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Naming Your Business

business names ideasSelecting a name for your new business is very important. Your name is what people recognize; it is your brand. There are many differing opinions on whether a name should be meaningful (e.g. Whole Foods, Office Depot, Bank of America), initials (e.g. IBM, AT&T, GE), people’s names (e.g. Hewlett-Packard, Ford, Dell), abstract descriptive (e.g. Panasonic, Microsoft, Netflix) or abstract (e.g. Whirlpool, Apple, Lexar). We will leave that to a different article. As you can see from the examples, there are memorable names of all types.

A good name will convey what your business does, the key concepts or elements of your business and its uniqueness. Naming your business is not a trivial task; take the time and really think it through. It takes some creativity and a working knowledge of your industry and target market. The right name can gain your business fast recognition. The wrong name can stifle or ruin your chances of success.

For example, if you are selling pot pies, Fred’s Pot Pies is a good, simple, straightforward name. If you are selling pot pies, candy and organic vegetables, Fred’s Pot Pies really doesn’t describe your business. By looking at that name, customers won’t realize that you also sell candy and organic vegetables. Fred’s Foods would be a simple name that is more descriptive of your wider product line, but not very memorable. Fred’s Fine Foods is still simple, but the use of similar sounds makes it more memorable. It also allows you to expand in the future to other types of foods. Under an umbrella name like this, you could have other sub-brands as well, like Fred’s Fresh Fruits, Fred’s Candy Cravings, etc.

Business Name Ideas

Naming an Internet marketing business is the same as naming any other type of business. If you are going to promote products in multiple niches, you want a name that doesn’t align your business with a specific niche. Remember that you can have separate domain names for each of your products, so you don’t have to name your overall business in alignment with one of those products. For example, a company called MultiMerch Marketing could sell anything. All you can gather from the name is that they market merchandise. It’s catchy, simple, and allows you to branch off in whatever direction you choose. The individual domain names owned by MultiMerch would be niche-specific.

Business Name IdeasIf you are stuck on what to name your business there are a few ways to get ideas. The first is to write down what your business does. Is it Internet marketing, selling cell phone accessories, a charity or nonprofit, a community service organization? Whatever you are going to do, write it out. Then think about where you want the business to go as you become successful. You don’t want to pick a name like XYZ TVs if you plan to branch out into selling stereo equipment.

Once you have your business description on paper, look through the words you just wrote. Could any of them be put together to form a descriptive name? How about an abstract one? Write out as many possibilities as you can think of and then list them in order of preference.

Another way is to look at your industry and select related words. You can combine those with your description, your name or with each other. Be sure to say the names out loud as you come up with possibilities. If you are going for an abstract name, you want the sound of it to make you think of your industry. For example, Craftsman might make you think of building something, so it’s a good name for a line of tools. Acer means sharp, keen, eager or fierce in Latin, but it is not the greatest name for a computer company because it does not evoke thoughts of technology like Logitech.

You can also use your name (e.g. John Doe Marketing or Doe Phones) or initials (e.g. JD Marketing, D-Phones). Be careful with initials, however, because it takes much more work to let people know what you do. Fewer people these days know that AT&T stands for American Telephone & Telegraph, they just think of telecommunications because the brand is already globally recognized. If you named your company JDM for John Doe Marketing, how would you convey your service through your name? You would have to advertize. The point I’m trying to make here is that you want your name to elicit immediate recognition of what you do or at least your industry.

Does Anyone Else Own Your Name?

