Wondering how to create a catchy business name?
I know, it can seem overwhelming naming your new business. No worries. As an experienced Marketing Consultant, I am here to help you come up with a great business name.
Come along with me as I show you how to name your business step by step, using real-life examples with the exact business naming process I use to help my startup clients come up with their best new company name.
Getting your perfect business name requires research, brainstorming, knowing the different types of business names and how to register them plus protect your new company name with trademarks.
Once you have created your unique new business name, one that is both catchy and memorable, you can use its brand building power to grow your business. A creative business name is a significant competitive advantage for success.
Entrepreneurs, let’s get busy naming your business!
- STEP 1- RESEARCH NAMES
- STEP 2 – BRAINSTORM NAME IDEAS
- STEP 3 – CHECKLIST TO SELECT YOUR BUSINESS NAME
- STEP 4 – CHECK NAME AVAILABILITY & TRADEMARK
STEP 1- RESEARCH NAMES
Different Types of Business Names
Know that businesses don’t just have one name. In fact, all businesses need five (5) different types of business names including; company name, brand name, legal entity name, website domain name, and social media profile names.
Each business name type has a different format and usage – plus a different way to obtain and protect. The table below contains the information you need to know (including costs) about each business name type and how to get your perfect business name reserved.
5 Types of Business Names Every Company Needs
|Uses||How to Get & Protect – plus the Cost|
|Company Name – Primary name|
|Signs, business cards and logo|| |
Come up with a catchy name using the steps below, research name availability and register in your state and trademark if you are a national brand
This business name is sometimes referred to as your trade name or trading name, DBA (also see the section below about entity names) “doing business as” and “fictitious” business name.
|Brand Name – |
|Product Line||Brainstorm product name ideas and research name availability for trademark purposes if you are distributing nationally. State-specific business registrations|
|Entity Name – DBA, LLC, INC|
|Legal documents, |
|1 – Decide business entity DBA (simplest), LLC (protects your personal assets) and INC (for larger firms with investor funding) |
2 – Get legal help to set up properly. My clients love the lower price and quick timing of Legalzoom
|Website URL & E-commerce store||Search for internet name availability and buy|
|Social Media – Usernames|
@Apple (twitter), facebook.com/apple
|Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Pinterest, Instagram,||Check name availability on 575 social media with on click on Knowem.com |
$84.95 for 25 accounts – or you can go to each social media site and search and register your user name profiles.
Business Names in Your Industry & Competitors
Study your industry and competitors to discover the most effective brand names for your market.
Are the most successful firms using invented words such as Kiddeo (children’s clothing) or are they using descriptive words such as Measured Results Marketing (a consulting firm)?
Knowing this information will help you to come up with a business name which will work well in your industry, stand out among your competitors, and not be confused with other existing firms.
Your Company Point of Difference
Remember your name will be your customer’s very first contact with your company. As such you want to make it strongly communicate the benefits of your products and services.
To do so, begin by analyzing your offerings to deter your company’s point of difference and value proposition. These fancy words simply mean: what makes your business stand out from the competition and why should people buy your products and services.
- What does your business stand for? Top-quality, low cost, innovative solutions?
- What products or services are you selling and their ultimate benefit? (you would be surprised how often beginner entrepreneurs forget to consider this!)
- SERVICE: Salon services = BENEFIT: looking beautiful, feeling confident, attracting a mate
- Who is your target audience? Consider their demographics (age, location, economic status) as you brainstorm names for your business. You want your potential customers to understand and relate to your business name positively.
STEP 2 – BRAINSTORM NAME IDEAS
24 Pro Tips to Come Up with a Business Name
- 500Business Name Lists – Read lists of business ideas such as these that I publish regularly to get inspiration for your best business name:
Restaurant name ideas
Bakery name ideas
Photography business names
Consulting company name ideas
PS: You can also check for name availability free with one click on my name idea lists.
- Combine Two Words – Blend real names of two or more owners into an interesting compound business name. Learn the many ways to combine names in my article here.
- Founder’s Personal Name – Some founders elect to use their own personal name as their business name.
Generally, I do not recommend naming your business after yourself – except in a few instances – read more in my article here
- Owner Initials – Some new entrepreneurs decide to use their initials as their company name. This is not a good idea, because names such as SMA Motors are easy to forget and hard to spell and say.
- Acronyms – An acronym is different from a name made up of owner initials because it creates a new word.
Some examples; IBM is an initial name (for International Business Machines) which is spoken as each letter separately – I -B- M.
An example acronym name is LEGO (short for Leg Godt – danish for “play well”) and is pronounced as one word.
Use this online tool to brainstorm some creative acronym business names.
