Shakespeare famously said, “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”
Yes it would smell just as sweet, but would it be as memorable? Does anyone except for my mom really know what a hydrangea looks like? I’m sure it’s a lovely flower, but I never once thought that I should stop and pick up some hydrangeas for my wife.
If you’re just starting your business, you have a unique opportunity that can either make future marketing and sales easier for you…or harder. If you get your business name right, it will be easier to remember, and as a result will make your subsequent marketing perform better. If you get it wrong, your marketing will have to work harder, and you could be creating headaches down the road that you don’t need.
Actually, although it’s very easy to overthink this, we’ve boiled it down to a simple process.
Note: If you’re launching a global brand, make sure you invest in proper marketing and branding research to support building your name and your brand platform. If that’s you, then this article isn’t for you.
However, if you’re in the process of starting up a local small business, finding the right name is as easy as 1-2-3.
The Proven 1-2-3 Formula for Naming Your Local Business
Follow this easy formula and you can come up with a name that will be sure to work for you.
Before you get started there are a few naming requirements to keep in mind.
Naming requirement #1 – Your name should be obvious to someone that’s looking for your services.
That is, they should be able to look at your name and immediately think that this is a firm that might be able to help them and that they should talk to you. Think about this for a second and put yourself in the shoes of your prospective customer. Will they understand any industry technical words or jargon that you use? Does your name connect with what you do or is the customer left to figure it out on their own, or more than likely move on to one of your competitors?
Your name should be so obvious that someone that’s not familiar with your firm can see your name and instantly understand what you do.
Naming requirement #2 – The name should be easy to pronounce and spell.
While Haagen Dazs is a great sounding name for premium ice cream, you likely don’t have the marketing, branding, packaging, and channel sales support that Haagen Dazs has to be able to invest in and back their name. Stick with something simple.
1-2-3 Local Business Naming Formula
Step 1 – Include the service or product you provide in your business name. This is mandatory.
Many businesses will try to come up with a catchy, modern, intelligent (or so they think) naming moniker but the customer is left scratching their heads trying to figure out what it is that they do. You’re not Nike, Amazon, or Apple. The customer will not automtically know what your business does if you call yourself Impact, Industrus, ZapLabs, Conceptial or Awsm (the latter is supposed to be pronounced Awesome, these are all business names, try to figure out what they do).
The customer doesn’t have time to figure out what you do, and is less likely to remember who you are if they are confused.
Make it easy for the customer. Tell them what you do. For example if you’re a tax filer, use tax in your name. If you’re a plumber use the word plumbing, if you’re an architect use architect or architecture, and if you’re selling pizza’s, then guess what? Include pizza in your name.
Step 2 – Give your business a local or personal touch. This is a good addition for local businesses.
There are two variations of Step 2, pick the one that suits you best.
Step 2 Variation A. For local businesses, use the name of your community, city, county, state/province, or region in the name, i.e. make your business name a *local* business name
Consider the local market that your business will operate in. You can use names of communities within that geography, and you can also use names of geographic landmarks within that community, or regional nicknames. Using a local/geographical reference in your name makes it easy for you to get a unique name.
Examples are Highland, Golden Gate, Rocky Mountain, Muskoka, etc.
The potential disadvantage to this is if you expand beyond that region it may lose it’s relevance, but that’s a good problem to have to deal with down the road.
Step 2 Variation B. Use the personal names of the founders
You can use your first or last name. Businesses that are selling to consumers will often use first names, while businesses that are selling to other businesses or selling professional services will often use their surname or last name. For example, many professional services firms use the last names of the partners, e.g. Johnson & Jones Barristers, and many local businesses also use the name of the founder, e.g. Mike’s Plumbing, or Rita’s Pizza.
The advantage of using an individual’s name is that it conveys personality and transfers the credibility of the named individual to the business. Example if Joe Smith is known as an excellent accountant, customers can be assured that they’ll be in good hands with Smith Accounting.
The potential disadvantages to using a personal name are ease of pronunciation, whether the individual is recognized or not, the limitation that the business may grow beyond the named individual, or that it may not be easily transferable to another owner in the event of seling the business or succession.
Step 3 – include a Distinctive Descriptor (Optional, but nice to have)
The third step is to include some type of additional specialization or description around what you do that sets you apart. It could describe what makes your product or service unique or different from others in your category and could be a benefit or adjective.
This can get very complex, but think about terms that will evoke visual imagery or emotion in your customer. Simple examples would be descriptors like fresh, fine, quality, friendly, superior, strategic, modern, classic, etc.
Note: If you’re going to add a distinctive descriptor to your name make sure that it is believable, and make sure that you are able to back up the claim. For example, if you name your business Classic New York Pizza a customer would expect to find classic, New York-style pizzas there. If you don’t have classic, New York-style pizzas on the menu they customer will be confused and disappointed.
What are some examples of great businesses that follow this easy 1-2-3 naming convention?
Orange County Choppers (What they do + Region)
Lions Gate Studios (What they do + Regional Landmark)
Perry’s Ice Cream (Product + Personal Name)
Belmont Barbershop (What they do + Community / Neighborhood)
Coney Island Hot Dogs (Product + Community / Regional Landmark)
Grand Central Oyster Bar (Product + Regional Landmark)
Harris Levy Fine Linens (Product + Personal Name + Distinctive description)
As you can see, it’s very easy to come up with a unique, memorable and an easy to understand name using the 1-2-3 naming formula.
- Search for web domain and social media account availability. Your URL (web domain address) should be an exact match to your business name if possible. If the exact match to your business name isn’t available as a dot com, then consider another top-level domain (e.g. dot ca, dot net, dot biz, dot io, etc.). It’s more important to have an exact match to your business name than it is to get a dot com domain. Whatever website URL you decide to use, use it consistently across all platforms – website, email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.
- You’ll want to get your business name registered, and this may require a legal search. Local business registry services or lawyers will be able to help you with this.
Looking for Help?
If you need help coming up with a business name, we can facilitate the process for you. At Fixyr we believe that “one-size-fits-all” marketing is the enemy, that strategy should always come before tactics, and that the best path to success is through a results-focused marketing plan built just for you.