It may sound trivial, but selecting a good name for your business is one of the FIRST things you need to sort. There’s all sorts of things you can’t get on with until you have a business name, so let’s look at a few tips for naming your business.
You can watch the full video here or read on below:
Why do you need a business name?
Well firstly, you don’t really need a business name. As a self employed sole trader in the UK it’s perfectly acceptable to trade under your own personal name. That being said, it’s a decision you need to make early on as changing your business name down the line can be tricky. You’ll need to pick a business name before you can do any of this:
- Open a business bank account
- Invoice customers
- Write terms & conditions
- Set up a web site
- Order business cards
- And lots more!
So here are a few tips that might point you in the right direction when it comes to picking a name for your business.
TIP #1: Pick a SEO friendly name
By SEO we mean Search Engine Optimisation. If you pick a business name that people are likely to search for then you’re much more likely to come up in the search results. Simples! So if you’re going to be relying on Google and the like for people to find your business, then you’d do well to pick a name that works well for search engines.
This doesn’t work for all business types, but think about what your customers are likely to be searching for… and use that as your business name. For example, if you’re a plumber in Newcastle then the first thing customers will do is go on Google and search for something along the lines of “Newcastle Plumber”. So why not call your business The Newcastle Plumber?
If you want to test certain search terms you can use Google Trends. This will show you the popularity of a search term over time. Be aware that for very niche search terms it might not have enough data to show you anything.
TIP #2: Pick a functional name
Pick a business name that instantly describes what your business does. For example, if you’re an electrician you could call yourself Bright Spark Electrical Services. If you provide easy to understand financial help you could call yourself Simple Financial Solutions.
- Don’t think short term
- Think about how you’ll feel about the name in 5 years time
The disadvantage of going for a more generic functional name is that it’s harder to turn this in to a brand. There’ll be loads of other businesses around the world with the same name as yours and you’ll be competing against all of them on Google.
TIP #3: Use your own name
Building your own personal brand is a great thing. It takes a LOT of initial work but the long term benefits can be very powerful. For example, you might be a builder called Joe Bloggs -- you could call your business Joe Bloggs Building Services.
The great thing about this is that you’re not going to run in to many businesses with exactly the same name as you. This means once people know your name it’s easy for them to do a quick Google and find your business information online.
The major down side about using your own name is your business’ potential for acquisition. If there’s ANY chance that at ANY point you might want to sell your business then think long and hard about using your own name. The likelihood is that customers will have totally loyalty to you and you alone. This can make life very difficult for any potential parent company. Think of how many big brands you know that use a personal name. There’s a good reason it’s called Virgin Atlantic and not Richard Branson airlines.
TIP #4: Make up a word!
Making your own brand from scratch is an enormous up-hill battle to start with but the dividends can be huge. Just make up a word! Take two existing words and meld them together somehow. Make an acronym word. Do something clever. Whatever you do, this has the most powerful brand potential of any business name. Think about:
These are all essentially made up words that are now so ubiquitous that they’re part of the English language. The added bonus of making up a word is that domain names and social media vanity URLs are more likely to be available.
TIP #5: Avoid really long names
Not a hard and fast rule, but try to keep your business name under 25 characters. Think about what it’s going to be like telling people your web address or e-mail address. How annoying is it going to be if your e-mail address is:
If you can’t tell someone your domain name without spelling it out, find a better business name. Unless you’ve made up a word… but keep it brief.
BONUS TIP: Come up with a shortlist
Try to come up with 5-10 business names that you’re vaguely happy with. When you come on to the next stage we’re going to rule out a lot of your options. Give yourself some flexibility.
TIP #6: Is the business name taken?
There’s loads of ways you can check if a business name is already taken. A few include:
TIP #7: Domain name availability?
This is one of the most important checks you’ll do. Can you find the domain name? I normally use 123-Reg to search for and reserve available domain names. In the UK the 3 most popular domain name TLDs (Top Level Domains) are:
There’s a wealth of other TLDs available now but some are quite obscure. Dot-coms are still be far the most valuable of all domain names and if there’s ANY chance you’ll be trading internationally, get a .com. I always advise you grab the .com if you can, no matter what. You never know when you might need it!
TIP #8: Get your vanity URLs!
Vanity URLs are what social media companies use to give you a friendly URL that links directly to your profile on that platform. For example:
- twitter.com/smallbusinesstb (15 character limit!)
This is your next most important thing to grab next to your domain names. Once they’re gone they’re gone and they’re VERY hard to take from someone who’s already using them. At the time of writing I would suggest grabbing vanity URLs for at least:
BONUS TIP: Get a Gmail account!
Having email@example.com can be very useful for all sorts of things. Apart from anything else it will keep you going until you’ve sorted your main business domain and web site.
BONUS TIP: Unintentionally embarrassing domain names?
We’ve all heard of Pen Island Pens (penisland.net) and Speed of Art (speedofart.com). I’m not sure how genuine these are, but do watch out. You’ll be gutted if you do everything to pick the perfect name and then notice it’s got a naughty word in the middle of it.
ANOTHER BONUS TIP: Reserve the company name?
You can’t technically ‘reserve’ a limited company name. But what you can do is register a limited company and file dormant accounts each year. Obviously this has a cost and you must not trade under that limited company name, but at least it prevents someone else from grabbing it.
FINAL BONUS TIP: Trademarks!
This is a big topic and too much to go in to on this article, but consider registering a trade mark. When you register a trade mark you can take legal action against anyone who uses your brand without your permission. It also allows you to sell and license your brand.
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Originally published: 26th April 2019
Last updated: 26th April 2019
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