- Wordplay and Puns – Puns are jokes that exploit the different possible meanings of words – a play on words. They can make funny and catchy business names.
Some examples of business name puns; Cake my Day, Live Free or Pie, and Food Mood. Have fun and get business name inspiration with this free Pun Generator tool.
- Portmanteau – This French word describes newly created words that blend the sound and meanings of two words.
An example is the word creation of the two words motor + hotel – motel. Experiment with creating your own Portmanteau with this free online tool.
- Rhymes – Using a rhyming name can make your brand more memorable such as StubHub and 7-Eleven.
Business names that rhyme has a musical quality that helps them stick in customers’ minds. Try this free online rhyme tool
- Foreign Words – Go outside of the English language and consider using Foreign language words that are generally understood in America (or your country).
For English-speakers examine words from similar romance languages such as; Spanish, French, and Italian. Examples are Italian restaurants named Prosciutto and French salons named Elan (means style in French).
- Descriptive Word Phrases – Use keywords that describe your products and services with their benefits to create interesting and powerful business names.
Begin with your business type -“photography”. Then create a list of related words such as; click, snaps, shoot, smiles, image, art, shutter. Check out this free online related words tool
- Metaphor – Metaphors are figures of speed that express an idea with symbolic meaning to another concept.
An example is Amazon, which is the world’s largest river and is meant to convey the extensive range of products available on Amazon.com.
- Misspellings – Sometimes a mistake can be golden! Try some creative wordsmithing for your business name by misspelling words that describe your products and services like Chick-fil-A, Flickr and Tumblr.
Experiment with removing vowels and phonetic word variations.
- Create a Word – Make up your own new word to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Be as creative and quirky as you like.
Helpful tools would be a good online thesaurus with a dictionary and a list of synonyms, such as Merriam-Webster.
- Random Real Words – Shake up your industry by using words outside of the norm that is sure to be distinctive. Look at what Virgin did in the airline industry and Apple in electronics.
These words do not necessarily need to be related to your products, instead, they should tell a story about your company mission or startup.
In 1984, Richard Branson named his airline – Virgin – because his flight to the Virgin Islands was canceled. He then chartered his own plane and sold tickets to his fellow stranded passengers.
- Location-Based – This technique is where your business name includes your market area or headquarter location.
The advantages are that your customers will know your service area, however, it can be extremely limiting for expansion and relocation.
As such, I recommend that if you want to include geographic references in your company name to select regional terms, as opposed to specific cities. Examples would be Central Texas Auto as opposed to Austin Motors.
- Domain name focused – This approach is to focus primarily on the domain name as the company name.
It is a good naming strategy for online-based companies such as e-commerce stores and blogs, however, I do not recommend this approach for brick and mortar, consulting or service firms.
Examples would be company names that include domain extensions such as Overstock.com and names that are chosen primarily due to their internet advantages – short, easy to remember, simple to type, or contain SEO keywords.
- Visual – Use descriptive words that are evocative of the feeling you want to instill in your customers when they think of your brand.
Include colors, scents, sounds, and emotional words that are sensory (perceived by our senses). The science behind sensory language is that it is more powerful and memorable than ordinary words because your reader’s imagination and brain literally light up which increases desire.
Match the word to your product’s benefit. A good example of a restaurant name would focus on the sensation of taste and use such words as; creamy, luscious, savory, ripe, tangy, and zesty. Use this list of sensory words to get you started.
- Alliterations – Create a poetic name that has a catchy (and memorable) musical beat to its pronunciation.
Alliteration is the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of two or more words in a phrase. Famous brand names who used this naming technique are Krispy Kreme, Coca-Cola, and Best Buy.
- Emotional – Remember people often make buying decisions with their emotions, more than their logic. Capitalize on this with an emotional brand name.
Start with the emotion you want to evoke such as joy, wonder, love, fear, or worry. Then select words that have that type of emotional charge. Famous examples of this naming technique include Triumph Motorcycles, Benefit Cosmetics, and Riot (music festival).
- Name Phrase – Shorter is not always better for company names. Sometimes a multi-word phrase can better achieve your marketing objectives.
Longer phrases are easier to remember and allow you to pack more meaningful words into your company name. A few famous examples included Fruit of the Loom and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! (long and unforgettable)
- Ingredients – If you are a restaurant looking for a unique name consider using your key menu ingredients such as Vanilla Bean, or Tomate (French for tomato).
- Culture and History – Use words with historical and cultural references, such as Nike, who is the ancient Greek goddess of victory. Their famous swoosh logo symbolizes the movement and power of her wings.
