What is the best name for your business?

Deciding on a company name is often one of the most agonising stages for most entrepreneurs. Everything else seems to pale into insignificance as you pace around asking everyone “what’s the best name for my business?”

What is the best name for your businessIn reality, too much emphasis is put on this process and, contrary to what you may feel, it’s not set in stone.

So, here are some things to consider when it comes to naming your business.

1. The name isn’t as important as your vision

Knowing what you plan to do with your business is actually a lot more important than what you call it.

Using you own name could be the most liberating way of naming your business even if it may feel like a creative cop-out. You will allow yourself the freedom to do whatever you want to do vs. confining yourself to activities your business name suggests.

On the flip side, a company name can create, from the start, a sense of grandeur, an impression of being bigger than just you and it may be easier, down the line, if you want to sell your business not to have your name as the business name.

2. Consider the market you will be operating in

Using a company name that can only be pronounced in a certain language can lead to some serious challenges.

A few years ago I co-founded a Technical Training company in the UAE. We named it Daribni Technical Training – Daribni means “Train Me” in Arabic and was always well received by our Arabic speaking clients, yet our English speaking clients were divided, some were too scared to say the name for fear of saying it wrong where as others butchered the name and often said “darabni” which means “slap me” in Arabic apparently. You get the idea. Since we were clear on our target market and knew our niche it was fine. Yes, we knew the name wouldn’t travel well.

Another interesting example is the French company Bic who changed their name in the 1940s from Bich (after the founder Marcel Bich) to Bic to avoid any issues in international markets.

On the flip side, a Japanese sports drink brand “Pocari Sweat”, is a brand only available in Asia and Middle Eastern markets. They defended their brand name by stating they have no intention to go into English speaking markets after people said the name made the think the drink actually contained sweat (I’ve never been able to drink it as the name is so off putting).

3. Test, test, test

Test your business name before committing to it – ask people to spell it.

Ask people to tell them what image comes to mind when you hear the name.

There is no right or wrong answer.

Just be cautious when it comes to naming your business that you are clear on who your target market is – calling yourself “Your Name Entreprises” sounds a bit silly if you are a boutique style business offering customised, highly personal services.

4. Keep it simple

Ok, so you want something that stands out and is memorable but don’t go crazy. Try to avoid naming your business like artists of the past have named their movements – the Dada movement was named one night, as legend has it, by sticking a knife into a French/German dictionary. Dada means “rocking horse” in French. Whilst it’s a novel way to name a business you might want to look over it again in the morning.

Similarly don’t go making up “usual” spellings of commonly used words!

How did you decide what was the best name for your business?


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26 Responses to What is the best name for your business?

  1. Thank you for this is a great post Ameena. I’ve recently been through this process to name my new product & services biz. Let’s say that I totally relate to you saying,”It’s often one of the most agonizing stages for most entrepreneurs. I’m a painter and Illustrator as well as offer social media support for my client and group members…So it was really hard key in on my purpose…but I did it…It was a long process (took all Summer). I did exactly what you are saying and worked on knowing what I planned to do with my business. It’s so true that it is actually a lot more important to establish your business plan than to give a catchy name and no real substance and content…Great share!

  2. I completely second the fact that too much emphasis is put on business names and not enough on what you plan to do with the business! Like Nathalie, I spent much of the summer thinking of a name for my husbands new venture. In the end we were desperate and started thinking differently – what was our business doing, what was our USP and how could we describe our services in one short catchy phrase? As soon as we had accomplished that we found our name and guess what? Our customers LOVE it!

  3. That is so true Ameena. I was talking about this the other day, that I should have went with another name for my business. I know when I first started my company, it took so long to come up with a name. Since then, the company has some twists and turns and has taken on a new face, as they say. So now, I am forced to branch off a segment of the company for a new venture. It is wise to be selective in choosing a name, know the target group and all that. Sometimes when you start out you have idea of how your company will grow, then something happens and you decide to go another route with the vision of the company. So a name is name, its important and so agonising no question, but delivering a quality product or service is even greater. This is a great post and hits home to many, myself included.

  4. I recently sent out an email to all my friends on possible names for a product i was working on and i was really surprised at the results. the names i came up with did not have the same apeal to others that i thought it would. So i decided to put up a reader survey on my blog. and ask people for their feedback. I wonder what the outcome is going to be.
    Testing is so crucial because you just never know. You work so closely with your product and business that you don’t always have the best point of view.

