How Do I Choose The Right Name For My LLC?
When it comes to naming a business, the old adage is true: “There’s nothing new under the sun.” It can be frustrating to discover the perfect name for your business, only to find that someone else is already using it. But, don’t despair. It is possible to come up with a new, unique name for your business that expresses your company identity, conveys what you do clearly (if this is important to you), and most critically, is not being used by a similar business. Below are our top ten tips for choosing the right name for your business:
1. Brainstorm possibilities
This is the fun part. Get a pad and a pen, and write down every name you can think of that might work for your business. You can explore names that describe your industry, names that convey your philosophy, metaphoric and symbolic names, names that utilize your own personal name or initials, and even abstract names that don’t literally describe your core product or services, but have significance for you. In this phase, you should think about the brand personality you want to convey, the type of customer you want to attract, and your naming goals. Consider what you want the name to say about your business, and then explore as many ways as you can to say it.
2. Don’t fall in love — yet.
At this point, it’s best to keep your options open. You may be surprised to learn just how many of your favorite names are already being used by other businesses. So, try to be flexible and have an open mind. The more naming possibilities you can come up with now, the greater chance you have of finding one fitting name that you can actually use.
3. Research your competitors.
Before you decide on the right name for your business, it’s important to check in and see what your competitors are doing. After all, you want to stand out in the marketplace — and, of course, you can’t use a name that a competitor is already using. This step is best taken after the initial brainstorm session, but before you perform a trademark search. This way, you won’t limit your creativity, and you also won’t waste time searching for trademarks on a name that you already know you can’t use. Simply perform an online search for businesses like yours, and see what comes up. Looking back at your original list, cross off any names that are too similar to competitors. While this stage may clear some choices from the table, it may also make room for new ones. Seeing the names your competitors chose for their businesses may inspire you to explore new lines of thinking.
4. Run a free trademark search on your top ten choices.
Now, it’s time to select the ten names that you like best. These are the names you’ll search first. Decide what’s most important to you. Do you need a name that clearly communicates what your business does? Do you want a name that sounds edgy and youthful, luxurious and exclusive, or professional and descriptive? Should the name be easy to spell and remember? Once you have your top ten list, search each one using the United States Trademark and Patent Office (USTPO) website (click on the “Search Trademarks” button half-way down the page. This is a free search and you can look for as many names as you like — narrowing it down to ten simply helps to streamline the process.
Although you do not have to trademark your company name, the USTPO search is useful in checking availability of your desired name, because you can quickly determine whether or not a competitor has already trademarked the name you wish to use. If you want to learn more about trademarks, visit http://www.uspto.gov/ and click the “trademarks” link.Wondering whether or not to trademark your business name? →
5. Check the industry.
If the name you desire is already being used by another company, all is not lost. The real problem is when two companies in the same service area and industry, who provide a similar service, are vying for the same name. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office seeks to eliminate confusion between similarly named companies, so if this condition exists, you’re unlikely to get approval. However, if you’re a plumber and the other company using your name is a healthcare provider, you might be in the clear.
6. Run your own Google search.
Simply type the business name into the search window of your Internet browser, and see what comes up. If another company has already purchased the rights to www.thecompanynameyouwant.com, you may not be able to use it — unless it is for sale. Sometimes, a domain name provider will buy a name and “park” a website there, to hold the spot. They will often include a phone number or email address to contact if you wish to purchase the url. In contrast, if the company name you want is being used by a true business that would compete with yours, then you should cross this name off your list, or explore other options. See below.
7. Get creative.
In some cases, you may be able to add a word or two to distinguish your business. “Apple” could become “Apple Tree,” for example — or, “Apple Tree” could be clarified as “Apple Tree Landscaping.” Just don’t add too many words, or your business name will be too difficult for customers to remember. One to three words are ideal. If you absolutely need four or more words, it is of course at your discretion. However, customers may refer to your company by its acronym in cases like this. (So, just make sure the name doesn’t spell anything offensive.)
8. Ignore your English teacher’s advice.
Many companies use “alternate spellings” to differentiate their company names, intentionally misspelling a word or adding a letter to convey a sense of playfulness, excitement or personalization. “Toys R Us,” “SpaceX,” and “iPhone” all use a combination of real words and misspelled words or additional letters.” A bit of judiciousness is required in determining whether this technique is best for your business. For example, if your school provides educational services, playful misspellings may not be in your best interests. However, if you’re in the “XTreme sports” industry, the door is pretty much open.
9. Make up new words.
If all the words you like are taken, invent a new word. You can do this by creating mashups of two or more words you like, combining letters and even numbers that symbolize attributes of your brand, and mixing Latin root words, or parts of words in other languages. Pharmaceutical companies employ this strategy frequently. The word “Viagra” didn’t exist until the drug did — but now, everyone knows what it means.
10. Consider potential urls for your business.
In the past, companies used their names to compete for visibility in the yellow pages, often going as far as naming their businesses “AAA Auto” or “A+ Primary School,” so that they might be listed first in the phone book. Now, businesses compete for online visibility, and many will pay big money for urls they perceive as valuable. This has even spawned a separate industry of purchasing potentially popular urls, just to sell them back to companies who might later wish to buy them. Because of this phenomenon, virtually any combination of a major noun + the letters “.com” is taken. However, that does not mean it is not available for purchase. You may pay big bucks for the exact url you want — or, you may look for alternatives that use different words, or even different extensions, such as .org, .net, or .biz. If the url you want is available and priced reasonably, purchase it as soon as possible, before someone else does.
What’s in a name? The future of your business.
If creating a name for your business sounds like a lot of work, it is. However, the rewards are well worth it. This process can save valuable time, money, and hassle in the long-term. When you apply for an LLC, you will need to select a business name — and if you select a name without running preliminary searches, you risk rejection of your application, without return of state fees. If that’s not enough, just think about the costs of changing your name and all associated promotional materials and signage months or years down the line, or responding to lawsuits if a competitor challenges your right to use the name.
We hope this article has been helpful, and wish you great success with your future business — whatever you choose to call it.