- Fiction – Get inspired by fictional characters from fables, books, songs, and movies. Did you know that Starbuck is a fictional character (the first mate) from the classic book Moby Dick – thus the logo designer created a siren mermaid as their design.
- Luck and Numerology – Lucky names are based in cultural superstition.
Did you know that Toyota cars started their company with the name Toyoda, but the name was changed because in Japanese the name Toyota has 8 brushstrokes which are considered lucky? You can pick a lucky business name using numerology.
The ancient art of numerology calculates the numerical energy of your business name using the alpha-numeric Pythagoras chart. Learn more here.
How to Use a Business Name Generator
Online company name generators can be a viable option for coming up with unique and creative business names.
The key to getting good results is to select a powerful name generator with filter options, such as these name generators by industry on my list here . Also be sure to use my pro tips below which will yield the best results:
- Use Powerful Name Generator – Use a professional-grade name generator such as these; Name Station and Namelix, not a lame one that only gives you a few ideas with choppy English words.
- Pick Name Generator for Your Industry – Work with company name generators built for your industry-specific needs.
These will suggest the most suitable name ideas in line with your industry’s best practices. Check out my list of name generators by the industry for restaurants, online stores, and salons.
- Brainstorm Seed Key Words – Before you start using these online tools, create a list of keywords to use as “seeds”.
Make a list of the obvious ones (your product type, service name) and descriptive terms (benefits and emotions). Get interesting ideas for these keywords by using an industry glossary and a thesaurus.
- Create Long List Name Ideas – As you get name ideas generated, add them to a long list.
Include both good and just OK names on your list. This is because later as you review this list, those plain OK names may spark your imagination – that with a little twist – can become truly great business names.
- Test The Name Ideas -Review your list of generated names – from the above step – and select the best to form your shortlist.
Please don’t fall in love with a name and not test it thoroughly. Then test each one using our checklist below to determine if it is a good business name for your company.
- Do Not Buy Expensive Domain Names – Most of the free online business name generators are selling domain names – often overpriced and super expensive. Do not buy these names.
Instead, search for your domain name directly here and buy for far less money.
- Research Name Availability – Before you decide on your final new business name research name availability for multiple name types.
Keep reading to learn how to research name availability for your business registration, trademark, domain name, and social media profiles and usernames.
Business Name Generators: Pros and Cons
Name generators are online tools that combine words, sometimes using AI artificial intelligence to suggest business names. There are both pros and cons to this business naming method.
Name Generator Pros
- Free – All of these company name generators are free
- Quick – Takes seconds to get name ideas generated
- Easy to Use – Simply enter a few keywords related to your business and click the button
- Lots of Naming Ideas – Typically many different name ideas will be offered
Name Generator Cons
- Generic – Most of the name ideas will be generic and boring – thus forgettable and not trademarkable.
- Taken – Because others are using the same name generators it is likely that the name ideas are already taken and you will not be able to register them nor reserve the domain name.
- Limiting – Using the generators limits your creativity resulting in name ideas that are unimaginative.
- Costly – These online tools are free because the companies are trying to sell you the matching domain name at expensive and inflated prices.
Naming Services – Explained and Reviewed
Another good way to come up with catchy business names is to hire a naming service. These agencies and individuals will create lists of brand and company names based on your specifications.
You have many options from creative marketing people on Fiverr (I used some of these gigs for a recent lean startup project with good success) to full- service brand advertising agencies.
One of the favorites that I recommend to new entrepreneurs is Squadhelp.
They will help come up with a great name for your business by combining the power of crowdsourcing with sophisticated technology (including AI, machine learning, and gamification) and agency-level creative services.
For less than $200 you get started with a naming contest. Plus you can add additional requests for tagline slogans and audience testing.
Here are some of my favorite recent Squadhelp name ideas:
STEP 3 – CHECKLIST TO SELECT YOUR BUSINESS NAME
How to Choose Your Perfect Business Name
Having followed the steps above, you now have a terrific (and long) list of possible company names.
Next is the critical phase of testing your name ideas and selecting the final name.
To begin we will create a shortlist of good possibilities with my name scoring system.
To help you I created the checklist below complete with a number score system to objectively consider your name ideas.
How to Use Name Score Card
Take each one of your possible names and grade them using the 10 questions below. Add up the total scores using these grades.
Grades: 0= poor, 1=fair, 2=good, 3=excellent
The highest possible score is 30 points. Add name ideas with scores of 20+ to create your shortlist. Keep reading to the next naming step in which we will find out if your desired business name is available and not taken.
