How to choose a name for your small business

Editorial Team

6 min read
Man with pen, notepad, and laptop

What’s in a name? An awful lot, it turns out. A great business name can create a strong brand identity, help you stand out from the crowd, and promote authentic connections with customers. But coming up with a powerful name—one that’s simple, memorable, and descriptive—is no easy feat. Did you know that Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin almost named their search engine Backrub? It’s true—Google it.

That’s why we created this helpful guide. Read on to learn how to come up with a business name that resonates with your target audience and helps to drive traffic.

Why your business name is important

First impressions matter because they have a tendency of sticking. The right name should instantly communicate what you do, why you exist, and the value you deliver. But perhaps more importantly, you want that impression to stick. Pick the wrong name, and not only might clients bypass your business the first time, they may continue to maintain the wrong idea. 

In addition to garnering interest from casual browsers, a good name can also influence the reach your business enjoys through word-of-mouth marketing, social media engagement, and general press coverage.

How to choose a business name

Here are some best practices to help you create your small business name. 

1. Think about why your business exists

Take some time to brainstorm what problems your business solves—and what types of people might be facing those problems. The “why” of your business can inform your business name in a direct or indirect way. For example, Alan Vogel of Vertrauen Consulting wanted customers to feel safe leaving their financial information and taxes in his hands. Capitalizing on the association of Germans and fiscal responsibility, Vogel named his business “Vertrauen” because it means “trust and confidence” in German.

2. Connect the name to your story

Every business has a story to tell, and you can reflect that uniqueness in your name. In fact, you might even gain inspiration by writing a thoughtful “About Us” page to really zero in on what makes your brand special. Writing about your story has the added benefit of helping you think about what kinds of consumers you hope to attract. 

In fact, connecting your name to a story can even lead to more direct customer engagement down the line. For instance, Bola Alaketu loves explaining the meaning behind her restaurant’s name, Olobe’s Kitchen, to hungry customers. In her native Yoruba, a language spoken in Nigeria, “Olobe” means “the best cook.” Translating her restaurant’s name allows her to make deeper connections with customers by explaining how to engage with the food she serves in a more authentic way. Alaketu says, “I love the part of explaining and showing them how to eat. Most of our food, like fufu and amala, we eat with our bare hands. We explain to customers that if you want to eat it the authentic way, you have to use your hands.” 

3. Keep it simple yet descriptive

When it comes to marketing, simplicity is the name of the game. You don’t want customers to expend any effort trying to remember a lengthy name, so avoid choosing a clever name that requires too much thinking. Of course, in some cases the opposite is true—if silliness is part of your brand you may want to lean into that aspect in your name. 

4. Choose a name that is easy to pronounce

Because word-of-mouth marketing is essential for long-term growth, it’s imperative to choose a business name that anyone can easily pronounce and share. Since many of your future customers might find you via an internet search, it’s also important your business name is easy to spell and type.

5. Pick a name that isn’t already taken

Every state has laws preventing two or more companies in the same niche from using the same or similar names. So if there’s already a hardware shop in your state called “Zenith Supplies,” you likely won’t be able to use any variation of this name for your store. And, since the whole point of choosing a name is to distinguish your offerings in a crowded marketplace, you’d probably still want a different name even if your state allowed businesses to share names.

Fortunately, there are free online resources to help you quickly check business name availability within each state. The U.S. Patent Office also has a searchable trademark database.

It is recommended that you wait to buy a domain name or set up social media accounts until you’ve verified whether your desired name is available. Otherwise, you might spend more time undoing your work if your preferred name is already taken.

The more practical aspects of choosing a name for your business

Once you’ve covered all the bases—picking an available and pronounceable name that describes what you do, reflects your brand, and resonates with your core audience—you’re ready to make it official. For that, check out our dedicated article on how to register your small business name in your home state.

Sometimes, businesses will use shorter, catchier names for marketing and longer ones for legal purposes. This can be a tricky, and you may want to consult with an attorney if you have any question as to whether a name is available for use. If you plan on doing something similar, read our post on filing a “doing business as” name.

At this stage, you’ll need to apply for an employer identification number (EIN) using the IRS online application form. In addition to filing taxes, you’ll need this EIN for everything from opening a business banking account to securing a merchant account to accepting payments on your POS system.

Hopefully you have a better understanding of how to come up with an effective and authentic business name. The sooner you officially lock one down, the sooner you can launch your business and start attracting customers. 

When you’re finally ready to make that first sale, let us know. At Clover, we specialize in scalable point-of-sale and payment solutions specifically designed for entrepreneurs and startups looking to grow their operations.

To learn more about our approach to fast and convenient business management and payment processing services, contact a Clover Business Consultant today.

This information is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial, or tax advice. Readers should contact their attorneys, financial advisors, or tax professionals to obtain advice with respect to any particular matter.

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