    • Hi Annie,

      The testing process is crucial but it’s hard to know when to stop – you can’t please everyone and sometimes getting too many chirping in with their opinion can lead to huge confusion! I know that it’s a LOT easier to help others than do it for your own business as you are so close to it.
      Keep me posted on what your readers say!

  5. I’m still struggling with that! I had decided on a name, had a catchphrase and everything, but I don’t feel like I’m an “expert” enough in the fields I want to specialize in to do that yet. So I’m thinking for now, I’m just going to go by my name…make own name a brand.

    • Hello Williesha,

      Launching business under your own name will allow you flexibility in developing your business and growing into the expert you were meant to be. I did the same thing and I ma very happy I have made that decision. My Coaching practice has been evolving and changing in the ast few years and each time I wanted to accommodate that change I felt free to do it.
      When it comes to feeling “like” an expert, just remember that you are very likely to know much more than an average person (when it comes to your particular topic) and that is what is important. I have struggled wit this in the past my self but now I understand that I always attract the right clients that are complimentary to my my level of expertise. Our universe is build on balance ( even if it’s hard to see that sometimes) and if we can be grounded in that knowing, all is always well.

  6. Oh and haven’t there been some doosies of names…makes me wonder what people were thinking.

    People put so much time into the name process, then you ask them what that business is about, and they struggle to tell you. Funny thing is when you work on the vision the name becomes much more clear and easier to put your finger on.

    Love the Darabni/Daribni example…Train me/Slap me…aren’t they kinda interchangable 😉

    • Yeah there really have been some bizarre names but some which rock … my favourite was Faiq Jewelers in Oman when I lived there – Faiq is a man’s name pronounced FAKE – we always laughed at that!

  7. Asking people to spell it is soooo important. It’s one of the big reasons I didn’t use my own name when I first started my business–people misspell it all the time (even when I spell it for them first!).

    But, in the end, it’s really not about the name, even though it does feel like such a huge decision. Thanks for sharing these tips, Ameena!

      • Hi Ameena! It’s my last name–Albon. Which looks simple enough, but people always get it garbled, even when I say, “A, L, B like Boy, O, N like Nancy.” In high school, I had a teacher who called me Algon all year and I thought it was just his accent until one day I discovered that was actually how he thought it was spelled. (Apparently, he never noticed how I wrote it on the papers I turned in… ;-)) Names are such funny things, aren’t they? Yours is lovely, and I can’t even imagine some of the “interesting” ways you’ve probably seen it spelled!

        • Ha! I can only imagine – I’ve had some really interesting versions of my name; Amelia, Amana, Thumbelina (I kid not) and some others that I’ll keep to myself as they were horrid! 🙂

  8. I knew from day one that i wanted to brand myself as the “go to” guy for all things social media in the restaurant market. So I chose
    “Ask Arvid” as the name of my blog. You can’t tell that it’s a social media for restaurant blog, but I like it because my blog model is all about creating demand driven content, where I write about the issues and questions that people have. I invite people to ask me any social media question related to the restaurant industry. So I wanted a name that invites people to do so. I can empathize with Williesha’s comment about not being an ‘expert’ yet, but you learn as you go and should someone ever ask me a question I don’t know the answer to, I will use my ‘detective’ research skills to find out or find somebody who does know the answer! Actually I’m still in the process of putting my blog together, so it’s not officially launched, but that’s the idea behind my blog name.

  9. Ameena,

    In your email you commented that you hadn’t heard from me for some time; and then I saw that your post was on a subject that I went into quite deeply when I selected a name for my solopreneur consultancy. In response therefore to your invitation to describe the process I followed to select my business name, I am taking up your invitation in the hope that it may help others.

    I wrote this up for inclusion in my business plan at the time (after all, as a consultant helping clients to raise equity capital and therefore recommending that they prepare a substantial business plan, I can hardly put myself in the position of not having a comprehensive business plan of my own that explains most of the essentials of my venture, can I?)

    So what follows is a line of reasoning that your loyal fellow bloggers may like to use for themselves. It’a bit longish and detailed. But, hey! You may as well have the whole box and dice.

