Choosing a name for your business is even more difficult than choosing a name for your child. While you don’t have to factor in things like people in your past that had that name, in-laws, and what will happen to your business on the playground, with your child, once you decide that you like the name, you’re done. No so with your business. With a business, you need to go much further. You need to find out if there are other businesses with that name, and if so if they are in your industry. Is the trademark available? Is the domain name available? Does it mean the same thing to others as it does to you? The list goes on. There are businesses out there thriving on this very concept. Day in and day out, they help people name their companies. There are also companies that will help you name your child, but that is another story entirely.
These services are not for us, though. We are not that decisional challenged. We would never entrust such an important, personal decision to strangers. Besides, we are on a budget, right? So here are are some tips and advice about naming your business. CHOOSE A NAME WITH MEANING Unless you have a HUGE advertising budget, you want to stay away from names that do not mean anything, and do not indicate what the business does. Google, Yahoo!, eBay, and Amazon spent millions before most people knew they existed, or what they did. Using your family name in the name of your business is fine, but only if you never intend to sell it to anyone outside your family. You want to avoid anything too generic as well. Accurate Business Accounting may tell your potential customer exactly what you do, but it does not distinguish you from your competitors. If they see your brochure or an advertisement with that name, it is not likely they’ll remember you. You need to strike a balance between creative and descriptive, so when people hear the name, they remember it and they have at least a vague idea about what you do. THINK BIG FROM THE BEGINNING You may also want to avoid any regional references in your name. Be optimistic. Are you going to take over the world right? A multi-national distributor of widgets with the name West Coast Widgets just doesn’t work. 5th Street Bakery might seem like a great idea in the beginning, but what happens when you want to open the other 10 locations? What if you move? IS THE NAME AVAILABLE? The first place to check is with MCA. You can usually do this online. You will want to check if there are any other registered entities (corporations, LLPs, etc.) or any other business is already using that name. Trademark This is a big one. Once you decide on a name you like, you need to check if other businesses are already using the name. There are many ways to do this, but the best first step is going to be to Google it. Throw the name into Google, and see what comes up. If there are businesses there, but not with the exact name, and not in your industry, you may still be in luck. Check the trademark availability at the Patent and Trademark Office website. Even if you are not planning to register the trademark right away, you want to make sure it is available. I recommend registering your trademark as soon as the budget allows. Remember, you’re going to take over the world! If you register yourself, it will cost about INR 6000. A lawyer will cost more but will save you time and possible delays if you do something wrong. Here is a resource that will prepare and file your trademark application. Domain Name This is your website address. Once you are confident you have a unique name, you get the joy of checking if the Domain Name is available. There are many domain registrars out there and each has a search function. GoDaddy.com has a good search function because it gives you possible alternates if the name is not available. Be prepared to discover your name has already been taken. Don’t get discouraged, get creative. Avoid using an alternate spelling of your name, because you’ll probably end up sending business to whoever owns the right spelling. You can try adding something to the beginning or end of a name, though, or a logical abbreviation. If you are going to incorporate, try adding PVT LTD OR LTD to the end. If you are going to form an LLP, try adding that. This is what brainstorming is for. If you expect people to input the name directly into a web browser, don’t get cute with the spelling. Remember that most people will find you online either by reading the name from a business card, brochure or an advertisement, or using a search engine. This is why a creative prefix, suffix, or abbreviation is much better than an alternate (wrong) spelling. If you are going to do business in the “real world” your domain name should be your business name. If you are starting an internet business, there are different approaches to picking a name. One is a branded name- something memorable that hopefully, indicates something about your business. The other is a keyword rich domain name, optimized for search engines. I chose to combine these two approaches for this site. DON’T FORGET TO CONSIDER OTHER CULTURES & LANGUAGES A classic example of a name becoming a problem later was the Ford NOVA. This car sold very well domestically, but not so great in Mexico or Latin America. This is because in Spanish, “No Va” means “Doesn’t Go.” Food for thought. Test Your Name This is important, so do some testing. At the very least, run the name by everyone you know. If you want to provide your product or service to customers with diverse cultural backgrounds, run the name by people who speak different languages. To get more sophisticated, you can use surveys or a pay-per-click advertising campaign to see if your name accomplishes what you want it to. Whatever you do, don’t settle. Don’t pick a name just because the domain name is available. Remember, if you are lucky, you’ll be living with this name for a very, very, long time.