4 golden rules for naming your new start-up business

Naming a business is not as simple as you might think, says Richard Edwards. Here’s what he learned…

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What’s in a name? When it comes to your business, everything. Once it just went on a letterhead, business card and on a name plaque outside your business – end of story.

Now the name you choose when you start up is your shop window to customers around the world which will determine the extent to which you can be found online and build your name online.

Nearly one year ago I started thinking about the name for my start up PR and marketing business.

What I thought would be a straightforward process turned out to be a something  much more complicated than I imagined.

As anyone else who has done it will tell you, what you originally want to call your business and the name you end up with will likely be two completely different things.

So how did I go about it? And what should you be thinking about when you go about choosing a name? Here are the four steps I went through which I think every entrepreneur should think about.

1. Think hard about the type of name you want

When it comes down to it there are only a few categories of company name. First comes the “surname and surname” or place name approach, second are the made up names (Accenture for one) and then you have the more evocative names from everyday objects (Orange or Apple).

The type of name you will choose will reflect the type of business you are. Safe traditional brands or those wanting to convey that impression like to lean on the heritage of surnames or place names while challenger brands such as Virgin go for bolder names which draw on the meaning of the word chosen.

Think about the names of businesses typically you will be competing with and think about how your customers would feel about using your potential name to decide which type of brand you want and from there you can build your shortlist of names.

2. The Companies House check

The next stop for the naming process should be the Companies House web service where you check whether the names you have chosen for your company are already taken or not.

This step of the process will likely whittle quite a few potential names away. Companies House also has a useful list of restricted name types which you should check.

3. Check the domain name is available 

Once you have this short list of names you need to check that you can get a website which is more or less in line with the company name.

This step of the process can be pretty tricky. For UK companies trading largely in the UK it is still the case that a www.companyname.co.uk URL is what your customers will expect to see. Prioritise this.

You will also want to defensively register variants of the name. Type in ‘domain name availability’ into your search engine and you will find a range of sites which where you can do this.

4. Search online for your shortlist of names

The last check you need to carry out is to make sure that when you type search terms for your business like “Charlie Custard” “Greeting Cards” that none of your competitors appear (in the UK and internationally), no dodgy brands or links come up – you’d be surprised what does – and there are no products or services belonging to other people which have the name you have chosen.

Once you have gone through these four steps, you’re pretty much ready to go ahead and choose your final name.

Sense check this with potential customers and friends to get a feeling as to whether the name is too off-the-wall to use but remember not everyone will love it.

As soon as you have decided, remember the domain name is as important as the company name so get these registered as quickly as possible.

Richard Edwards is managing director of Native Consultancy, a PR and marketing agency for growth businesses, www.nativeconsultancy.co.uk.

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