Checklist to Choose Your Best Business Name – Score Card
- Communicates Your Product and Services
- Easy to pronounce
- Easy to spell
- Easy to remember
- Distinctive – Positively stands outs and is original
- Unique – Unlike competitors names to avoid customer confusion
- Expandable – Flexible to for new products and locations
- Reasonable Length – Not too long
- Funny or Rude?
- No negative meanings – especially in your targeted foreign markets
STEP 4 – CHECK NAME AVAILABILITY & TRADEMARK
Now that you have used the above naming tips to brainstorm catchy business names, it is now time to check name availability.
There are four (4) databases that you should check to be sure that your chosen business name is not taken and available for your use:
State Business Name Search
Start your name search with your State’s business registration database. (find your State business office here). This will determine if another company in your state has registered for the use of that particular business name.
- If it is available, and you are certain of your final business name, you can go ahead and register it for business use in your State.
- If it is not available, depending on the type of business that is using it you could register a variation.
If the currently registered company is IN your industry, avoid using that name or similar variations. You will confuse customers and get into conflict with other firms. Instead, go back to your shortlist of names and select another one.
If the currently registered company is NOT IN your industry, consider registering the name for your company. Here is an example, you want to name your business Hot Buns but there is currently a bakery named Hot Buns in your State, however, your company is a fitness studio.
Try variations of that name (Hot Buns Fitness, Hot Buns Fat Burners) to differentiate your fitness studio from that bakery, then you should be able to register your business name.
Federal Trademark Name Search
Once you have determined that your chosen business name is available for registration in your state you can check its availability nationwide.
This step IS NOT necessary if you plan to sell only within your state as a local business – and you registered your name with your Secretary of State.
This step IS needed if you plan to distribute your products nationwide. I highly recommend this federal trademark search. This will be your first step in securing your registered trademark.
Trademark lookups are important because it can cost you lots of wasted money and time if another business has already registered your trademark in these ways:
- Expensive Lawsuits – You can be sued in Federal court for trademark infringement – even if you were unaware of the other company’s products! The average trademark infringement lawsuit costs tens of thousands of dollars and takes many months to resolve.
- Additional Costs to Change Packaging – You may have to change all your packaging, signs, logo, and website – at considerable cost – to avoid costly litigation.
Avoid this trouble by conducting a proper trademark lookup search before you settle on a final business name.
Here are two ways to do a trademark search, one is DIY & free, and the other is with affordable legal help, from Legalzoom. Read one to learn about which method I recommend depending on your business situation.
Trademark Name Search – Free Method
You can search the US Patent and Trademark database yourself for free here to see if any trademark has already been registered or applied for that is:
- Similar to your trademark
- Used on related products or for related services
A trademark that meets all three criteria will prevent your trademark from being registered because it creates a likelihood of confusion.USPO United States Patent and Trademark Office
While you can DIY search the database it is complex and there are many subtle (but critically important) details that will affect your results.
As such, I generally recommend spending a few hundred dollars to get a professional trademark search (surprisingly affordable) if you plan to invest substantial capital in your nationwide startup.
If you decide to do a business name trademark search yourself, here are important tips to get correct results.
- Look for marks that are similar and in your SAME class of goods and services category (see list here)
These will be considered “confusingly similar” and be non-trademarkable. You can trademark an identical name IF the products are from different industries such as Delta Airlines and Delta faucets.
- Check trademark status with alternate spellings and word endings. The USPTO uses the example of “T.Markey” and “Tee Marquee” to illustrate similar names.
Trademark Name Search – Low Cost Method
I recommend that before you spend time and money applying for a federal trademark (and spend money on designing a logo, making signs and printing packaging) that you make sure the mark is available with a comprehensive trademark search for under $200 at Legalzoom.
In under 15 minutes you can complete the simple questionnaire and get your professional trademark search started.
One of the trickiest aspects of doing your own trademark search online is to uncover marks that have not been registered, which will affect your ability to register or use your trademark. This is where legal professionals have the edge. They will check applications in process, common law, and market usage trademarks you will probably overlook during your own search.
If you plan to sell internationally you will need access to world market databases that Legalzoom has such as World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
Internet Domain Name Search
Use a professional search such as my recommendation Bluehost .
Go ahead and use the widget below and check if your name is available.
PLEASE do not some of the online name generators sell way overpriced domains. They are acting as a middle man and reselling you the domain at a profit. I suggest that you go to the source and buy directly for under $5.
If you find a good domain name that closely matches your business name don’t hesitate to reserve it today to prevent competitors from stealing it from you by registering it first!
What to do if you have a few name ideas on your shortlist?
Go ahead and purchase a few domain names so you know that whatever name you select as your final business name you will have the matching domain name.
I advise my entrepreneur clients that purchasing their domain name is an important first step that starts their business and is a big confidence booster.