    I started from the concept that you cannot separate your corporate business name, your trading name, your principal tag line, your logo and your corporate colours. Together these constitute a powerful marketing tool, but more importantly, they provide the basis for the establishment of your brand. Brand development is an integral element in the long-term growth of my business. In that respect, the principal business and trading names a business uses should at least suggest the theme of the business. I therefore had to decide what I wanted the business and trading names to imply to the marketplace.

    There is no doubt, as your commenters above have pointed out, that choosing a company name is difficult. I soon discovered that this is a field where everyone claims expertise and offers advice. But names created by committee are generally losers. It is also surprising to me that so many businesses adopt names that are meaningless and do not convey any message.

    I quickly learned that business names fall readily into three categories: generic, descriptive or fanciful. The reality here that a fanciful name makes the best trademark and strongest name. It is the easiest to protect from copying by competitors. A fanciful name is one where no picture comes to mind. No one knows what a Nike, Xerox, Google or a Yahoo looks like.

    Unfortunately, while fanciful names are the best, there is a downside to their use. They have a couple of serious difficulties. Firstly, a great deal of money and time is necessary to persuade customers and clients that the name stands for something. Secondly, a fanciful name of itself will not usually position the company in the minds of prospects.

    The second alternative, which is a little more difficult to protect, are descriptive names. These names help position a company and its products and services because they send out information about the company and its products and services. There is no doubting what businesses with these names do: Speedy Mufflers, Bill’s Fences & Gates, Len’s Landscaping. Descriptive names are preferable from a marketing point of view. They are preferable because they impart enough about your company and its products and services to help the sale, they are unique and stick in a customers mind in a way that can help block out competitors.

    The last alternative is to use a generic name. These are virtually unprotectable although they do telegraph what the business does. Some examples are: Modern Bicycles, The Office Cleaners, Pure Donuts. Natural Cosmetics. Of course, sometimes a generic name takes off and works, but mostly, it is an uphill battle. It is an uphill battle because although the name may position the company, the company has no identity.

    Given that the nature of my project was to establish a consultancy business, it was important to adopt an identifiable, distinctive and descriptive name to

    • provide a launch pad for the consultancy brand,
    • facilitate promotional and advertising activities, and
    • become the public face of the business.

    However, as your commenters above have alluded, choosing my business name became difficult and subjective. Despite that, I had to be objective. In being objective, the name therefore should say what my business is and should lead to positive psychological associations that will contribute to the public image of my business. My names therefore had to:

    • be memorable, distinguishing and descriptive,
    • be able to be connective with appropriate and distinctive logos,
    • be reflective of my business’ public image, and
    • promote confidence in my ability to deliver effective and positive outcomes.

    Within that context, I had to consider the following:

    1. I had to make sure that the name did not simply describe what my business does; it had to distinguish my business from competitors and align it with my clients objectives, actual and potential. The crunch point here is that to be effective, the name must have brand potential. A name that is too narrow in identifying the business or too descriptive of the business does not have the depth or dimension to become an effective brand.

    2. I didn’t want a comfortable and relaxing name. Forget ‘comfortable and relaxing’ because chances are most people will forget a ‘comfortable and relaxing’ name. The most successful names are often those that are initially the most controversial (think Nike, Google, Yahoo and Xerox).

    3. The golden rule is keep the name brief. While one-word brands are generally the most effective as a primary brand name, there are many situations where a three or four word name can be effective. Lengthy, multiple word names generally lead to truncation of the name; and when people abbreviate the name, control over the brand is lost.

    4. The essential point to remember about selecting your name is that it is about marketing strategy, not emotion and office or family politics. Many people, myself included, are surprised that selecting a name is such an emotionally charged decision. Naming decisions are fraught with politics, turf issues, and individual preferences. So stick to the marketing strategy and do not allow the lowest common denominator solution.

    5. Don’t expect unanimous acceptancet with the name. In the first few weeks following the introduction of a new name, there is often a lot of discussion and publicity. Usually, such discussion and publicity will be favourable. As a rough rule of thumb, familiarity breeds comfort. As people become more familiar with the name, they will become more comfortable with it.

    6. This is important: Make sure the name leaves room for company or brand expansion. The name should not be so narrow that it will create problems in the future.

