The name you pick for your business can have a huge impact on the way that customers and investors will view and connect with your brand. Choose a really effective company name and it can be one of your most valuable marketing tools. But a bad choice could stop your business from taking off.

In this article, we share our top 10 tips to help you choose the best company name and avoid the most common pitfalls.

1. Check the company name is not already being used

You may already have a company name you love, perhaps one that sparked you into setting up a business, but before you become too enamoured, you need to check that this name is going to work for your business.

It is far easier to adapt a name before you launch your business, than further down the line when you are already starting to build up your brand, so make sure you get your name right from the start.

There are a few websites that can help you ensure your preferred name is available and won’t cause you legal issues down the line. After doing a general web search on the name, Companies House is a good next port of call. Its WebCheck service will show you anyone using the same or similar names. However, as sole traders do not have to register with Companies House, it’s also worth checking business directories such as the National Business Register website, which contains details of millions of UK sole traders. Also check the latest government guidelines.

2. Conduct a trade mark search

If the name you want for your business is available, you should ensure that it is not the same as an existing trade mark. You can do this by checking the UK Intellectual Property Office’s trade marks register.

Registered trade marks are valuable assets, protecting brands by preventing someone using similar signs and stealing their customers. Your could face legal action if you inadvertently use a trade mark already registered to another company.

3. Avoid names that limit growth

Choosing a name that narrows scope for potential growth, perhaps by focussing on a single product or city, should be avoided.

While it can be an effective way to establish a local presence, a company name that focusses on a place or product could cause future issues if you alter your product line or move to a different location.

4. Get the right domain name

There is a still a strong preference for businesses to use a .com domain name rather than alternatives such as .org, .biz, .net, .co.uk etc. Customers often associate a .com name with a more established, global business, and securing one can be a business investment.

Check the availability of domain names on sites such as GoDaddy or Bluehost. If your preferred option is already taken don’t despair, many domain owners are willing to sell their name for the right price.

You should also take a look at your preferred social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and grab your desired business name there.

5. Avoid names that are hard to spell or pronounce

Unusual words and creative spelling can help your business stand out from the crowd – such as Google – or make it difficult to search and pronounce. If customers can’t remember the name of your business, and are wary of saying it out loud, it will badly affect your word-of-mouth recommendations.

Jeff Bezos originally wanted to call Amazon ‘Cadabra’ (a shortened version of abracadabra), but was put off when a lawyer mistook the word for ‘cadaver’, i.e. corpse!

6. Keep it simple

Try to choose a company name that is short, simple, catchy and relatable, and conveys the purpose or spirit of your business. It needs to appeal to your target market without being so on-trend that it is likely to become out-of-date very quickly.

7. Avoid ‘same as’ names

It might seem clever to alter a well-known brand name slightly for your own business, after all people often make mistakes when they type in names and this could benefit you!

However, your name cannot be the same as another registered company’s name. If your name is too similar to another company’s name or trade mark you may have to change it if someone makes a complaint and their name was registered before yours.

We have experience in helping clients choose alternative names. Something as simple as adding the word ‘services’ can avoid the chance of a passing off legal action – which is where one business tries to take the trade of another company by confusing customers with the use of a similar name.

8. Make it meaningful or relevant

It can be difficult to find a name that describes exactly what a business does or sells. It’s therefore worth considering a company name that is meaningful to you and relates to what your business is all about. Be creative, but avoid being too clever and confusing people. If you have to explain your name all the time then it’s overly complicated.

9. Test the name and get feedback

Sometimes names look really good on paper – but don’t sound great when said out loud, or cause spelling difficulties when typed into a search engine.

While you don’t want to settle for a boring name, you do want your employees to be able to say where they work without getting confused, and you want you business name to resonate with your target audience.

Trial your names with friends and family, make a list of your 10 favourites and see which produce positive feedback.

10. Avoid offensive company names

Check that any abbreviations of your company name are not offensive or rude. Companies House will reject any names they deem offensive, such as swear words.

Also if you are going to be marketing your business globally be careful to avoid humorous or upsetting translations. The Coca-Cola name in China was first read as ‘Ke-kou-ke-la,’ which means ‘bite the wax tadpole’ or ‘female horse stuffed with wax’ depending on the dialect.

What’s in a name?

Finding the right name for your company can have a significant impact on your success. Get it wrong and you could not only fail to connect with customers, but also face business and legal issues.

A clear, powerful name can be the core of your marketing strategy, differentiating you from your competitors, adding brand value and targeting the customers you want. You will have to live with your business name for a long time, so take the time to get it right from the start.

If you’d like to know more about choosing the right company name, request a call back. And check out our quick guide to how to form a company in the UK.