Choosing and Registering A Business Name
Arguably one of the most important decision you’ll ever make in your business is your choice of business name. A good name can create the perception of integrity, professionalism or value-for-money and can be your business’s biggest asset.
Business name basics
If you haven’t thought of any names yet or feel the names you’ve come up with aren’t suitable, the first step is to relax as hardly anyone comes up with the perfect name quickly. Take some time to play with concepts, ideas and words to find a name that suits the business and your intended market rather than running ahead with a name that isn’t really suitable, resulting in possible additional costs further down the track.
Draw up a list of words and names that appeal to you as well as a list of words applicable to your business. Try different words and combinations and ask friends and family for input and feedback, then draw up a short list of potential names.
Other factors to consider
Consider how your name sounds when spoken and whether it is easy to spell when people search for you online or in a phone directory. Short, simple names are easier to remember for word-of-mouth referrals. Remember, if your name is easily misspelled or difficult to remember, you may miss a potential customer who is searching for you online.
If you can, also try to:
- Avoid SMS-style abbreviations or slang
- Think of a name that invokes a positive image or feeling
- Reference what you offer
- Include a byline for search engine optimization (SEO) and online advertising
Before you start using your name
Make sure your business name hasn’t been officially registered by another company. Check the official companies and trademark register. You won’t be able to register your company or trademark if your name is too similar to an existing business or is deemed inappropriate.
Also check registered Internet domain names. There are numerous domain providers that allow you to check this for free.
Search the Internet to make sure that there aren’t close variations in the words or meaning of the name that could be similar to an existing business. Finally, find out if your name has a different meaning in other cultures and languages.
Using your personal name for your business
Often in trades, a business will use the name of the owner, such as G.S. McDonalds Plumbers. This is usually fine if there is no confusion over a business in the same industry. G.S. McDonald Burgers, even if your name is G.S. McDonald, is unlikely to be approved due to the obvious confusion with McDonalds.
Pluses and minuses of using your own name:
- Your personal reputation is dependent on how you conduct yourself within your business
- You’re accountable for the product you sell or the services you provide
- The business may be harder to sell.
Registering your business name
If you’re a sole proprietor or you’re starting a partnership under a name that isn’t your real name, you’ll need to register for a ‘doing business as’ (DBA) trade name. It’s also sometimes referred to as an assumed or fictitious name.
Your DBA name will let your state government know that you’re doing business under a name different to your personal name or the legal name of your business.
A DBA filing may also be required on the local level instead of the state level. For example, if you’re going to operate within the city of Boston, you’d need to file for the DBA name within Boston itself at the local county clerk’s office. The rules can differ from city to city, county to county, state to state. Search your local state business name registration process.
Protecting your business name
Once you’ve thought of a name, you need to find out if someone else has beaten you to it on a nationwide level. Use the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) trademark search tool to find out if your proposed name (or something similar) already exists.
Once you’ve done that, you could protect your business name with a trademark. This will protect your logo and the brand name used on your products or services.
To give your business name legal protection, apply for a federally registered trademark by visiting the USPTO website.
Protecting your online business name
If you’re intending to make use of a website for your business (and you should), it’s important to register for a domain name to make sure your business name is available as an Internet address.
Try to choose a name that:
- Describes what your business does
- Contains good key words for search engine purposes
- Is unique
Like your business name, you need to make sure that no one else is already using your preferred address. Test your proposed domain name in the WHOIS database to see if it’s available.
You can increase protection by registering multiple domain names. For example, if your business name is Pre-loved Books, you might register ‘prelovedbooks.com’, ‘prelovedbooks.info’ and ‘prelovedbooks.us’.
If you have a name in mind but aren’t sure if it will be suitable, testing the market is a good way to gauge response before taking the plunge.
Ask family and friends to comment on the name as they might point out potential issues you may have overlooked. Also consult with existing or potential customers or a marketing professional for advice before you make a final decision.
Note that the resources listed here are meant solely as overviews and helpful information. Please consult experts regarding your specific security needs for your business.