    The trading name I selected for my business consultancy is Chiron! the business doctor.™

    There were two important concepts central to the overall long-term promotion of my business that provided the basis for the selection of this name. The first is that the name is unique, thus providing a base for the creation of a promotable brand. The second is that the name lends itself to a medical analogy that is integral to the overall business marketing strategy.

    The name will be extremely useful in the marketing sense of helping ‘sick’ businesses to return to profitability or helping successful businesses to become even ‘better’ through the application of ‘preventative medicine’ régimes that will enhance a client’s five vital business health signs (viz., cash flow, productivity, international competitiveness, profitability and shareholder value).

    Within that context, the analogy for my consultancy activities is that of a respected family General Practitioner looking after his or her patients on a long-term basis. That is, in accepting a consultancy assignment, my modus operandi will be to initially assess a client’s five vital economic health signs, diagnose the symptoms adversely affecting the client’s business activities or holding back the client’s business expansion and then prescribe a suitable course of action as the treatment to improve the client’s commercial business operations.

    Then there’s the name: Why Chiron? That’s curious.

    The name ‘Chiron’ comes from Greek mythology. Chiron was a centaur who was unlike all others in the clan of centaurs. Centaurs led profligate and ribald lifestyles of wine, women and song. Chiron was the exact opposite of this, living a life of knowledge enhancement and community service. Perhaps because of his lifestyle and personal characteristics, Chiron became a close confidante of many of the Gods. In particular, Chiron was close to Zeus, King of the Gods.

    In time, Chiron became renowned for his knowledge of medicine, commerce and war strategy, and his wisdom and sense of justice. At the request of Zeus, Chiron raised Hercules and Jason (later to lead the Argonauts in the quest for the Golden Fleece) and other famous mythological characters. Except for the medical knowledge aspect (which is being utilised in my marketing strategy), all of these attributes of Chiron can be considered as attributes either necessary or desirable in an effective modern-day business consultant.

    Moreover, the name Chiron! the business doctor.™ is sure to trigger enquiries about its origin and meaning from potential clients or persons receiving my business card. The explanation of the name will naturally lead into an opportunity to talk about how my consultancy’s functional activities may be able to help the inquirer. The name Chiron is therefore a cost-effective marketing tool that can productively draw attention to the benefits of the consultancy’s services.

    The Consultancy Tagline: my positioning statement

    In keeping with this medical analogy, my marketing tag line will be:

    …relieves business pain!™

    This tag line is a natural follow-on from the medical analogy outlined above. In the functional activities applied to clients, I will be involved to a greater or lesser extent in relieving their pain (viz., fixing the problems causing pain, both physical and perceived) being felt by the client company .

    To further develop this medical analogy theme, the treatments or cures prescribed by the business doctor may require the application of surgery to the client company’s present organisation, infrastructure, culture, focus, operating systems and way of doing business. That is, I will need to operate on the client company by applying an appropriate combination of enterprise restructuring, process improvement and performance management to provide an improved platform for business growth.

    That’s it, Ameena; I hope it helps someone.



  10. Now, that’s something I have always been confused about (Choosing a good name!).

    But, I have already decided it. When I do start an offline business, I will be naming it “Lion industries” (Not only do I like Lions, but I also like the fact that they are king of the jungle – so king of the business niche :D)

    Anyways, I have been confused on naming my sites too (you know, picking the domains). As of now, I am working on launching a new blog (which I am going to name after me :D).

    But, I am still confused 😉 Or I was. Your post reminded me that I shouldn’t get too caught up with the names!

    Thank you Ameena 🙂

  11. This post could not have come at a more perfect time! I’m right in the middle of a big rebranding project, and coming up with a name is something I’ve been struggling with for a while.

    For me… with my creative business shop… Growing Up Herbal… my husband came up with it. I made herbal products specifically for children, but I wanted something that could be expanded upon later on down the road if need be. It was a perfect fit immediately. I just knew it!

    Then for my new project… I’ve thought about it for days. Tried out several names. Gotten frustrated. Back to the drawing board, my vision and values. Gotten stuck again. Felt like giving up. Been acting way too hormonal for my own good! And then finally! It came to me. Ugghh… a huge weight has been lifted off me. I feel complete and ready to kick butt on this baby.

    Thanks for the tips!

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