What’s in a name? How to pick a distinctive name for your small business


We’re working with a refreshing number of start-ups at the moment, many of whom are so new that they don’t even have a name yet. Your business name is such a major part of your overarching brand, and absolutely crucial to get right… no wonder there’s so much pressure on business owners to come up with an amazing name. While I always take the view that not yet having a name means that you have a world of possibilities at your feet, my clients often feel differently – overwhelmed, confused and unsure seems to be the general theme. So what’s an entrepreneur to do? Grab a notepad, pen and let me give you a hand.

What should your name do?

First of all, let’s think broadly about what your name should do for you. Ideally, you want to capture the essence of your business in your business name (although if that’s not possible, you might find a strap line to be helpful). You certainly want to try to strike a chord with your target clients, and you want it to be memorable. It should be easy to spell and pronounce, and it should look and sound good too. Names that rhyme or feature alliteration tend to stick in the mind for longer!

Where do you start?

I recommend starting with a massive sheet of paper and an open mind. Allow yourself to think freely – there’s no such thing as a bad idea. Jot down any words that come to mind and edit them later. Don’t fixate on one idea – it’ll narrow your options. Brainstorm out each word to see where it takes you, and then step back to see what you have. Try not to pressure yourself to come up with a name immediately, too. While some people thrive on a bit of pressure, you’ll probaby find that a break away from your desk frees your mind up to think creatively. I tend to find that my best ideas pop up while I’m out walking, or, more randomly, cleaning the house. Hey, whatever works.

Sorting your ideas

Once you have a sheet full of words and concepts, you need to start making sense of your ideas to refine and develop your initial thoughts into some sembelence of order. I recommend the following criteria to sense-check your ideas.

-Think about longevity. Will your name allow you to diversify?

-Does it communicate the essence of what your business is about?

-Sense check your name against your competitors. Names that are too similar are not only iffy from an ethical standpoint, but are not helpul in differentiating your business either.

-Check it’s not been taken. A quick visit to Companies House will allow you to see if your business name has been nabbed by someone else

-Consider whether your name fits with your brand personality. Is it suitably playful/ quirky/ corporate for what you do?

-Is the name easy to spell and pronounce?

-What associations are attached to your name? Make sure any obvious associations are positive!

Once you’ve decided on a shortlist, I highly recommend getting friends, family and colleagues involved to help you decide on your name. Gettings others involved will being an invaluable level of objectivity, and will probably offer really useful feedback.

Allow ideas time to develop

Give your new name a few days to ferment before you make your final decision – use it in conversations, practice using it when you answer the phone… get it out there and see how it feels.

Image credit: image sourced via Unsplash.com


Filed under Business Tips, Powerful Branding

2 responses to “What’s in a name? How to pick a distinctive name for your small business

  1. Great points Hannah. It is a bad idea to wait too long to decide on a company name. It is one of those parts of the vision that helps shape the direction of the company. The main reason this portion of the business plan needs to hold great importance is the fact it is one part of the new business you will not want to change throughout the life of the business. So, new owners shouldn’t rush this part of the process however make sure to put a great amount of focus into choosing.

    Thanks again Hannah. Great luck on your journey & thank you.

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