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3 Things to Avoid when Choosing Your Business Name

Published By Janet Gershen-Siegel at November 2nd, 2017

You are all set. You’ve got a fantastic idea. You have the capital and the know how and the will.

All you need is a name.

You may be tempted to just go with something quick. But you should take some care with this decision, like you should with all of your business decisions. Names matter!

1. Plain, Generic Words

True story: I lived on Long Island several years ago, and I used to drive by a place called, I kid you not: ‘Things and Stuff’.

No, I don’t know what they sold, either. This exceptionally generic name could have been used for a store selling antique watches, dog toys, baked goods, or chainsaws. I cannot recall if this company ever advertised in any manner, such as the radio or billboards (this was before the internet was a big deal). Without specifics and without advertising, there was no reason to go inside and find out if you could get a chili dog, a bridal gown, a set of tires for a monster truck, or a stuffed penguin toy.

According to Entrepreneur, you can get away with this if your company is the first in your niche. Hence there is a General Motors because they have been around forever and they go back to pretty much the beginning of the automotive industry. This same concept also works for International Business Machines.

2. The Mashup

We have all seen these, where two dissonant words are slapped together, or a word is truncated in order to make it fit. If you name your company CheeseNinja, then donot be surprised if customers still have no idea what the heck it is your company actually does. Do you sell cheese? Do you make it? And what’s with the ‘ninja’ part? Are you a stealthy cheesemaker, with an invisible dairy in an undisclosed location? The truncated part can be something like Ameri, or Tron, or Quali, or Port. Make sure the individual parts actually make sense for your business. After all, without Googling, do you know what FlipDog did (the company doesn’t exist anymore)?

3. Ugly, Bad Deliberate Misspellings

Unless you own Toys ‘R’ Us, don’t do this. It nearly always looks bad – and for Toys ‘R’ Us, the concept works because it plays off a child possibly not knowing how to spell. But you’re a grownup and, presumably, you do. If you thought CheeseNinja was bad, it looks positively Shakespearean over the train wreck that is CheezNinja. Ouch.

The same is true with coined words. It can be difficult and expensive to get people to use and know how to spell words like Exxon, Enron, Verizon, and Kodak. These names aren’t horrible, and we all know them now. But they all cost their companies money in explaining the rebranding –and the explaining it again – to the general public.

If you do end up making up a name, try to keep it short and at least somewhat related to your industry. Xerox did this to spectacular results, because the prefix ‘xero’ means ‘dry’. And that’s kind of what a Xerox machine could call itself back when the industry standard was mimeographing. It is a dry style of printing. The name is also catchy and easy for people to pronounce and spell.

Bonus: 4. The Bad URL

Take a look at what your company’s name will look like as a URL. You will virtually always want to own the URL which has your company’s name, plus .com or .net, sometimes .org or even something like .tv.

But what if your business is Trust Therapists?

Yeah, you don’t want that to be your URL. But you can fix this if you change the business name to Trust the Therapists.

Another issue with bad URLs is numbers. If your company is called 5 Brothers Trucking, you will end up having to buy URLs with the numeral and also with the number 5 written out (five). This ends up being a bit more costly, and for no truly compelling reason. For a longer number, you probably don’t need to do this. 511Brothers Trucking is not going to need to also buy the domain

You can be creative when naming your business. It doesn’t have to just be your name or you ‘and sons’ or the like. But take these issues into consideration because changing your business name will be costly and time-consuming!

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