Jeremy Tuber

A small business owner’s guide: A crash course in avoiding bad business and brand names

Naming your small business—what you need to know before making a big blunder

Have you ever looked at a company’s name or brand name and asked yourself, “How in the heck did they come up with that?”

If you had the opportunity to ask the company that question, you might be surprised at the answer. Often there was no rhyme or reason. Some companies choose a broad nebulous name that allows them to diversify and look big:  the XYZ Global Corp., for example.  Some companies look to put a clever spin on things: for example, Black Ice Printing. And yet, some companies just pick out of a hat or stumble on a name that sounds good at the time.

Selecting the right business/brand name is vital. Sharp business owners know choosing the wrong name can be disastrous. Nevertheless, most small business owners are either confused about how to name their business or brand, or they just don’t think it’s all that important. You don’t want to be in either of those two camps.

If you don’t believe it, just ask the executives at Chevy who marketed the name “Nova” down in Mexico.

Instead of settling on a name, which certainly would leave more time for golf and other activities, smart business owners know that doing some up front prospecting, research, competitive analysis and brainstorming can lead to big profits down the line.

It’s easy just to settle on a name and move onto more “important” activities, but don’t overlook the positive or negative affect a name can have on your success.

Fierce competition is in every industry out there, so you want to give your company every edge you can—that includes what name(s) you choose. The remainder of this article focuses on helping you to first learn what constitutes a good business or brand name, and then how you can go about creating one.

How Can You Tell if You’ve Chosen a Good Business or Brand Name?

Make sure the name you choose is:

  • Recognizable
  • Memorable – prospects can easily recall it. Can prospects remember your name?
  • Unique – compared to the other names in your field. Your name can help establish your niche in the market
  • Logical – it gives prospects a good indication of what you do
  • Fun – this is a wild card, so you need to be careful with this criterion, but haven’t you noticed that some names are more fun to say and use than others? How about Google, iPad, or Best Buy, versus Smith Motors or Fuel Freedom International?

Breaking the Laws

Sure, there are a host of business and brand names out there that have defied convention, for example (GoDaddy, Kleenex, Ovaltine, and Hummer)—all big, successful names. So it’s possible to ignore this article and still come out okay. But take a second to think about these names they were developed by companies with deep pockets that spent a colossal amount of money on getting their name out.

If you don’t have GoDaddy’s advertising budget, it’s best to give yourself the most mileage out of your business name as you can.

The Good, Bad and the Ugly: A Look At Some Real Business Names

The Good: Sacred Skin Tattoos, Two Men and a Truck, and We Fix Ugly Pools
The Bad: Benson Systems, CLC Associates, Paytech, Time After Time, and EIE Graphic Color
The Ugly: The Chevy “Nova,” the popular American auto was heavily marketed in Mexico under the same brand name. Unfortunately, Chevy failed to research their target market. Had they done so, they would have discovered that “no va” in Spanish means “No go”. This error cost them millions of dollars.

How to Come Up With a Good Brand Name

Do your homework. Instead of guessing or hoping you’re making the right choice, do a little bit of work upfront. I promise you it’ll be worth it. Start with asking the right people—ask your prospects or potential target audience. Your friends and family are going to be more than happy to tell you what you should do, but they’re not the best people to take advice from. Remember to ask the people that are buying or are going to buy from you—they are the ones that matter.

Check out what else is out there: look in the local phone books and the Internet and compare how your name compares to the rest of your competition. Does it stand out? Does it make you unique or will it get you lost in the crowd? Does your name help you carve out a niche in the industry, like “Bikes for Tots and Squirts”.

The Bottom Line for Sharp Business Owners:

If you’d like a little extra help and security, work with a business coach or marketing expert.

Make sure you get it right the first time. I once heard a successful executive say, “It would be less painful to find a new spouse than it would be to change this business name.” All jokes aside, having to change a business name that has a little traction will cost money, time, and energy that could be better invested in other areas.

Test, test, and test some more. Testing is essential in business, but so few business owners actually do it before launching an idea to the market. Find out what your prospects and customers think before you launch a new name.

Choose a name that is specific enough to give you a specific niche in the marketplace and clues consumers into what you do.

At the same time, try choosing a name that isn’t so restrictive that it pigeonholes your business so that you can’t diversify in the future. For example, naming your company “General National Corporation” might allow to diversify into any industry, but that name isn’t easily recallable, unique, easy to say, or unique.

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