What’s in a name? Names carry meaning, history, sentimental value — and for a business, a promise. Whether your name is a one-word powerhouse or a clever phrase, it has to instantly communicate to both your leads and your customers what you do and what they can expect from you. Everything matters, from stylization and capitalization to connotation and symbolism. Let’s take a deep dive into how to choose the perfect business name.
Can I just use my name?
If your business is heavily tied to your personal brand or you’re a solopreneur (a photographer, consultant, etc), using your real name as your business name is certainly easier to do. Tread carefully, though: If your name is common or you already have a fairly well-known presence that’s different from the business you want to build, you probably don’t want to use your real name. For example, if you’re known in your community as a lawyer but want to build up your web design business, using your real name might be confusing or even off-putting to prospective customers. Take the time to establish a separate name to help define your brand to your target audience, which probably differs from your audience as a lawyer.
What makes a good business name?
Major brands such as Nike and Uber have powerful brand identities despite having short, symbolic names. You probably won’t be able to garner that level of recognition with only one word. It simply takes a massive marketing effort. You need to incorporate at least one keyword into your name and/or tagline for SEO purposes. Your name should also be unique, yet easy to say.
You can take a page out of Nike’s and Uber’s book by choosing a name that sells an idea rather than describes a service. A lot of the obvious names are taken: PetsMart (which became PetSmart), Rooms2Go, etc. These names also come off as old-fashioned or on-the-nose. Imagine if Nike were named “Fast Shoes USA”? Or Airbnb, “Rooms4Rent”. Or Uber as “InstaRide”? Terrible!.
Instead, find a word, perhaps a foreign one, that speaks to the idea you want customers to have, or incorporate a Greek or Latin prefix that communicates the idea. Do you want customers to feel positive about your healthy food product? Incorporate words or prefixes such as “guten,” “pro,” or “bon.”
You could also find a name, especially a mythological one, that symbolizes the consumer journey for your brand. For example, “Nike” is the Greek goddess of victory. Nike wants its customers to feel victorious.
Think outside the box for your name rather than being descriptive, but be sure to link it to something descriptive. Our own name is a good example: “Lyra” is a round circus apparatus that symbolizes ambition and cohesiveness, while “Creative Studios” describes what we do.
If you must use a common word as part of your name, combining it with foreign words or prefixes can give it a fresh twist. For example, “UberEats” is a service provided by Uber, but the word “eats” is both descriptive and common. You can also combine two common words that wouldn’t typically be paired. For example, “HelloFresh” and “DoorDash” are descriptive, yet couldn’t be confused with a commonly spoken phrase.
You can also play with the spelling or format of the word. Lyft is a great example. As Uber’s chief competitor, they wanted to set themselves apart as a fun ride-sharing company. Their brand was fun and fresh as opposed to Uber’s more distinguished, sophisticated look and feel. As the name suggests, they give you a “lift.” But with the unique spelling, they help ensure brand recognition.
Remember: Even if you can’t get by with a one-word powerhouse, it’s important to keep the name short and sweet so that people will remember it.
How do I establish my business name?
Once you’ve settled on a few options, test the name with trusted friends and colleagues, or use a focus group to determine the best option. Ask them how easy the name is to remember and spell, as well as what idea or feeling it communicates. Be sure to check that no one else has already set up a business with any of the options!
After you’ve finalized your choice, it’s time to register it. Depending on your state and the type of business you run, you can register the name as a Doing Business As (DBA) or as the name of your incorporated business. Note that while your official business name might have an Inc or LLC at the end, it’s up to you whether or not to include that in your branding. Test all variations with your focus group to see if the suffix makes a difference.
Next, set up your social media profiles. Keep in mind, it can be challenging to have your name appear consistently across social media. If it’s a longer name, the character limits might present a challenge. Or, worse, someone has already claimed your name (a problem if you’re using common words). While some larger companies can get away with acronyms, many consumers find acronyms off-putting or hard to remember. When developing your name, think about abbreviation options that might work for social media.
Here are the character limits for the top three social networks:
Twitter Handle: 15 characters
Facebook Page Name: 50 characters
Instagram Username: 30 characters
Once you’ve done all that, send out the name everywhere. Use it regularly and consistently in your ad copy and web content (but don’t be obnoxious), and make sure that it appears prominently on all your advertising materials. If you need help with this process, reach out to Lyra Creative Studios! We can craft SEO-friendly content and develop a brand strategy that will make your new name shine! Learn more about our services or book today.