How to choose a business name

Published: 16/01/2019

Facebook, Coca-Cola, Twitter. These are some of the most iconic brand names in the world.

But who knows how successful Coca-Cola might have been had they called themselves Soda Pop?

What if Facebook had kept its original name of Facemash, or been called The Facebook?

Or what if Twitter was called Chatter?

Who knows, these companies might not have been as globally successful as they have been.

Now we aren’t saying you are aiming to become a billion dollar company. But there is something to be said about having a great name which can make a business stick in the memory of a customer.

And choosing the right business name takes time and consideration, but with these tips, we are confident you can give yourself a great chance to get it right.

Tip 1: Make it relevant

Your name needs to reflect what you do in some way. It’s there to communicate what your business does and often, it’ll be the first thing people see – so it’s got to make a good impression.

To get the ideas flowing, go back and think about why you started your business and take a look at your business plan – what makes you different and stand out? You want a name that’ll convey this.

Think about the high street brands Specsavers, Optical Express and Vision Express. They are all clearly linked with eyecare and opticians as show customers exactly what they do.

People shouldn't need to think too hard about what you do. So, ‘Jimmy’s’ is short and sweet, but ‘Jimmy’s Sandwich Shop’ tells customer’s exactly what’s on offer.

Tip 2: It helps to be catchy

It’s often the case that if you can say more with less words, you’ll have a name that people will remember much more easily.

And if people remember the name of your business, there is a greater chance that they will remember your product too.

So, avoid long names, one that’s hard to pronounce or hard to spell. Try to pick something that’s easy for people to say, write and remember.

It’s got to work across different mediums too – so are you going to have signage? A website? Printed flyers?

It’s always a good idea to think ahead when it comes to a name. Choose one that can stick with you for the next decade, if not longer! By this we mean avoiding certain words or phrases that may be fashionable now, but people may not have a clue what they mean in 2029!

Tip 3: Check if it’s available

If you have a name that you really like the sound of, or want to toy with some ideas, then you need to see if the name is available.

Limited companies - if you’re looking to incorporate your company that is limited by shares then you’ll need to check that the name isn’t already being used by somebody else.

This will ultimately determine what you can use and is also a way to narrow down your initial ideas to ones that you will be able to use.

We would recommend looking at Companies House website for information on what their rules are in terms of the type of names that you can use.

You’ll struggle to use contentious terms like group, foundation or international - unless you have written reasons that show you operate in this way.  Your name must also not be offensive and doesn’t use terms that you need to have official permission to use, such as ‘British’.

Remember, as a limited company, you must also put your registered name on all correspondence you send and any documents, whether that’s a hard copy or digital. This includes the place of registration and your registered business address, your registered business number and whether you’re a limited company or not. You’ll also have to put your VAT registration number on your business website.

Sole traders – If you’re a sole trader, you can name your business pretty much anything you like, as long as it’s:

  • not offensive
  • doesn’t include any of the terms for public limited company (PLC). Or limited (LTD), LLP or their welsh equivalents
  • doesn’t have any sensitive words or expressions in it, for example, you’re not allowed to use terms like ‘British’ or ‘Authority’ if you don’t have official permission.

As a sole trader, you’ll need to display your business name, your own name and your business address everywhere, including stationary, correspondence and your own website.

Tip 4: Check the domain

You should check whether the associated domain names are available on a site such as GoDaddy.

A domain name is essentially the URL. Let’s say you want to secure the address of thepantry.co.uk or thepantry.com, but you then find that someone already has these two web addresses, you might want to go back to the drawing board and look for a new name.

Tip 5: Check the trademarks

You can use this tool to check whether your name isn’t the same as any that are already trademarked. If they are, it’s a no-go unfortunately.

Tip 6: Test it out

Once you’ve been through the above and found a name, or names you’re happy with, it’s a good idea to find out what other people think. It’s important to get external opinions, as this will give you a good idea if the name is memorable and does what you want it to do.

Firstly you could ask friends and family. This might not be a large pool of people, but at least you will get an initial idea of what people outside your business think.

But how will the name sound to the wider public? You could consider a focus group, but these can be expensive. So we would suggest a bit of guerrilla marketing, which just means going out onto the street and asking people what they think. If you ask a big enough pool of people you will get a relatively good idea if a name should work or not.

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