How to Choose a Business Name and Make It Legal

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First impressions matter! We all know this, and whether we believe it or not, we all play to this rule.

In fact, research from Harvard proves that we make snap judgments in as little as the first three seconds of meeting people.

As a budding business owner yet to choose a brand name, this should concern you.

Why?

Because your potential customers will instantly decide whether or not they like, or even trust, your brand by how they identify and connect with your business name.

Take a brand name like “Apple,” for example. You might not realize it straight away, but every time you hear the name “Apple,” your subconscious mind immediately reverts to the fruit.

You think fresh, juicy, healthy, and tasty – which are all good things.

These thoughts make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, and you transfer those feelings to the products associated with the tech company.

It’s easier for you to buy from a computer company named “Apple” than from one named, “XYZ Computers,” for example. After all, the latter does not elicit any kind of warm and fuzzy emotions.

Apple Laptop and Fruit
Apple Brand – Image via Pixabay Under CC0 License

Tips on Choosing the Right Business Name

Here are some things you should consider before settling on a particular brand name for your startup:

1. Make It Simple

As “cool” as it may be to have a brand name that is difficult to pronounce and even harder to grasp, research shows that brands with names that are easy to pronounce and understand tend to do better in stock markets.

Conducted on behalf of the Society of Personal and Social Psychology, one study found that companies with the most uncomplicated names traded up to 33% better than those with complicated names.

2. Ensure That the Name Fits with Your Brand’s Identity

Going back to the example we used earlier; there are companies like Apple that can get away with having brand names that have nothing to do with their product. But as we also explained earlier, those companies always look to tie that brand name to something else.

Beyond that, it will take excellent brand marketing, top-notch product development, and even better service delivery to ensure that people identify your brand with your products, despite the name.

However, this doesn’t mean you have to strive for a name that describes what your product is (although, if you can, go for it!). You can create a simple, clear name that shows what you are all about, instead.

Take Amazon for example; an all-encompassing online store that sells almost everything. The actual Amazon is one of the largest forests in the world. Do you see how that ties into the brand’s identity?

Amazon Sign
Amazon, the Global Brand – Image via Flickr Using CC0 License

3. Make It Something Familiar to Your Target Market

Psychological research from the University of Michigan Department of Psychology tells us that people tend to shy away from unfamiliar brand names because they subconsciously associate the unfamiliar with danger.

As human beings, we automatically tend to fear the unknown.

Therefore, choosing a name that is familiar to your target audience will put you on the right path toward success.

Mint Logo

A good example would be the difference between Mint and Wesabe – two companies that sell (or sold) personal finance management programs. Of the two, only one is still in business.

You can probably guess which one straight away.

Wesabe Logo

While there is still a lot that has to go into product development, customer service, and brand marketing, it is our familiarity with the name Mint that probably tipped this brand over its Wesabe competitor. Marc Hedlund, Wesabe’s co-founder even said as much when he blogged that one of the main reasons why Wesabe lost to Mint is because Mint had a better name.

4. Keep It as Short as Possible

There is a 2011 report by the Australian Domain Registration Services which shows people like shorter domain names. In fact, the most popular domain names tended to be eight characters or shorter. As a species, we have limited short-term memories.

People simply do not have the energy nor the desire to remember long characters when trying to find your brand online.

You need to make it simple, short, and memorable. Some hosting providers actually offer a free domain name with their hosting plans. GreenGeeks offers a free domain name for your first year.

5. Make It as Unique as Possible

The fact that you should make your business name as unique as possible is not in contention. Unique names are not only memorable, but they can also be amusing, endearing, and they could help your brand’s online identity. Unless you have invented a product that is absolutely new in the market, there is a good chance that your company is built to deliver something that already exists in a different way and to a specific niche market.

This means you will be entering a market that already has major players.

Choosing a name that is unique is an excellent way to shift everyone’s attention to your brand. It needs to be long enough for them to notice what you do and what you offer, otherwise, you stand no chance against already-established brands.

The problem with choosing a business name is - the brighter you try to be, the higher the chance you'll inadvertently create barriers that keep your potential customers and investors from buying into what you sell.

