experience that can be touched or interacted with physically, including packaging, office furniture, and product design.
- Values – brand values are represented by the business mission, vision, culture, and other values that reflect the company’s personality and character.
The name is a valuable asset to the brand puzzle, and all the pieces need to fit together to form a cohesive, authentic, and representative brand identity.
6. Create a Word Cloud
Chances are you’ve seen a word cloud. They’re literally that—a cloud of words that are somehow linked, and building one yourself can actually be a helpful device for coming up with a business name. Using free and simple word cloud sites like WordClouds.com, you can string together every imaginable word associated with your business idea, services, products, customer, and brand. Be sure to include both descriptive words (the what you do, what you sell, and who you are) along with creative words (keywords, buzzwords, jargon).
While it helps to just dump all these words onto a piece of paper, our brains force organization in a way that word clouds don’t; seeing the words in a new way and an unexpected sequence can help one strike an innovative word combo that helps crack the code of a name that is both creative and descriptive. Hang up the word cloud in your workspace and see what different words pop out at you daily. Keep some scrap paper nearby so you can write down ideas as they come to you.
7. Workshop It & Shop It
By “Workshop It & Shop It,” we’re really just getting at all the benefits of sharing your name idea before carving it in stone.
Workshop the name by having a brainstorm session with your board, some friends, some professional acquaintances, or even your social media followers and friends. The best workshopping sessions will result in at least a dozen reasonable, serious name options. See “Focus Group” below for information on going over existing ideas.
Shop the name by testing it on objective, unbiased, unfamiliar audiences. Just like your business idea and product should be tested and validated, so should your business name. Here are a few free or cheap ways to get honest, open-ended feedback on your business name ideas from strangers and potential customers:
- PickFu – for $50 a poll, PickFu is a powerhouse of a primary market research resource and a good fallback plan for when an idea hits a wall and needs objective validation.
- SurveyMonkey – starting at $25/month, this survey site has grown to become an all-in-one measurement and feedback resource for users.
- Social Media – if your business already has a social media presence, or you have a friend or colleague who does, an existing Facebook or Instagram page is a free platform for getting feedback using a quick and simple Facebook Poll or a more robust, multi-question Facebook Survey. Also, consider adding a poll to your Instagram story.
- Focus Group – focus groups are traditionally held in-person, but if you have a captive email list, a book club, or a networking group, a focus group can also be held virtually. The idea is simply to get unbiased, honest feedback on business name ideas. This is also a good place to hear how people say the business name when they see it written, tell you how the name makes them feel, see how they spell the name when it’s spoken to them, and check on retention of different names by the end of the session or conversation.
- Interviews – a method for collecting focus group type feedback, but one-on-one. Many of the same questions apply, as do the in-person/virtual principles. Some entrepreneurs literally take to the streets to ask passersby what they think of business names, products, and ideas.
8. Apply Common Sense
Even though external input and feedback is enormously helpful for perspective, sometimes the business owner already knows what name ideas are viable and which aren’t. This all comes back to objectively looking at the name ideas at arms-length and considering what names work from a common-sense perspective, including evaluating the name in relation to the following factors:
- Memorable – is the name memorable? A memorable business name is foundational to modern-day naming, and goes hand-in-hand with clarity.
- Not Too Long – a name doesn’t necessarily have to be short to work, but it definitely shouldn’t be excessively long. If your business name is longer than a few words, it’s probably time to go back to the drawing board.
- Language – business names in a different language can work, but it can definitely put up a barrier in being memorable; people will have a much harder time remembering a business name in a different language than in their own. Consider this, wherever you choose to locate.
- Spelling – some businesses use unconventional spelling for their business name, either trying to be cute, memorable, or simply due to a lack of using Spell Check. This ultimately did work for Chick-fil-A, but this choice doesn’t always go so favorably for businesses.
- Searchable – sometimes, a future customer’s only interaction with your brand is driving by the storefront or catching a glimpse of your service vehicle. At that point, you’re relying on them to Google the business, which means it should be memorable and searchable. A name that is too specific (Flavia’s Fantastic Forever Flowers) or too broad (Paul the Plumber) may cost your business in the long run.
9. Use the Right Tools
As with anything, there are awesome free web-based tools for helping with business naming, and then there are awesome paid web-based tools for helping with business naming. Our name generator is free. The other one is called SquadHelp, and is a one-stop shop naming tool for those who prefer to outsource. It’s the world’s No. 1 Naming Platform for a reason: it’s all-in-one. Its video does a pretty bang-up job covering the basics, but starting at only $299, entrepreneurs can follow the yellow brick road through SquadHelp’s service suite, and gain access to:
- Crowdsourced name ideas from 300+ creatives the world-over
- Matching logos, stationary, taglines, and business cards
- Matching URL for the selected name
- Trademark Check
This term, an acronym for “Keep It Simple, Stupid” is a crass adage that has withstood the test of time simply because it works. Conceived in the engineering field, K.I.S.S. has become a beloved word of advice for business coaches everywhere. It applies well to business planning, strategy, and execution, and it applies well to naming a business. Easier said than done, but one of the best takeaways from this article—I hope—is to keep it simple and don’t overthink it.
For any entrepreneur who tries all these tips, the name is within reach. By the time you finish this checklist, you can do a quick self-check on your list of finalists. Your business name should be one or more of the following:
- Memorable – clean, sharp, snappy, and easy to remember
- Descriptive – tells what you do, what you sell, or who you are
- Creative – interesting, evocative, and potentially taps into one of the literary devices discussed above
- Pertinent – the name is relevant, applicable, and suitable for the business type, brand, and target market
- Web-friendly – the URL is available, it’s searchable, easy to spell, and not too long
Check out our name generator tool, use our tips, and make sure your name checks some of the essential boxes for a lasting title. Starting up and naming smart is a lot to think about but with these helpful tips, you should be able to name your business in no time.
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Found your business name? Trademark it with Incfile today.