Your business’s name forms the foundation of your brand. Done right, it can make your brand instantly memorable, distinctive and unique. But how to come up with a business name that conveys what makes your business so special?

Here’s how to come up with the perfect moniker for your company.

Know your business's mission.

Your business name should grow out of what your business does — what your company is all about. That means before you can come up with a worthy name, you must have a firm definition of your business's purpose, your target market and the image you want to create. Writing your business plan should provide a clear picture of all of these things.

Start brainstorming.

Your goal is to think of as many business names as possible, so don't rule anything out just yet. Inspiration can come from friends, family, books, websites, magazines, TV shows…you name it. As you brainstorm, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. What emotion do you want your business name to convey? An old-fashioned business, such as an ice cream parlor or candy store, could benefit from a longer, nostalgic name with terms like "Emporium" or “Vintage.” Consumer-oriented tech companies often try to “warm up” their products or services with short, simple names like Pebble or Twitch. Business-to-business products or services tend to have straightforward names, such as Salesforce or QuickBooks.
  2. Is shorter better? Customers today are busy and swamped with information, which is one reason that short, simple business names like Uber and Etsy are popular. These names are easy to read at a glance, and stand out because they’re unusual, making them memorable.
  3. Do you have a regional or local advantage? Some cities or parts of the country have a certain cachet--for example, artisanal foods from Brooklyn, craft beers from Portland or barbecue sauce from Memphis. If it fits your business, consider incorporating your locale into your business name.
  4. Are you thinking ahead? Make sure your business name isn't too narrowly focused — otherwise, as your company grows and you begin to add new products and services, you might have to change your name entirely. Your name should be specific enough to convey what you sell now, but also include room for growth.
  5. How does it look? How will the business name translate to a logo, and how will that look online? In today's increasingly visual world, your business logo needs to be readable in all sizes — from a 10-foot-wide store sign to a thumbnail on your Twitter feed.

Test it out.

Narrow down your list by putting the names through these tests:

  • Is the name easy to say?
  • Is the name easy to spell?
  • Does the name mean anything silly, insulting or offensive in another language (or even in English)?
  • Is the name confusing when typed in all lowercase, like in a URL?
  • Is the name similar enough to any of your competitors’ names that it could legitimately cause confusion or accusations of copying?
  • Does anyone else already have a trademark on the name? (Do a trademark search at uspto.gov to make sure.)
  • Is the name available as a domain? A search for "domain names" will uncover many sites where you can search for registered domains. Just type in the domain name you want to see if someone owns it. If so, the site will suggest alternatives available for purchase. Your domain name doesn't have to be exactly the same as your business name, but it should be close.

Get feedback.

Once you have a few names you really like, get other people's opinions. Consider holding a focus group of prospective customers in your target market, either in person or via an online poll or social media. Ask them what they think this business does, what kinds of people they think would buy from this business, and what feeling this business name gives them.

Take all of these factors into account, then choose the name that best meets all of the criteria.

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