If your brand name is:

  • Difficult to pronounce
  • Difficult to spell
  • Has no relation to your product
  • Is not eye-catching or memorable
  • Has no stylish vibe

You will have added yet another barrier to customer acquisition and brand awareness creation. It takes a lot of work, a lot of creativity, and without the right kind of business name generator, a whole lot of time.

Frequently Asked Questions About Choosing a Business Name

Understandably, you are going to have a whole host of questions about your business name, from the legalities involved to the gray area of choosing a name that’s similar to one already in use.

With that in mind, here are some FAQs and those all-important answers:

Do I Need to Register My Business Name?

In the US, if you choose to operate your business under a fictitious name, i.e. anything that isn’t your own real name, then you must register your business. This applies to LLCs, partnerships, and sole proprietors.

What if you’re a freelancer, i.e. a blogger, who’s earning money on the side?

If you’re just operating your business under your own name, i.e. Joe Bloggs, and this is the name that’s being used on the bank account, for tax returns, and any other government forms, then this will become the legal name of your business.

This is also the same if you’re in partnership with someone else – if you don’t choose a name, it will automatically default to yours and your partner’s surnames.

However, if your blog has a specific name, you may want to look into getting this trademarked.

This will protect you and your brand from various legal challenges, including preventing people from using the same or a very similar name.

It will also give you the power to pursue someone you believe is infringing on your rights, allowing you to build your brand without it being impacted by others.

Don’t forget, trademarks and copyright are totally different things but both are as equally as important as each other.

For more information on copyright for your blog – read our other guide here.

Registering a Business Name
Registering a Business Name – Image via Pixabay Under CC0 License

How and Where Do I Register My Business Name?

If you’re creating a brand name for your company, you’ll need to register this with your local government (note: some states don’t have this requirement). You’ll need to register your trade name or your “doing business as” (DBA) name.

However, it’s important to note that your business name IS NOT protected by registering it as a trade name. It will be protected by your state but if someone wants to use the same name outside of your state, they can.

So if you want to make sure no one can use your business name, you need to apply for a trademark – these are available at state and federal level.

Here are some useful links that will help you register your business name in the US, UK, and Canada.

United States

United Kingdom

Canada

Can I Have the Same Company Name as Another Business?

As mentioned previously, if a company name is registered with a state but does not have a trademark, you can register a company with the same name if you’re operating in a different state.

However, consider the consequences of doing this.

Will this allow you to differentiate your business from the other one, regardless of location? And has this business already secured the exact domain name of your business?

To make sure you’re not going to run into any problems further down the line and to see who’s operating under this same name, it is a good idea to run a trademark search.

Trademark issues may arise if yours and this other company’s business are very similar, and if you continue to pursue your organization’s name without regard for others, this could lead to trademark dilution or trademark infringement.

How Do I Protect My Business Name in a Foreign Country?

Now, you have gone to all the trouble of getting your business name registered and trademarked, but with ambitions to go global with your company, how do you make sure your business name is protected worldwide?

Creating a Global Business
Creating a Global Business While Keeping It Protected – Image via Pixabay Using CC0 License

There are several options available. You can:

  1. File your business with the foreign country(ies) your business is operating within: Many countries will offer you trademark protection so long as another company isn’t registered under the same name. In most cases, the first business to register the trademark is given protection, unlike in the US where common law stipulates that trademark protection is given to the first business who uses this trademark.
  2. Use the Madrid Protocol to gain international trademark protection: 96 countries belong to the Madrid Protocol and if you have your trademark in the US, or even if it is just pending, you can seek registration through this scheme. This involves just one application through the International Bureau of World Property Intellectual Organization (WIPO).
  3. Apply for a European trademark: This is done through the Community Trademark System which is run by the European Union.

You should also be aware that, while there is not a global trademark body, if you are applying for a trademark and become a member of The World Trade Organization, you will have to comply with the intellectual property agreement set out in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). This is enforceable between governments.

Finally, always apply for your trademark in the US before moving on to apply in various areas around the world.

Best Business Name Generators

The tips above will help you follow a guideline that has been tried, tested, and found to be true over the years. The best business names all follow these guidelines and have managed to build household brand names.

What’s the problem, though?