There are 3 important actions to take after you have a candidate list of names for your business. First, determine if another company has registered that name as a trademark or service mark. Visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website to find out. Click the “Search Marks” link and on the next page click “New User Form Search (Basic)”. When you get to the search form, make sure the “Plural and Singular” and “Live and Dead” radio buttons are selected. Enter your name into the Search Term box and click the “Submit Query” button. Read through all of the results. If you don’t find your name but do find something very similar (especially in the same industry), you may want to consider another name.

business names ideasSimilar sounding names can lead to brand confusion and even lawsuits. (Apple sues anyone who uses an apple in their corporate or product logos. It’s pretty ridiculous, but as a small business, paying to defend your right to use a name or logo can bankrupt you.) If you find your name is already in use, you will have to pick another from your list. If your search returns no results, a dead/abandoned trademark that is close or identical to the name you have chosen, or results that show nothing identical or close, you are in good shape and can proceed to the next step. For more information on trademarks, visit the USPTO link above.

Not every business trademarks their name with the USPTO. Often times they just register their business with the state. In most cases, this automatically registers their business name with that state. Therefore, you must visit the website of the Secretary Of State for the state in which you will incorporate and search their database to see if the name you have chosen is already in use. This step is typically required by state governments anyway, so you are really accomplishing two tasks here. Every state’s websites and laws are different. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with your state’s rules for incorporating. The pass/fail criteria for this search are the same as the USPTO search. If you make it through this and your name or nothing similar is in use, you can move on to the final step.

Getting Your Domain Name

This step is, in my opinion, the most frustrating step of all: the domain check. The best practice is to obtain the .com domain name (.org for charitable or nonprofit organizations) that is identical to your company name (e.g. www.starbucks.com). While the other extensions are OK (.us, .info, .tv, .ws, etc.), customers tend to find .com sites more trustworthy and legitimate. This step is extremely frustrating because you are most likely to eliminate names from your list here. Why? Domain squatters. This is the despicable practice of buying up domain names solely for the purpose of reselling them at a substantially higher price. You can spot a squatter because the site is a fake and provides no useful information. Right now, two squatter sites include www.invest.com and www.cellphone.com. They will open in new windows. Go take a look so you can see one of these phony squatter sites. Chances are you have come across something like it before and may not have even realized it.

Even worse are the sites that blatantly tell you the domain name is for sale for $10,000 or more. Right now the site www.cashbank.com is selling for 14,000 EUR ($18,325 USD). Look at the bottom left of that page and you will see the ‘for sale’ link. If you decided on that as your business name, you would be out of luck. Paying that amount of money for a domain is not usually viable for a new online business. Unfortunately, there is no law against this practice.

The Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act passed in 1999 states that people or companies who register domain names that are trademarks and/or individual’s names with the sole intent of selling the rights of the domain name to the trademark holder or individual for a profit are liable to civil action (lawsuit). This means a cybersquatter can’t buy intel.com the day it expired and try to sell it back to Intel for a million dollars. The same would hold true if they tried that with a celebrity’s name. But that’s all it covers.

business name ideasOnce you select a name for your business, buying the domain name is the next step. We recommend doing your name brainstorming and domain availability search at the same time; many of the good domain names are taken and you don’t want to commit to a business name if someone else already owns that domain and/or is already building a brand around that name. Our free DomainView™ tool is a great way to quickly and easily check domain name availability in real-time while you type.

Many people actually perform this step first. It is easier to find usable names based on trademark and state incorporation database searches than it is to find that same domain name still available. If you discover that the name of your business is available as a .com domain and is not trademarked or in use by a business in your state, buy it immediately!! Visit NameCheap, our preferred domain registrar, to register your business domain. They have the best prices (lower than GoDaddy) and offer WhoisGuard as a free service to protect your personal information.

We also recommend owning your own name even if you don’t start an online business. This can help keep your online reputation safe. I own www.”myfullname”.com just so nobody else can play with my identity or reputation (replace the part in quotes with your actual first and last name). Remember, if someone else buys your full name as a domain, you have no legal recourse against the owner unless you are a celebrity or well known figure (whose name is associated with a public image or brand). For example, a European company owns “my last name”.com. They have it for sale for 9,999 EUR and there is nothing I can do about it. I’m just glad I got my full name before someone else grabbed it.

 

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