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What’s In A Business Name? 20 Considerations For Getting It Right

So, you’ve taken the plunge and decided to go into business?  You’ve got great ideas, started to put the plans together and possibly even spotted a premises you’d like to trade from.  But have you thought about the business name, really thought about it?

Registering your business, be it as a sole trader, partnership or limited company is a standard process once you’ve chosen the right name but often people don’t give sufficient thought to what they’re going to trade as.  Even if your intention is to operate only as local business, if you pay due consideration to the many factors that can impact on a business name at this stage, you are leaving yourself available to opportunities at a later date.

Here’s a guide to 20 factors you should take into account when choosing your business name;

  1. List your choice of names and possible alternatives – talk to family/friends/associates and ask for feedback.
  2. Does the business name describe what you do or is there room for ambiguity?
  3. If you wanted to expand at a later date, does the name lend itself to this?
  4. Is it snappy or memorable – short is best, but if you really need a long business name ensure it’s one that your potential customers can’t easily forget.
  5. If your choice is for a personal name research thoroughly – unusual names can cause confusion whereas popular names can be overused so you may find yourself competing for visibility even amongst businesses who are not in the same industry.  The exception to using personal names is where you’ve developed a reputation in your field – if you’ve already begun the process of developing your brand, work with it.
  6. Be wary of double consonants or double vowels, particularly when one word ends with the same letter as the next commences – people regularly miss one of these letters when online.
  7. Be wary of geography – including your region in the business name will be restrictive and can create difficulties when growing your business.  This would particularly apply if you opt for a town or region within a country as you are potentially excluding anybody outside of your immediate catchment area by name alone.
  8. Translate the business name into any languages that are likely to apply in regions you will be trading in – many international brands have been caught out when the name either cannot be pronounced, or worse has a meaning in another tongue that is totally different or even offensive!
  9. Check if the business name is available – also check similar names and alternate spellings of any of the words used.
  10. Take advice on intellectual property – finding a readily available name that sounds similar to a major brand might well seem clever but could cost you dearly if there’s a copyright or trademark you hadn’t considered.  And it’s your responsibility to check!
  11. Google it – even if the name is available locally in your region, it may be used in your area by a company trading from overseas so you’ll be fighting for visibility from the start.
  12. Use the google keyword tool to see what people are actually looking at in your niche – this may also pinpoint any weaknesses in your choice of name such as common spelling errors.
  13. Is the domain available – check further that the local options, especially if your business lends itself to expansion into overseas markets and consider purchasing them even if they don’t feature in the initial plans.
  14. As you’re securing the domain, consider the likely social media platforms you may use – is your name available there? If it is, secure those names also.
  15. If you can include a popular keyword in the business name and domain, this will impact positively on your visibility in search engines.
  16. If your choice of name includes a word such as “and”, opt for the word as opposed to the “&” symbol when purchasing  a domain.
  17. Count the characters – Google Adwords permits 25 characters so a business name longer than this means having to abbreviate the name if you advertise there.  Even if you don’t plan to advertise here initially, allow for it as it tends to be one of the most cost effective ways of advertising.
  18. Start looking at logos – avail of the many free software options on the web and see how your business name and logo might look in both a horizontal and square setting as many online platforms accept only a square version of a business logo.  Your logo should be unique so imitating an established brands logo should be avoided at all costs.  Remember, you don’t have to opt for a symbol either, monograms are very popular and look good too.
  19. Practice saying the name out loud and on the phone – you’re going to use this name a lot, ensure it’s not long-winded and that you don’t start to abbreviate it from the get-go.
  20. Consider your personal brand – you will be the face of the brand, particularly at the start-up stage so it must fit whether you’ve opted for a quirky, creative or professional business name.

Once you’re trading your business will evolve and areas such as your branding will evolve over time, but updating a logo is a lot less tricky than updating a name so regardless of your industry and whether you’re trading offline, online or in multiple markets, if you take the time to come up with the right business name to start with you’ll reap the dividends over the years.

Image: “Rainbow colors. Choice of casual clothes on wooden hangers/Shutterstock

Debbie McDonnell is the owner of who work with SMEs across a range of sectors in Social Media, Digital Marketing & Traditional Marketing. She has worked with major brands on and offline, is a Graduate of both The Marketing Institute of Ireland and The Digital Marketing Institute and has over 20 years professional experience.

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  • Sales

    Very good , number 3 is huge and cannot be underestimated so neeeds careful consideration

  • Hi Debbie, 

    As someone who has gone through this process recently, I can vouch for it being a challenge. Nowadays, domain availability as you point out is such a big factor when it comes to choosing a name for a new biz. One mistake I made with my first biz: Beyond the Boardroom was calling it that, most people now know me as myself: Niall Devitt. My personal brand brand has grown a lot in the last few years but very few people know my biz name, with the benefit of hindsight, I should have went with my name (personal brand) as the start. Great points to consider &  thanks for sharing,- Niall   

  • Hi Niall,

    Thanks for the comments, it is indeed a challenge choosing the right name and you are  the perfect example of where a personal brand works.  Often people decide on a name based on their immediate plans, but I always tell people to think big, think positively and think long term so that when success comes knocking on their door they’re in a position to continue growing their brand as opposed to adopting an additional name to cater for a new market.

