Choosing a Good Business Name
This is usually one of the fun parts of starting a business, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take it seriously.
A great company name differentiates you from your competitors, generates interest from customers, and invites further investigation. That’s why it’s so important to get it right.
You have probably already thought of a few good contenders. But before you settle on your business name, there are some important things you need to consider.
Is it descriptive?
A good name provides information about who you are, what you do, and how you do it.
If you’re providing a personal or local service, you can also include that information in your name. For example, “Suzi’s Shiatsu” helps to portray personalised service and “Sydney Shiatsu” tells you where the business is located. Whereas a name like “Unkink and Unwind” could mean pretty much anything!
The right name not only represents your business, it can also help you to attract the right type of customer. For example, a creative business should have an imaginative name. And if you operate in a niche market, you can use jargon or a play on words to help attract your target market. Get creative, but try to avoid being corny. Remember that not everyone has the same sense of humour that you do.
Is it memorable?
Word of mouth is an important way to grow your business. That means it’s important for you to have a name that is easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and easy to remember. The more memorable your business name is, the easier you make it for your customers to recommend you to their colleagues.
Using normal spelling also helps potential customers to find your web site and phone number. Unusual or creative spelling may just lead customers to think that you can’t spell!
You should also think about the acronyms, abbreviations and compound-names you can create from your business name. For example, you may choose to have a longer, descriptive name that can be shortened to something snappy. As the business becomes more successful, you can start to move away from the original longer name, just like Queensland and Northern Territory Air Services became QANTAS and Federal Express Corporation became FedEx.
Is it flexible?
Think of all the different ways you’ll want to use the new name, and make sure it’s a good fit for your business:
- Can you represent the business name graphically to create a logo? Is it a good length for printing on business cards?
- Are you going to branch out into other areas in future? Is your name too specific? Will your name grow with you?
- Are you looking to take on a partner or sell the business in future? If so, you may decide not to include your own name as part of the business name.
Is it unique?
Make sure your business name is not too similar to any of your competitors.
When names are too similar, customers may forget whether they want to call “Cheap Widgets” or “Cheaper Widgets” or “Cheapest Widgets”. You may gain some business from your competitors, but it’s just as likely you’ll lose some too. Plus customers may think the businesses are related, and if one of your competitors does the wrong thing, their bad reputation may negatively affect you.
You also need to avoid choosing a name that is too similar to an existing business. If the other business thinks you’re trading on their success or infringing on their trademark, they can legally challenge your use of the name and you may have to go through this whole process again!
Does it present the right image?
Choose a name that communicates a positive image for the type of work you’re going to be doing. For example, “Fly by Night” might work for a discount airline that only flies at night, but it’s probably not the best name to use for a consulting company or tradesman.
Your name should also differentiate you from your competitors. If there’s something that you do better than everyone else, try to incorporate that into your name. For example, if your competitors’ cheap widgets are being imported, and you’re able to provide better-quality, locally-made widgets for the same price, why not say so in your business name? Calling yourself “All-Aussie Widgets” will not only differentiate you from all the “Cheap” companies, it will also come before them in alphabetical listings!
You also want a name that encourages people to find out more about you. Some names are so clever or funny or interesting that they act like an invitation, encouraging potential customers to investigate further. For example, what’s really on the menu at “The Road Kill Cafe” in Darwin? (See this photo if you're curious.)
Is it available?
Before you spend money printing new business cards, you need to make sure that no-one else is using your new name. You can search www.asic.gov.au/search to see whether the name is already in use. (Note that if you want to operate nationally, you need to register your business name in all states, or ideally, register your trading name as a trademark.)
You should also ensure that no-one else has the business name registered as a trademark, web domain, social media ID, or 1300/1800 smartnumber (phone numbers that spell your business name).
Once you’ve ticked all of the above boxes, and you have a truly descriptive, interesting, interesting and unique name, you’re ready to go. Remember that if you need any help or advice setting up that smartnumber, you can give Alltel a call on 1300 ALLTEL.