By trying to come up with a business name while following strict guidelines, it won't just make it hard for you to let your creativity run wild but will also add to the difficulty you have choosing names during those brainstorming sessions - it's highly likely you'll suffer from a 'mental block.'

That is why using the right kind of business name generator is an excellent idea. The right program will help you:

  1. Come up with a list of potential names that follow these guidelines
  2. Show possible domain names
  3. Help you think creatively
  4. Allow you to view your potential brand name the way others might view them (for example, on first reading, if it doesn’t sound right to you, the chances are it won’t sound right to your potential customers)

Here is a list of some of the easiest to use and most reliable business name generators on the market today.

Shopify Business Name Generator

Shopify Business Name Generator
Image via Shopify

Shopify has become a trusted brand over the years, and it is perhaps no surprise that their business name generator is achieving the same ambitious standards as the rest of the brand’s products. The stand-out feature that comes with this particular business name generator is that it only lists business names that have possible domains available, which can save you A LOT of time.

Once you plug in your business’s core concepts, the program will do the rest. Shopify has even gone a step further and created business name generators for specific niches such as:

  • Clothing Line Name Generator
  • Fashion Brand Business Name Generator
  • Jewelry Store Name Generator
  • Furniture Store Name Generator
  • Flower Shop Name Generator
  • Craft Store Business Name Generator
  • Boutique Name Generator
  • Baby Store Name Generator

Another excellent advantage of using this business name generator is that once you find what you like in a business name, you can easily sign up for Shopify services, building an online store for your business. Having this advantage allows you to start marketing and selling straight away.

Naminum

Naminum
Image via Naminum

Sometimes, all your business needs is a single name that will allow you to fully brand it in a powerful way. Like the “Apple” example we keep harping on about, or Shopify, Amazon, and even Sony. These are all single business names that have been built into household brands.

They are easy to remember, easy to spell, and can be about anything. Naminum is a wonderful tool for this very purpose. Using suffixes in conjunction with your desired keywords, Naminum will work it’s magic to come up with the best possible single business name in the market.

The only real disadvantage that comes with this program is that it involves quite a bit of clicking around to get to the available domain names.

Hipster Business Name Generator

Hipster Business Name

We all have a specific niche market we want to target. And if you are specifically going after the “hipster” market, then having a business name that sounds perfect to hipsters is a great way to get started. Funnily enough, that’s where “Hipster Business Name” comes in.

This program will give you business name options that are a little quirky, a little funny, quite clever, creative, and very catchy.

That’s why it is the perfect tool if you want something unique.

The best part?

This business name generator also suggests brandable domain names that do not restrict you to your specific niche, thus giving you the opportunity to expand later, should you wish to do so.

Lean Domain Search

LeanDomainSearch
Image via Lean Domain Search

Lean Domain Search is a program that simplifies the search for business names considerably. All you have to do here is key in your desired keywords and it will spit out all the possible brand names available. It also gives you a list of available domain names that you can choose from.

What makes this program very unique is that it goes one step further to provide you with a list of possible social media handles for the specific business names you choose.

Impossibility!

Impossibility!
Image via Impossibility!

With a name as intriguing as “Impossibility!” and its sweet ironic undertone, this business name generator will appeal to many business owners feeling frustrated by the naming process. The people at Impossibility! refer to their program as “the best domain name generator ever.”

Whether that is true or not is a subjective matter. But what is universally accepted is that this business name generator is quite clever and convenient. It combines your chosen keywords with a long list of verbs, nouns, and adjectives to give you a list of possible business names. And it goes even further by running a search through unregistered.com to give you an all-around option for company names.

If you have the time and the resources, the best way to go about it is to brainstorm a bunch of keywords, feed those into your chosen business name generator and then pick the best five options you get.

Put these five options through A/B testing to get a feel for how the real world will react to each one of them specifically. Then, choose the one that is most easily endearing. Doing so is also an excellent way to get people’s opinion on your brand in general.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right business name for your startup can actually make or break your business venture before it even launches. You need to find a name that is not only easy to remember but is also unique, likable, and helps with your brand identity.

While it is true that you can name your company after yourself, the trick is to ensure that company names are something with which people can easily identify.

Questions, thoughts? Have your own tip for choosing a business name? Please leave a comment and let us know.

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