Choosing a business name is one of the most important decisions that an entrepreneur can make. The name of a company forms the foundation that all other factors build upon. A weak name can set up an entire business for failure, regardless of its products or services. Avoid overused clichés and choose a name that will stand out, communicate strongly, and brand your business for success.

Check for Common Terms

Abandoned General Store

Image via Flickr by runran

One of the easiest ways to determine whether a business name is cliché is to break it apart and look at each individual piece. Is your business name hiding some bland words or overused phrases? Some examples are words like “general,” “peak,” “summit,” “quality,” “quick,” or “tech.” Many cliché words are closely associated with your industry. While you want to avoid sounding vanilla in the overall business landscape, you especially want to choose something that will stand out in your niche.

In addition to overused terms, you should also steer clear of tired techniques. Smashing two words together will certainly give you a fresh phrase, but portmanteaus are somewhat overdone. Adding “quali-” to the beginning of a word so customers think of quality, or “tranqui-” for a peaceful feel isn’t the most efficient way to elicit these associations.

Purposeful misspellings are cliché as well. Words like “qwik” or “tastee” may get your point across, but they rarely lend a sleek and professional feel to your company. Think carefully about the type of image that you want to project before you replace “c” with “k” or insert a “z” in place of an “s.” The tactic is hardly original, and it will position your business as distinctly casual or even quirky. This may work for you, but take the time to consider if this type of cliché is really what you’re going for.

Consider the Deeper Meaning

You need to strike a careful balance when you choose a meaningful company name. While you don’t want to incorporate too many overused words, there’s nothing wrong with the word “plumbing” if that’s what you do. The bigger challenge here is avoiding words that are too obscure. Associating your business with a Greek goddess or Latin phrase won’t always have the desired effect, particularly if your audience isn’t familiar with these.

If you’re marketing to scientists, by all means, insert a little humor in your business name that relates to the composition of chemicals. Don’t, however, expect a mainstream audience to go to the trouble of uncovering obscure hidden messages.

Look for Evergreen Characteristics

Open Phone Book

Image via Flickr by Jamiesrabbits

Clichés often go hand in hand with pop culture. Carefully consider whether your business name will be as relevant in five or ten years. Some phrases are sure to date your company, and they may hold you back in the future. Web 2.0 is hip now, but “2.0” will soon be a thing of the past, and any company associated with it will look stagnant as the rest of the world moves ahead to “3.0” and beyond.

Watch out for slang terms as well. We all know that catch words like “groovy” are long gone. Keep in mind that the terms used today will fade away just as fast. You don’t want your company to fade with them.

Location-based names can hold you back as well. When you’re just starting out, a city name can seem like a great asset because it sets you apart as a local service provider. However, this name can quickly become a detriment to business growth when potential customers pass you up because they assume that a company with “Indianapolis” in the name won’t reach them in another city.

Size Up the Competition

As mentioned above, cliché terms are often closely associated with your industry. Identify your top competitors both on a national scale and locally. If you’re operating a local restaurant, you’re competing not only with the big chains in the area, but the other local specialties as well. If your top five competitors all have “Baked Goods” in their names, you may want to steer clear of this obvious choice.

Consult the Internet as well, and see what pops up when you enter your proposed business name. You may have snagged the domain name for your business, but this doesn’t give your Web page exclusive rights to the Google results. If your business name pulls up your direct competitors or even unrelated businesses that you don’t want to be associated with, you should step back and reconsider.

The Rebranding Challenge

It’s obviously ideal to pick a pertinent business name when you’re just starting out. However, if you’ve been operating under a name that just isn’t working, you may find that rebranding your company under a different name is just what you need. The only thing worse than choosing a bad name to begin with is sticking with a bad name because you’re too stubborn to admit that it’s crippling you.

There are many ways to rebrand, so don’t assume that you need to start over completely. If your business name incorporates one of those obscure Greek goddesses, you could strengthen it without overhauling the name by using a clearer tag line or adding a figure of the goddess to your company logo. You can overcome the local limitations of a city name with a clarifying tag line as well.

Protecting What’s Yours

Once you’ve landed on a strong business name, take the appropriate steps to protect it so you don’t have to rebrand simply because of a copycat competitor. Registering a trademark isn’t as overwhelming as it seems. You can trademark both your name and your logo. Doing so separately offers broader protection. Snagging a great business name is challenging enough. When you have one that you love, it’s important to secure it for your exclusive use.

The right business name will make it easy for customers to find, understand, and remember your company. Stand out with a creative name that’s free from tired clichés and overused tactics. Paired with an eye-catching logo and a strong marketing campaign, the right name will set you up for lasting success.

 

Trademark attorney Xavier Morales

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