Have you been thinking about starting a new business or project? If so, you probably have some ideas for names floating around in your head already.

Read this article so you can be sure to choose a name you won't regret later. You will find tips on how to choose a brand name that makes sense, is memorable, and available.

1) Understand your brand

Before developing a name for your brand, clearly define who you are and what you want to achieve. We call this building your brand foundation. It includes brand vision, brand mission, brand values, and brand positioning. Take the time to clarify these items. It will make naming your business a lot easier and more meaningful.

Brand Vision
Your brand vision looks 5, 10, or even 20 years into the future. It describes what your company stands for, why you are in business, and what you do for humanity. (Don't have one? Read our brand vision article and download the worksheet to get it done now.)

Brand Mission
Your mission describes what you do, who you do it for, and what outcome you are trying to achieve. It is what your company does to achieve your vision.

Brand Values
Your values describe your company's strengths and how you will treat people. Standing by your values helps you carry out your mission and achieve your vision.

Brand Positioning
Positioning your brand helps people understand if you are right for them. It describes your unique value and what makes you different from your competitors. (Don't have one? We've got you covered here to. Download our brand positioning worksheet and get it done now.)

These four elements are the foundation of your brand. They should influence everything you do and every decision you make—including choosing your business name. If you do these exercises first, I promise it is worth it and you will feel great about your business afterwards.

2) Brainstorm business names

Now that you have a better understanding of your brand, you will be in the right state of mind for brainstorming brand name ideas.

Think about all the different terms related to your industry. Write down every word and short phrase that comes to mind. Get creative and don't hold anything back.

We'll use a music business as an example:

Start with words like “riff, note, play, band, perform, teach”.
Add translations of music to your list “muzika, musik, musiqi”.
Include related words like “melody, rap, soul, tune, fusion, song”.

This list of words should get quite large. Once you have it then try combining words to come up with ideas like “riffnote, musikfusion, soultune, songplay”. You will find that many of these combinations have a nice ring to them.

To get more ideas, blend words together or add prefixes and suffixes. You can even use made up words. Is there something that your child used to say when they were learning to talk? Do you have a nickname?

6 popular business name categories

It's also useful to think about brand name categories when you are brainstorming. Here are some examples of company names organized by category. (Some of these companies are local to northern Colorado and others are well-known national brands.)

Owner's Name
The simplest naming format is a combination of your name and what you do.

  • Dean Guitars
  • Duke Energy
  • Gerrard Excavating
  • Trozan Insurance

Possible Challenges: If your name and business category is common, it may already be taken. Using your name could make the business harder to sell in the future.

Regional
This category uses the combination of where you are and what you do.

  • Northern Colorado Construction
  • Front Range Auto Body
  • Fort Collins Health Care
  • Loveland Family Dentistry

Possible Challenges: Using cities, states, and other geographic names can sound generic. It will be difficult to expand into new areas without changing your name. Consider regional names that sound like a brand not a location, e.g. Pleasant Valley Lemonade or Noosa Yoghurt.

Word Combinations or Blends
Combining two complete or partial words together creates a brand name that describes what you do and is easy to remember.

  • CannaFarms
  • PayPal
  • Springhaus
  • YouTube

Possible Challenges: This is a popular category for business names and trying to find one that works can be quite frustrating.

Initials
Frequently, these names are created because the official business name is long. Using initials makes it easier for people to say and remember.

  • BWI (Bentley Welding, Inc.)
  • IBM (International Business Machines)
  • NOCO HBA (Home Builders Association of northern Colorado)
  • UPS (United Parcel Service)

Possible Challenges: From the initials alone it is difficult to know what the business does. The domain names for most 3 or 4 letter initials are already registered.

Invented Words
These names are completely fabricated or created by changing 1 or 2 letters in real words.

  • Kodak
  • Myridium
  • Neutrawise
  • Zillow

Possible Challenges: Names in this category may be difficult to pronounce and/or spell. It can be a challenge to get an invented word to catch on.

To get more ideas for names, check out this list of companies and how they got their names on Wikipedia.

As you are brainstorming ideas you will start to see a preference for a certain naming category. The key takeaways are—your name needs to fit your business, use an expected spelling, and be easy to remember. Keep brainstorming until you have a list of 50 to 100 candidates, then narrow it down to 20 favorites.

3) Evaluate your options

Below we explain how to evaluate your selections. Follow these guidelines to avoid common mistakes people make when choosing a business name.

Check the USPTO Database
Search for your names on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's database of trademarks . Checking against the database will narrow down your list to names you can legally own. If all your names are taken, then you will have to start over with brainstorming.

To understand how trademarks work, watch USPTO's trademark videos .

Choose a name with an available .com domain
Unless you are a government, educational institution, or a non-profit organization, you definitely want a .com. It is the most recognized name on the internet. When looking for you online, your customers will assume that is what you have.

If you choose a name with a .net or .biz, then most likely the .com version is already taken. Making this choice will confuse your customers and likely send them to the wrong website.

When you find a .com name, it is good practice to get the .net as well to protect your company name.

Avoid domain names with hyphens and/or numbers
Telling people how to get to your website is confusing if you have to say “your (hyphen) business (hyphen) name (dot) com”. Explaining a number is also confusing and makes it harder for people to remember.

If your preferred name is available without a hyphen then there is no reason to choose the domain with one. (Search engines prefer website names without hyphens as well.)

Search Google
If your search turns up any names that are the same or similar, ask yourself these questions and make sure the answer is no:

Does the similar website offer competing products and services?
When people are searching for your website could they end out on the other one by mistake?
Is the other domain name well known?

Seek out feedback
After evaluating your list you will only have a handful of names left. Test these finalists by bouncing them off your friends and family:

Write the name down and ask them how to pronounce it
Say it over the phone ask them how they would spell it
Ask people what the name means to them
Call people back one day after and ask them if they can remember the name

More resources to help you find a brand name for your business

BrandBucket is a marketplace for business names. Their database includes a wide variety of word combinations, blends, and invented names. We use BrandBucket to help us brainstorm ideas.

Namerific is another marketplace website that sells brandable domain names much like BrandBucket.

Litscape Word Finder Tools is a searchable database for people who enjoy words. We use Litscape to create a list of words (3 to 6 characters long) to merge with names from our brainstorming sessions.

Mergewords is an online tool that allows you to combine words. For example, enter your Litscape list into one box and your brainstorming finalists into the next box. Click merge to output a list of all possible combinations.

GoDaddy bulk domain search is a huge timesaver that allows you to search up to 500 domain names at once. We use this tool to quickly narrow down our mergewords lists into names that are available as .com domains.

Conclusion

Choosing your business name is only one step in the process of building your brand foundation. It is an important one though. The goal is to get a name that you like, is memorable, and makes sense for your business.

It can be frustrating when your ideas are mostly taken. If you keep working at it and don't give up, you will find the perfect name for your business. Depending on your budget and your needs, you may want to hire professional help.

If you are interested in working together, call (970) 744-3611 now or send us an email.

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Warren Diggles
President and Creative Director
Warren Diggles - President/Creative Director
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