Please do not be discouraged if your desired perfect matching domain name (or the .com extension) is unavailable. That is increasingly the case for many business owners.
No worries you can still get a great domain name – maybe even better than the one you first wanted. Use my top tips on what to do if your desired business name matching domain name (or the .COM version) is unavailable:
- Get your domain name with an alternate extension such as .NET, .ORG (if your company is non-profit), country-specific .US, .CO (for company) or .INFO (good for blogs and informational sites), .STORE (good for e-commerce shops and dropshipping sites) and .WEBSITE or .SITE (I like for local businesses and consultants)
- Add a verb to your domain name idea – By adding an action word to your website name you create a dynamic internet URL. Use words such as; get, buy, visit, help and cook to expand your domain search.
An example, if your desired business name is Vegan Babe and it is taken then try adding verbs (in different tenses), such as cook, cooks or cooking and check if that domain name is available – VeganBabeCooks.com or VeganBabeCooking
- Add geographic terms to your name – If BobsBBQ.com is taken consider adding words for your region (country, state – but avoid cities they can limit your future expansion – unless you live in a large metro area) to find an available domain name such as BobsBBQTexas or BobsBBQWest.
- Consider a catch phrase – Remember that your business name and your domain name do not necessarily need to match exactly. (read my article about matching names here).
Think about using a short, memorable phrase that is associated with your products. Nike has registered the domain name – JustDoIt.com which forwards directly to its main domain Nike.com. Using a few more words will greatly expand your domain name choices.
- Create meaningful abbreviations – Try getting creative with abbreviations. Add letters or numbers to in place of words such as; R for are, 2 for to (or too), 4 to replace for, and then see if you can find a good domain name.
Notice that I used this technique for the domain name of this site – Best4Businesses.com – because my first choice for the domain name was not available and taken by a company in the UK.
Still didn’t find your best domain name? Here are 13 more ways to search for a good website name from internet marketing expert Neil Patel
Social Media Accounts Name Search
The next step in your complete business naming process is to search for your social media profile account names on sites such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.
The easiest way to reserve all your social media profiles at once is to use an inexpensive service that I recommend for my clients called Knowem.
Here you can check your username availability on over 500 social media sites (both popular and emerging networks) and secure your accounts before your competitors do!
For under $84 you can get the Personal Essential package which includes; Complete Signup of all profile info: photos, bio, URL, and description on the top 25 most essential and popular social media websites for personal branding.
I recommend that companies buy the Business Starter package for $249 to secure their business brand by claiming profiles on 100 of the most popular social networks. Your accounts will be set up with your logo, description, and website URL. This is excellent for both your site SEO and brand awareness.
If you would prefer to search each separate network for your user name availability and to set up your accounts, use my social media account name tips below:
Youtube user names must be between 6 and 20 characters. Be sure to select a name related to your content, however, try not to be so specific as to limit your future expansion. Get your own custom Youtube channel URL free – here is how to signup.
More tips on creating Youtube channel names from Dummies.
Your Twitter username cannot be longer than 15 characters. Your personal name can be longer (50 characters), but usernames are kept shorter for the sake of ease. Check to make sure your desired username doesn’t contain any symbols, dashes, or spaces.
A username can only contain alphanumeric characters (letters A-Z, numbers 0-9) with the exception of underscores, as noted below.
Adding underscores before or after your desired username will help you claim a unique username on Twitter.
Example: if you would like the username @lindsay but it has been claimed, consider selecting a name like @lindsay_ or @_lindsay.
More smart tips on creating good Twitter usernames from Dummies
You need two user names on Facebook, one that is your personal name to access the site and the second which is more commonly called your Business Page Name to build and promote your business.
Here is how to get a business user name for Facebook from Dummies.
Just like Facebook does, Pinterest requires you to have two accounts – your personal and business. Your username can be 3-30 characters, and can’t have spaces, symbols, or punctuation.
Your account URL will be your username. An example is, Pinterest has the username ‘Pinterest’ and can be found at pinterest.com/Pinterest.
Here is how to get a business account from Pinterest support.
Your Instagram account username is also called your “handle”. It will be written as your username with an “@” before it. This Instagram handle is the name you choose to represent the URL address of your Instagram page.
It is important to include your company name in your Instagram account username so you can create powerful branded hashtags with your company name on Instagram.
No, your LLC name does not have to BE your business name or MATCH your website name. Your LLC name is your company’s legal entity name while your business name is your brand name to market to your customers. However, you WILL need to include the designation LLC in your business name on your State business registration application.
Learn more about LLC names – how to name your LLC and get links to your State’s LLC name lookup in my article here