Naming your business is a big decision. Your services and expertise are critical to the success of your business, but so is the brand you build around them — and it all starts with a name. You want your business name to resonate with your audience and stand out from the competition.
But with so much pressure to be clever, relevant, and sophisticated, how do you choose the perfect name that encompasses who you are and what you offer your clients?
If you spend the necessary time researching and strategizing your business name at the beginning, you’ll save yourself the work, money, and inconvenience of a rebrand later.
Here is a simple guide to help you navigate the steps of naming a business, from ideation to announcement:
Know your business inside and out
It might be tempting to skip this step. You own the business, after all, so you know it better than anyone else, right? While that’s likely the case, it is a valuable exercise to pause and reevaluate your business plan (if you have one already) and what you’ll offer the market.
When customers hear the name of your business, what do you want them to think of first? What products and services will you offer them? Personal training businesses and other health and fitness related companies rely on the service experience they deliver to their clients. Before you know how to position your brand and that experience, you have to know your audience.
Conduct market research and create a customer profile. If you have a clear picture in mind of who your business is designed to reach, the naming exercise will be much easier.
Brainstorm with wild abandon
Now that you know what you want your business name to convey to your clients, it’s time to brainstorm possible names. Remember that no name is off-limits in the brainstorming process as long as it fits with the brand and image you want to portray. Think about what words relate to health coach marketing, nutritionist marketing, or whatever descriptors pertain to the unique services you offer.
Consider catchy industry words or phrases that describe your products or services in an identifiable way. Make a list of your competitors’ companies. Can you differentiate yourself from the names they’ve chosen to set your company apart?
Maybe you can incorporate a benefit or unique value in your name, or perhaps you can use a word or phrase that invokes an emotion you want your clients to feel when they think about your business.
Brainstorming takes time, but it’s a surefire way to hone in on what you like and don’t like in a name so you can narrow your list. Use a business name generator if you need help getting the ball rolling. Have your thesaurus and dictionary at the ready, and let the creativity fly.
Keep it short and simple
Most of the world’s most well-known brands have short, memorable names. While your health and fitness business isn’t setting out to be the next Slack, IBM, or Apple, there is a lesson to be learned from these mega-companies on how to choose a name that spurs instant recognition.
Long, complex names are hard to remember and difficult to look up. Simplicity is especially important for small businesses because of their reliance on /. Make it easy for your clients to remember you and talk about you to other potential customers.
Pay special attention to acronyms, nicknames, and any questionable variations that could be extracted from your company name. Say the name out loud and consider any rhyming words and phrases that might elicit a negative feeling. You don’t want to experience the classic grade school phenomenon of an embarrassing nickname or acronym that haunts you throughout the life of your business.
Don’t box yourself in
You may be thinking about incorporating your city or state into your business name. It’s logical now, but what if you move? What if you expand and open other branches in different locations? Leave room for the future when you choose your name.
The same rule applies to using plain language. If you own a personal training business today, but you want to expand to include nutrition coaching or supplements later, a name like “Larry’s Personal Training” wouldn’t leave room for growth.
Simplicity and description are important, but so is creating a brand that has room to flex and grow with the market and your goals. You don’t want a name that is so narrow that you have to rebrand any time you make a change.
When should you use your own name for your company?
Unless your name is impossibly complicated and hard to spell, you might want to consider using it to represent your business. If you plan to create content such as podcasts, blogs, or videos and position yourself as a thought leader, your name becomes your brand, and it makes sense to use it. You might also use your name if you have a proprietary service or product that no one else can offer and you want to link yourself to the innovation you offer your clients.
If you’d rather not be the “face” of your company, avoid using your name. It opens you up to public scrutiny and makes it easier for people to look you up online and contact you directly. Many people prefer to keep their personal lives separate from their business, and that’s perfectly acceptable. You may also want to avoid using your own name if you plan to sell the business at some point or hand it over to a team that will run it for you.
Make sure you can register and trademark the name
If you’ve already been through the brainstorming exercise, then you have a good idea of the names your competitors are using. As you seek to make the name meaningful, it’s easy to accidentally choose something that someone else is using already. If you encroach on someone else’s name, it won’t just be confusing for potential customers but also could put you at risk of legal action and the headache of a total rebrand.
If you’re offering a unique service or product, you may consider applying for trademark protection. While a trademark isn’t required, it’s a quick way to establish your unique brand without fear of someone else infringing on it or copying it.
It isn’t always necessary to register your business. For example, if you choose to use your personal name, registry isn’t usually required. By registering with your state or local government, however, you may qualify for extra tax and legal benefits that you’d otherwise miss out on. The U.S. Small Business Association offers plenty of free resources for small business owners who want to officially register their companies.
Choose your domain name
Next, check to see if your desired domain name is available. Domains that end in “.com” are generally the easiest to remember, but the hardest to come by. To secure the name you want, you might need to consider a different extension such as .net or .co.
If the domain you want belongs to someone else, you may have the opportunity to purchase it. Be aware, however, that “domain pirates” intentionally buy up and sit on popular domain names so they can sell them at a high premium. Be prepared with a plan B unless you’re ready to shell out tons of money to purchase your first choice.
You can research available domain names on a number of sites such as GoDaddy and Shopify. Just like your business name, you want your website URL to be short, simple, and memorable. A word of caution: Don’t go too far down the naming path before you research domain names. They are an essential part of your overall business plan. The right domain name makes it easy for customers to find and remember you.
Ideally, your domain name will match (or nearly match) your business name. It gives your audience a consistent experience so they can find you no matter where they look — in your brick and mortar building, on your website, or your social media platforms.
We've written an entire post on how to choose and register your domain name that you can check out here.
Test and tweak
Once you have a shortlist of names and you’ve checked on available domains, it’s time to start testing. It’s fine to start with family, friends, and business contacts to solicit their initial reaction to your potential business names, but don’t stop there. Use Google AdWords to pinpoint similar keywords and phrases and view how many searches they are getting. You may need to adjust your proposed name slightly to make it easier for potential customers to find it based on how they search for products and services today.
Make a splash
When you’re ready to release your freshly-minted name to the general public, make sure you release it everywhere at once. Change your email domain names. Update your social media accounts. Have your business cards printed and ready to go. Blog about why you chose the name and what it means to your mission. Put your business name in front of potential clients in every possible channel and medium so you remain top of mind.
The bottom line
Treat your business name with the same care and consideration as you do the services and customer experience you offer. It’s the foundation for all of your hard work and can be one of your best organic marketing tools if you choose wisely.