Choosing and Registering a Business Name
Arguably one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your small business journey is choosing your business’s name.A good name can create the perception of integrity, professionalism, and value - and can be your business’s biggest asset.
Business Name BasicsIf 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 straight away. 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 ConsiderConsider 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 your services and offerings
- 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. Be sure to 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
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 Atlanta, you’d need to file for the DBA name at the Clerk of the Superior Court in the County where your business is located. 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 NameOnce 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, and 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’.