How to Name – or Re-Name – Your Business

Choosing a name for your business carries a slew of possibilities … or repercussions. Here’s a short primer to help you choose the best name possible:

Know your audience
Your business name should relate to and be understood by your target market. Know your market demographics completely before even trying out various names.

“Septuagenarians aren’t going to buy ‘Homeboy Antacids,’ nor will teenagers flock to ‘Bob Hope Video Games,'” says branding authority Steven Mason.

Keep things short
Generally, we’re a lazy species — and that carries over to business names. Not only do shorter names tax us less when speaking or writing them out, they’re much easier to remember and pronounce. “Think about the names of companies you admire. They typically have a few things in common: their names are short, simple, easy to write and easy to remember, like Apple, Google, Virgin and Southwest,” says Ross Kimbarovsky of crowdSPRING, a Chicago-based design and creative concern.

Don’t get too cute
It’s often helpful to tinker with the wording of a name, such as acronyms and plays on words. How much depends on the business — burger joints, for instance, have much more leeway than funeral homes. But don’t get so carried away that you muddy the implicit message your name should convey.

Watch for unintended consequences
If your name has several words, be sure the acronym they make isn’t offensive — unless that’s part of your brand (see the next section for a prime example). Once you consider a name, do some research, checking to see if it means something in another language or can be misinterpreted or misread in some way.

Know the best process to choose a name
Given its importance, many businesses may downplay the method with which a name is determined. Here’s a checklist culled from suggestions:

• Don’t choose by committee. Either mandate that everyone agree or defer to the owner for the final choice.
• Don’t shortchange possibilities. One expert suggests no fewer than an initial list of 100, pared down slowly from there.
• Investigate derivations. Greek and Latin translations can uncover unexpected possibilities.
• Run a Web search. See if the name’s already in use and, if so, by whom, on the Internet and elsewhere.
• Go visual. How will the name look on business cards and stationery?
• Consider the future. Five years from now, will the name still capture your business?
• Let it grow on you. Once you’ve decided on a name, use it in conversation for a couple of days. If it doesn’t sit well, revisit your other candidates.
• Keep it simple. If you’re undecided on a suitable candidate, err on the side of directness and simplicity. Notes Jordan Gottlieb, “People should have a pretty good idea of what you do by knowing only your business name. My business is named Go Green Fundraising. Can you guess what we do?”

Jeff Wuorio is a veteran freelance writer and author based in southern Maine. He writes about small-business management, marketing and technology issues. His blog appeared on www.entrepreneur.com.

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