We’ve been trading since autumn 08 but have been extremely unfortunate in our earlier attempts to secure a great-sounding name for our business. The result of this debacle is that we are now facing the third change of name, which is extremely frustrating, so truly this needs to be the last and decisive choice made that we won’t live to regret.

One of the really disabling side-effects of this is that we have not therefore been able to properly market ourselves to new customers and brand our website. For a small IT business that wants to grow, this is an utter show-stopper. It’s great that we have had work from existing customers keeping us busy, otherwise we probably would have been out of business by now.

Without going into the particulars of our own story and mentioning any names, here are some tips on choosing a name that I can share with people considering making a leap into the worlds of enterprise:

  • Your name embodies your brand. It is the first thing people will know about you. 

It needs to work for your business, be as meaningful and relevant as possible, and memorable for the right reasons. The tests could be: Will it feel right picking up the phone and saying your company name out loud? And – Will your colleagues feel proud to work for a company with that name?

  • Meaningful name: The name of your business could be anything you want it to be – it could include, or be, a made-up word, or a combination of real dictionary words, or it could have your own name in it (as in Joe Bloggs Solutions Ltd, for instance).

However if you are to become a limited company and are keen to build a strong brand, there is an argument for trying to come up with a great-sounding memorable word that might or might not also allude to the nature of your business (e.g. contain a reference to “web” if you are websire designer, or “glass” if you are a glazing company).

Alternatively you could pitch for a name totally unrelated to your industry – think Apple computers, for instance, which is a very strong brand in its own right.

  • Brainstorm ideas: Ask for input from others and get a brainstorming session going. Consider whether the name can be mispronounced, or might resemble something you’d rather it did not (rude?).

Get opinions from as many people as you can, as they might spot something you have overlooked.

  • Do your research. Choosing a name will be the hardest thing you will be faced with as a new start-up. If you think it is easy, you probably have not done enought thinking and not done your research.

For instance, if you come up with a name for your company, is there a competitor out there that has a similar-sounding name? They might have grounds to object to the newcomer’s choice of a name if you are in the same industry. So check publicly available records, such as – in the UK – Companies House and Intellectual Property Office websites.

  • Passing off / Palming off: The first one is a UK concept, the second the corresponding US concept. Trading under a name similar to another established enterprise could make you liable under “passing off” laws where it can be claimed that you are presenting your goods and services as someone else’s and are thus damaging their business. Legal fees to get you out of this one can be hetfy.

For a tiny snippet of legal stuff, check out this site. There is plenty more similar information out there.

  • Get legal advice: Expensive as it might be, it is worth getting legal advice on whether your chosen name is not going to infringe anyone else’s trademarks, by talking to lawyers and getting them to do professional searches – unless you have done this before and are 100% confident.

For new or relatively inexperienced start-ups, tt might be money very well spent (we wish we’d done it before the first name was chosen!)

  • Website: Having a .com site is top of the wish list for many even in the UK, but available names are like golddust: not many are available, and the ones you can buy might cost dear. Consider also registering other websites, like .co.uk, .info, etc

If you come up with an invented word that does not exist in the dictionary, you will likely be able to grab a .com site, although you might be surprised to find that your own brilliant idea has already been thought of by someone else already!

If you decide to use a dictionary word or even an acronym for your site, beware these are all taken, and if you find some for sale, they are not cheap! “Real” words .com sites can cost from £5000 ($8500) and higher. Much, much higher in fact.

Some other very sound advice on domain names can be found here and here. The second link makes suggestions as to possible ways to brain-storm new domain names. 

  • Trade mark: Have you thought of trademarking your name? It is not essential for every company, but if you have intellectual property then it is worth considering.

You can of course trade mark not the company name, but your future product names, which just postpones the pain of choosing a good trademarkable name.

Whichever approach you take, you will find that you might not be able to trademark a directly descriptive business name (e.g. something like “Web solutions” for an web design company cannot be trademarked), so check out the guidelines.

Best of luck!


Copyright 2009 by CuriouslyInspired