  • A very timely post for me, Debbie – thank you for the great tips, all very valid in their relevant areas (online or offline)
    I always find No 6 tricky – to leave in the double consonant or just have one. In CERTAIN circumstances, I think a dash (-) can work well, if the domain is available.
    I think it’s imperative to also check near spelling domain names, just to see what is displayed on those websites, in case a potential customer landed there in error.
    Also, buying variations of a domain can provide some protection, as long as they direct to the main website.

    great post!

  • Hi Elaine,
    Appreciate the feedback, agree on the double consonant – always a tricky one that most of us at some time doubt ourselves on.  Having spent a long time in travel I couldn’t tell you how many people get the word “accommodation” wrong – quite possibly the worst offender on that front.  Have seen quite a few businesses buying multiple domains to work around typos, so that is also an option to consider definitely.

  • Personally I think double consonant names are best avoided as there is just too much room for error and people getting a ‘can’t reach site’ type message when they enter the URL directly, and being frustrated. As for dashes, I really don’t think they look good! I do agree though that in some cases they can work well – but as a rule, best avoided unless completely not possible to do so!

  • Anonymous

    I shudder to think how close we came to changing our biz name on the recommendation of a website designer. She had previously worked at Microsoft so we though she knew a thing or two – and she did – except she firmly thought we should change our biz name Spiritus Financial Planning. We had already been in biz for 4 years and we had a small and growing base of clients.  And the name meant a lot to us – we felt it was a good reflection on the work we do. Long story short – on our new web designers prompting we almost changed it to a more, as she said, “mainstream”, type name.
    My point is to do all your due diligence as this great post suggests – and then check in with yourself and listen to your own voice.
    Who thought ‘Twitter’ would be a good biz name? I sure didn’t…

  • I think a good business name can be a great selling point and USP for the business. You only need to look in this instance at what Stelios has done with “Easy” and Richard Branson with Virgin.. 

  • Company titles and names are effective rather than illustrative. When used to the product, they require creativity, believed or understanding to identify the characteristics of the products. I can say its all in it.

  • warrenrutherford

    Thanks Tina – you are quite right. Businesses that come out on top will use social marketing to understand and target their customers right. The messaging medium changes as well as the approach. 

  • I would agree with a large part of your comment, with the exception of the piece about business knowing it’s customers, that is a huge leap and one I do not subscribe to. Most Irish companies do not know where to find their customers, this is a very large part of the problem.

  • Hi John, Hi Warren, sex sells because it is a big part of who we are. I don’t see any reason to believe that social media will lesson it’s effect, I would presume it’s more likely to amplify it. I also think that most selling using sex is far from aggressive, It’s more subtle and better thought out than that. For me, that’s a male perspective?        

  • I agree with Niall. There is a huge irony in the title of this post, which is pitched to ‘sell’ the article, versus the content too :)~ Helen

  • Hi John & Warren,
    First of all, well done and fair play for coming up with this post to give us something to debate 🙂 Sex sells, (I’m noting the title of this post and the photo), and I agree with Niall’s comment below. Actually this post is combining both sex and social, (being published on a blog), and I’ve no doubt that that in itself will increase traffic to this post. As Niall says below, sex probably amplifies the effect of social marketing. The readers will no doubt be from a cross section of generations. I would have liked to have seen links to some of the research alluded to in the article – it’s good to be able to see the supporting data 🙂 Great post though guys, keep up the good work!
    ~ Helen

  • warrenrutherford

    Helen and Niall – right with your comments. Perhaps there is more to come on the research end of it.

  • The Social Business model does have space for the sexual element of online marketing. The reality is sex does sell, but how far are standards going to drop before people say enough is enough.

    The research piece will have to be done physically Warren, Viva Los Vegas:)  

  • Hi Daniel, thanks for the comment and you’re welcome. It was a great post and we’re always on the look out for those for our #TYBcommunity list 🙂

  • Sian, thanks for the feature. I’ll be back at writing with you soon. Getting my writer’s mojo back!

  • You’re welcome Warren – and will be lovely to have you back in the fold

  • Thanks for the mention Niall and thanks for the other links too. Lots of good reading there

  • You’re welcome Amanda 🙂

  • No problem, it’s a great interview!

  • Agree that a lot of people doing this type of mistake. This tips are really helpful for every person whose attached with eCommerce world.

  • Hiding contact info is a great no-no William. Thanks!

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