How do you name a business?
UPDATED JULY 13, 2023
As of January 2022, there were 5.5 million private sector businesses in the UK. Each with a different business name.
But if you’re starting a new business, how do you decide on a name and what influences your decision?
Does the name need to be relevant to what your business does? Should you think about SEO? Or do you just choose something that’s memorable and sounds good?
My own business name, Jenny Lucas Copywriting, is a straightforward ‘does what it says on the tin’ kind of name. I thought it would be good for SEO — and it has been. But I always wondered if a snappier and more imaginative name might have made me sound more creative.
This article is inspired by a LinkedIn post I wrote — and a surprising discovery I made.
Business name generators
I was writing a LinkedIn post on jargon and used this fake word generator to create some nonsense words.
I wanted to double check the words I chose weren’t already being used, so I Googled them first.
And what did I find?
The first five words I chose from the random selection had all been taken as business names.
Had people really been using this fake word generator to find a name for their business? Or was there a branding agency somewhere selling these made-up words for big bucks?
Turns out, it might be the first one.
The search term ‘business name generator’ gets a substantial 32,300 searches per month in the UK. And ‘company name generator’ also does well with 13,500 monthly searches.
But are these really the best way to choose a name for your business?
To find out, I needed to try one and see the results.
I tried an AI business name generator
I tested out squadhelp, which presumably named itself. It bills itself as ‘a disruptive naming agency’ and ‘the fastest, smartest way to name a brand’.
You start the process by entering your keywords or industry.
I entered ‘digital copywriter’ and, in what seemed like a fraction of a second, the AI came up with 2,5319 results. Most of these were beyond terrible and didn’t relate to digital or copywriting.
- BlessedMinds — sounds like a religious organisation
- BlissAlert — sounds like a bad title for a health spa newsletter
- Catfishy — ???
- Conflu — sounds like a decongestant
- HeyVideos — sounds like a rival for Blockbuster (RIP)
- Ravlio — sounds a bit like ravioli and makes no sense.
I wondered if I needed to be more specific, so I tried ‘website copywriter’ and got some equally irrelevant results.
- GetReported — not something anyone would want
- Guys vs Girls — sounds like some kind of tournament
- HeyHealing — sounds like homeopathy
- PowerRoast — sounds like an oven
- SexSauce — err… 🤭
- Unliker — how is this even a viable business name — the red logo had a downturned thumb?!
Okay, so maybe two words was confusing it. What if I just went with ‘copywriter’? The names were more relevant, but still…
- BoringCreators — yawn
- BotWords — because I’m not human?
- Jargonly — but I spend my life avoiding jargon
- ScribeMonkey — because I only charge peanuts?
- TruthContent — as opposed to…?
- WordLoo — because my copy belongs in the toilet?
If you’re trying to name your business using an AI that can only work with a one-word prompt, I guess this is the best you can expect. And if you care so little about your business that you’d let AI choose the name, then you’ll probably get what you deserve.
The importance of your business name
Choosing a name is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your business.
And, for all these reasons, you want it to be a good one.
It’s integral to your branding strategy
Your whole branding strategy will revolve around the name you choose. This includes your visual branding, your brand story and brand values. So it’s important to choose something that will translate across all those areas.
It’s the first thing your prospects will see
Your name is often the first contact your prospects will have with your business. And, along with your branding, it will help them to form that all-important first impression. Some of the best company names are simple, striking and easy to remember — think Google, Amazon, Apple and Sky.
It’s what you’ll build your reputation on
Your business will spend years proving itself and building its reputation. And your business name will go hand-in-hand with that, becoming synonymous with the levels of quality and service your business is putting out there.
It’s something you should be proud of
Your business name will be used a lot.
It will be displayed on the front of your business premises. Emblazoned across your vehicles. Printed on your packaging and business stationery. Showing on your website and email footers.
You’ll be using it when you introduce your business to potential customers. Your employees will be using it in their communications with customers and other companies. And your customers will use it if they recommend you to others.
It should be something that makes everyone feel proud and confident.
14 questions to ask when naming a business
There are numerous things to consider when naming a business or brand. Relevance, longevity and memorability to name a few.
Here are 15 of the questions I ask when I’m generating possible business, brand and product names for my clients.
1. Where will you be using the name?
You’ll be using your business name across your whole business. That might include:
- Website and web address
- Email footers.
