How to Select a Great Company Name

Choosing the perfect name for your business can be a difficult task.
Choosing the perfect name for your business can be a difficult task. (Image: David Lees/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

For every rule you'll find about naming a company, you can find another rule that states the opposite. If you're having a hard time sorting through all the research and the creative process, there are several marketing, branding and naming agencies that will be happy to take your money and provide you with strategic name options. However, it can be an enjoyable and meaningful process to go through yourself. Use rules and tips as guidelines for business naming, but remember that successful companies break rules all the time.

Brainstorm freely. Allow yourself and any colleagues you have to create mind maps with as many ideas as possible. Write down any and all combinations of words and phrases that come to mind. List any words associated with your field, area of expertise, products and services, values, vision, mission, corporate culture philosophy and the story that brought you to start up this business. Use a thesaurus to find unusual words.

Determine the top one or two things that you want to communicate about your brand with your company name. This can include qualities like fun, savvy, high-tech, traditional, dependable and creative. Then consider all the words and phrases you wrote down while brainstorming and write down a list of the ones that communicate the one or two brand qualities you most want people to associate with your company.

Weigh the advantages of an abstract name like "Google" versus a descriptive one like the "National Broadcasting Company." Abstract names are often more unusual, and make it easier to avoid trademark infringement, since commonly used words and phrases are usually taken by one or more businesses. Descriptive names make it easy for people to know what your business is about. Both approaches can be successful. Either way you go, strive for a unique name that sets you apart from competitors. Avoid cliches and generic-sounding names.

Consider variations on words like your name, words in other languages or descriptive words you want associated with your brand. Sometimes just adding, changing or removing a couple of letters from a word can provide you with a good name. Bomgar Corp. is named for CEO and founder Joel Bomgaars.

Do a trademark search once you've narrowed it down to a few favorites; see if any other companies have trademarked the name. This is essential if you plan to officially register your business, and it protects you from future lawsuits. It also gives you the power to sue other businesses that try to use the name after you trademark it.

Search for your top name contenders online. See if there are any businesses in your field with very similar names, and check to see that your domain names are available. If possible, you want to avoid having a name or domain that is too similar to a competitor, because you could be unwittingly sending customers who are looking for your site to the competition.

Narrow your choices based on which ones have not been trademarked or taken as domain names by others, unless you can purchase the domain from whoever has it.

Hire a designer to create potential logos for your top choices if you are still deciding between two or more names. It can help to see how a name can become a clear visual identity.

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