How to choose a business name

By Gayle Bryant

How do you come up with a business name that aptly communicates what you do and makes you stand out from the crowd?

So you've spent the Christmas break coming up with a great business concept. You've scoped it out and come up with a workable plan. All you need now is a name. How do you come up with one that makes you stand out from the crowd?

Let your name communicate what you do

The main point about a business name is that it needs to communicate to your customers what you do or how you do it. People often try to invent new words for their business name, such as an amalgam of family names, but this can be confusing and doesn't communicate a clear message. If your name is too obscure you will likely spend a lot of time explaining what it is you do.

What to avoid

Generic names should be avoided. These are ones that use a common noun to describe the business, such as cakes, photos or toys. It's hard to differentiate yourself using words like these and the name is often difficult to register. You should also steer clear of long names as they can be tricky to remember and spell. Numbers and initials should also be avoided.

Making your business name too geographically small could create problems in the future as well. For example, if you name your business Sydney Designers, you may need to rebrand if you decide to expand outside Sydney.

Enlist your friends and family

Start with a list of ideas and pass them around family and friends. It's easy to get too close to a favourite and your friends may be able to spot something about the name that isn't obvious to you.

Check its availability

Once you've narrowed down your name to a handful of options, check whether they are available. You can achieve this by performing a search on the Australian Securities and Investments Commission's website. If the name is available then check whether the domain name is also free. You can do this at one of the many domain registrars. Checking whether or not a domain is free is crucial because in today's business environment it is impossible to operate without a web presence.

Besides looking into the availability, it's also important check whether your proposed business name infringes any trade marks.

Adding a descriptor

As well as a name, you might consider adding a one-line statement that highlights your company's key selling point - think Toyota's "Oh what a feeling!" tagline. The aim of this statement is to cement what you do in your customers' minds and give them a reason why they should buy from you.

Naming your business is one of the most important decisions you'll make early on, so ensure you spend an appropriate amount of time choosing the right one. And if in doubt, test it out on potential customers to guarantee you've encapsulated exactly what it is you do and the message you want to communicate.


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