It’s important to consider all these potential uses and choose a name that works well in each context. If it’s for packaging, for example, something shorter and snappier will generally fit better.
2. Does the name already mean something?
If you’ve chosen an existing word, what does it mean? Does it have more than one meaning?
Are all its meanings and connotations positive?
If the word sounds like another word, are all that word’s meanings and connotations positive?
3. Is the name relevant to your business and what you do?
The name you choose doesn’t necessarily have to be relevant to your business or what you do. Think of Apple, Orange and Blackberry — all tech companies and nothing whatsoever to do with fruit.
Choosing something that’s relevant can be a good idea, especially if your prospects can understand and relate to it. But it’s best to avoid anything too narrow or limiting in case you want to diversify later.
4. Does the name make sense for your business?
While the name doesn’t have to be directly relevant, it should make sense.
Plucking a nonsense word from a fake word generator or a vague portmanteau word from an AI business name generator isn’t going to cut it.
5. Does the name work for your target market?
Your name has to appeal to and be relevant for your target market. So you need to do your research and know who you’re aiming towards.
If it’s a pun, will they be old enough to get the joke? If it’s too niche, will it be lost in translation?
6. Is there an interesting story behind the name?
An interesting or unusual business name can be a great conversation starter. It can also form part of a compelling brand story.
Your brand story is the heart and soul of your brand. It’s everything you are — from where you’ve come from to where you aspire to be. It encapsulates what you stand for and what motivates and inspires you to do what you do.
It’s your story that makes your brand unique and helps you create an emotional connection with your prospects and customers. Your name could be central to that.
7. Is the name memorable?
Ideally, you want a name that’s easy to remember.
It could be something that’s fun to say, or something that conjures an image in the minds of your audience — like Blue Banana, for example, which works on both counts.
Think short catchy names rather than long rambling ones. And with more familiarity than obscurity.
8. Does the name allow for scaling up?
Today you’re a small business, selling blinds from a shop in Basingstoke, but tomorrow you might be selling homewares all over Hampshire. So calling yourself Basingstoke Blinds could be limiting.
Try to choose a name that can grow and evolve with your business. Something that works for your core offering now and will continue to work if you expand and diversify later.
9. Is the name future-proof?
When planning your business name, you need to avoid jumping on trends and think of something that will be infinitely relevant and fresh.
Things change so fast and a name that sounds cool, edgy and modern now, could be outdated or obsolete within a few short years.
Using retro or kitsch names could be risky, too. Will a hilarious 70s pun still work when you’re selling to a market that’s too young to remember it? Will a name that’s cool and retro now still be cool and retro a few years from now?
10. Is the name easy to pronounce?
Ideally, your name should be easy for people to read and pronounce, without them having to hear it spoken first.
If people aren’t sure how to pronounce it, they’ll be less inclined to say it in case they get it wrong. Nobody likes to feel foolish, so you want to make sure you avoid that.
11. Is the name spelt how it sounds?
If your business name isn’t spelt the way it sounds, people will constantly be obliged to spell it out, which will quickly become tiresome and annoying.
And if people are typing your name into Google, the way it sounds rather than the way it’s spelt, they might not find your website easily.
12. Is the name already being used by a company?
You need to check that your chosen name isn’t already in use by another company.
I’m not a trademarks expert, so I don’t make any final verifications. But I will do a quick Google search to make sure the names I’m suggesting aren’t showing up online.
13. Is the name too similar to another business name?
If your business name is too similar to another business name, there could be problems with trademark infringement and confusing your customer base.
There’s also a risk that Google might prioritise the other company over yours. So when people are searching for your company name, Google corrects them and brings up the other company’s website instead.
This will just frustrate people, so be careful to choose a name where there’s a clear differentiation.
14. Is the domain available online?
You think you’ve found the perfect name for your business. But when you go to register the domain, you find it’s already taken. Grrrr!
Before you make a final decision on the name, check the domain name is free and claim it — even if you’re not planning on getting a website for a while. The last thing you want to do is take the risk that it will be available, only to find you can’t get it.
Need some help to create a name?
Are you launching a new business, brand, product range or service?
Do you need a suitable name that will take it to the next level?
If so, maybe I can help.
I’m a copywriter with experience of generating name ideas for all of the above.
If you’d like to find out more, drop me a message and tell me what you’re looking for.