Business Name

Definition: The name by which people know your business. Different from your dba--which is the legal name you register for your business, this is the name you'd use to advertise and sell your products and services.

What's in a name? If you're in business, the name of your company is probably one of your most valuable assets. An effective name is one that establishes a strong identity and describes the type of business you're conducting. It's not unusual for companies to go through one or more name changes as they grow. Name changes can reflect a change in the focus of your company or a change in the market. In his early years in the footwear business, Philip Knight called his athletic shoe company Blue Ribbon Sports when its primary business was as a U.S. distributor for Japan-based Onitsuka Tiger. Later, Knight decided to market his own line of shoes, which he named after the Greek goddess of victory; he eventually changed the name of the company to Nike Inc.

Name changes may also be necessary when conflicts arise with names of other companies in the field as you expand into new markets. eBay founder Pierre Omidyar originally called his online auction service Auction Web. Later, trying to come up with something catchier, he picked Echo Bay. When he tried to register the name for his website, however, he found that echobay.com was already taken. Omidyar picked eBay from a list of available URLs that were similar to Echo Bay.

Choosing a name for a company can be the first step in developing a new identity for the business and establishing a new image. It's the first impression the public will have of your growing company. Today, coming up with a good business name is more difficult than ever because many of the best names have already been trademarked. But with advertising costs and competition on the rise, a good name is crucial to creating a memorable business image. In short, the name you choose can make or break your business.

Start by deciding what you want your name to communicate. To be most effective, your company name should reinforce the key elements of your business. The first and most important step in choosing a name is deciding what your business is.

Should your name be meaningful? Most experts say yes. The more your name communicates to consumers, the less effort you must exert to explain it. Specific names make sense if you intend to stay in a narrow niche forever. However, if you have any ambitions of growing or expanding, you should find a name that's broad enough to accommodate your growth. How can a name be both meaningful and broad? Descriptive names tell something concrete about a business--what it does, where it's located and so on. Suggestive names are more abstract. They focus on what the business is about. Would you like to convey quality? Convenience? Novelty? These are the kinds of qualities that a suggestive name can express.

When choosing a business name, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Choose a name that appeals not only to you, but also to the kind of customers you're trying to attract.

  • To get customers to respond to your business on an emotional level, choose a comforting or familiar name that conjures up pleasant memories.

  • Don't pick a name that's long or confusing.

  • Stay away from cute puns that only you understand.

  • Don't use the work "Inc." after your name unless your company is actually incorporated.

  • Don't use the word "Enterprises" after your name; this term is often used by amateurs.
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