Choosing Your Business Name
Corporate Compliance by Local Corporate Guides®
The name of your business is one of the most important decisions you have to make. Choosing a name, however, is not a straightforward task. There are legal, marketing and logistical considerations. Our guide below goes over common requirements and practices for selecting a successful business name.
Steps to Choosing Your Business Name
Understand state requirements
Entrepreneurs desire a name that sounds catchy, embodies their business, and communicates what their brand is all about. However, before any of that comes into play, it’s important to ensure the name you choose meets the minimum legal requirements of your state.
All states have rules regarding entity names. While the exact rules vary state to state, complete naming requirements for each entity type are listed in the state’s statutes. Generally speaking, however, there a few specific requirements that are common across states. No matter where you start your business, you should take the following steps to ensure you meet state naming requirements:
- Check for name availability: Every state requires that the name of your company not be the same or deceptively similar to that of another registered business (foreign or domestic) within the state. You can perform a Free Business Name Search via the secretary of state or other governing agency in the state where the business will be registered.
- Make sure the business name has the right ending: If you form a corporation, the state will often require a certain ending, such as “corporation,” “company,” “incorporated,” “limited,” or an abbreviation of one of these words, like “Co.” or “Inc.” If you are forming an LLC, then often the state will require “LLC,” “L.L.C.,” “Limited Liability Company” or some similar ending in the name. Once again, the rules are state-specific.
- Avoid restricted words or phrases: Just as there are certain words that must be used, there also words that can’t be used at all. Usually, these rules are intended to prevent misidentification of the company’s business type or purpose. For instance, LLCs are typically prohibited from using the word “corporation” in their name, and non-financial institutions are often prohibited from using words like “bank” or “trust.”
Be creative… but not too creative
It is important for a business name to stand out. In order to stand out, you generally have to get a little creative. “Jeff’s Landscaping, LLC” may be a fairly accurate name, but it’s not particularly memorable or impressive. Putting all your ideas on the table (the good and the bad) and analyzing each one is a great way to evaluate all your options. In the beginning stages, there are no bad ideas. Even the silliest of ideas can turn out to be useful in constructing the perfect name.
With that being said, there is such a thing as being too creative. For a landscaping business, a name like “Zqyx” or “Reshaping External Realities” would be too far removed from the business purpose and likely lead to customer confusion. In order for a brand to have a strong impact, it has to be meaningful and make sense. If your business name is too abstract, hard to spell pronounce or has no meaning, it could hurt the business in the long run.
Keep branding in mind
The look and feel of your branding has a lot to do with the name of your business. If you have an idea of how you want to position your business’ branding, it could be a good indicator of how to name your business. For instance, if you sell food products, there’s a variety of ways to position your products. If the goal is to tap into the health and wellness market, you might opt for words related to making good choices, like “smart” or “balance.”
It is also important to think about the growth of your business and brand. The name of your business should not limit your growth if you plan to expand. For example, if Jeff Bezos had named his company “Online Bookstore,” instead of Amazon, then it may have caused problems when he expanded into selling other products.
Do your research
Even a simple Google search can reveal a lot about the names on your wishlist. Things to look for in an online search could include investigating whether the domain name is available and searching keywords and how they relate to your name. You’ll want to see if your name’s available on social media as well—is the name available as a Twitter handle? Is there a Facebook page with that name already?
Another recommendation for those who plan to expand to larger operations is making sure that you can trademark the name. If that is a consideration for you, then it is worth the time to search the name in a trademark search engine such as Trademarkia.com.
Getting feedback from friends, family and potential customers is incredibly valuable in the naming process. Oftentimes, something that resonates as a meaningful name to you may not be as meaningful to a potential consumer. In particular, if a name is strictly personal—such as a family nickname—it may not always translate well to your specific business. Historical or cultural references can also be hit or miss (they worked well for Nike and Samsonite, but sometimes references can be either too obvious or too obscure).
To assess your name, you’ll need some perspective. It is important to think about your business from the target market’s perspective in order to grasp how your brand will relate to them. The most effective way to do this is to ask and listen. If you receive negative feedback, don’t ignore it. Instead, brainstorm ways you can change or adjust your name to make it stronger.
Know that if you don’t love it, you won’t like it
The name and branding you choose should get you excited. When you finally settle on that perfect name, you should feel joy and a sense of attachment. If you choose a name that you don’t absolutely love, chances are you will regret your decision or want to make changes down the road. This is the last thing you want when trying to grow your business. So, find a good balance between the consumer’s vision and your passion. In the end, don’t forget that it’s your passion that is driving the business forward.
This process is not quick or easy, but it is rewarding. Sometimes the best place to start is to just write pages upon pages of names that run through your head. If you keep these steps in mind, the right name will come.
Ready to start your business?
Landed on the perfect name? It’s time to form your business. We can help. At Northwest, we form LLCs and corporations in every state and provide expert registered agent service as well.