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5 Rules for Choosing a Business Name

How to Create a Winning Business Name

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How to choose a business name.

A great business name provides more than just a pretty sign.

Image (c) Dave McLeod

What's a winning business name? A business name that draws business in itself.

Creating a winning business name takes some thought but is one of the most important things you'll do during the process of starting a business. Starting out with a weak business name is like trying to golf with only one club in your bag. You may sink some shots but it will be a whole lot harder.

So how do you create a winning business name? Get your family, friends and/or colleagues together for a business name brainstorming session and work through these five rules for choosing a business name:

1) A winning business name has to be memorable – but easy to spell.

Obviously, your potential customers and clients need to be able to remember your business name. But they also need to be able to find it easily if they’re looking for it in a phone book, directory or online. So choosing a business name such as “Crychalwellyn” is a bad idea. Unique is good but difficult spellings are a bad idea.

2) A winning business name needs a visual element.

What popped into your head when you read “Crychalwellyn”? Anything? Most people don't visualize anything when they read this business name that I invented. But generally we are hard-wired to “see” images when we read or hear language, and incorporating a visual element into your business name can be a powerful aid to customers’ memory (and a powerful advertising tool).

So you want your business name to have a strong visual element to it. The catch is that...

3) A winning business name has to have positive connotation.

Many words have both denotation (literal meaning) and connotation (emotional meaning). A word’s connotation can be positive, neutral or negative, depending on the emotional associations that people generally make. The classic example is the difference between “Mom” (which has a very positive connotation) and “Mother” (which has a neutral connotation). Now you know why they called them “Dad’s” cookies, rather than “Father’s”!

What it means to you is that when you create a business name, you need to choose words that have the positive connotations that you want people to associate with your business – and make sure these connotations are suitable for your business.

If you are starting a trucking business, for instance, you don’t want it to have a weak sounding or negative name, such as “Willow Twig Trucking” or “Kitten Transport”. You want a business name that conveys strength and reliability. A choice such as “Stone Creek Trucking” would be much better. Notice how all these names have a strong visual element.

4) A winning business name needs to include information about what your business does.

Chances are good that your new business is not going to become an international brand. (Learn more about branding your small business.) It certainly isn’t instantly going to become as well known as Nike. So you need to be sure that your new business name at least gives your potential customers or clients some clues about what you actually do. That’s why you see so many landscaping businesses that have the word “landscaping” in their name, and hair styling businesses that include words such as “salon” or even “hair designs” in their names.

Including information about what your business does in your business name also makes it easier for potential customers and/or clients to find your business in phone books and directories (both off and online).

5) A winning business name has to be fairly short.

Once again this is vital because you want customers and clients to be able to remember your business’s name (and be able to tell other people what it is)! But it’s also important for promotional purposes. You want a business name, for example, that will fit well on a business card, look good displayed on a sign or in an ad, and perhaps even a business name that will serve well as a domain name and show up well in search if you have an online business. So keep it as short as possible.

And a last tip: think about colours when you’re choosing a business name. Colours will be an important component of your business logo and other business promotion materials and your business web site, and colours have strong emotional associations, too. Red, for instance, is an aggressive colour; its fiery elements are associated with speed, excitement and passion while green is a calming colour associated with growth, renewal and nature. For more information on colours and their meanings see Color Meanings and Colors That Go Together by Jacci Howard Bear.

You’ll want to create at least two winning business names, and three is even better, because once you’ve chosen a business name, the next step is to register it and your first choice may already be taken.

Do you now have a winning business name that meets the requirements of all of the above five rules? Good! Hopefully you’ll be living with the name for your new business for a long time – and it will continue to attract new business.

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