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Business and Product Names: A Guide to Choosing or Changing Them

business.com editorial staff
business.com editorial staff

Your business name is more than just a catchy phrase. Here's how to choose the right one.

While you might not expect it, naming your business might be the most difficult part of your journey as an entrepreneur. You want it to represent your brand and what it has to offer without overwhelming consumers. However, you might be spending too much time trying to find the right fit.

This is a common concern in the business.com community. Becca Richards, a business.com community memberasked: "How important is choosing the right name for your business?"

Our answer is more complicated than "very" or "not at all." We talked to experts to provide a guideline for business owners searching for the perfect name.

Alexander Butterman, trademark attorney at Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig PLLC and a business.com community member, advised that business owners make certain their potential names are not already in use by similar businesses. This often requires professional help.

"A good branding agency can do a preliminary trademark search, in addition to searching for possible web domains, to make sure there will be no trademark conflicts," said ICF-credentialed executive coach Todd Kemp, founder and principal of The NorthWise Group. "To understand the legal issues, consult with a trademark attorney."

A trademark attorney can conduct a trademark clearance search to ensure there are no infringements, said Butterman. If you'd like to do independent research as well, he advised that you can review information from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and search their database of registered and applied-for names.

Emotional appeal

You want your brand to resonate with consumers, and the best way to achieve this is by choosing a name that elicits emotion.

Kemp recommended identifying four main points when drafting name ideas: what the company offers, their audience/consumers, what sets them apart from others and their core message. Ask yourself what you want to be known for and by whom, he said.

"From a branding perspective, names like Amazon, IBM, Whole Foods, Publix and 9Round all have a certain appeal to them and may spark a potential prospect's emotions," added Chris Romero, CEO of Full Scale SEO. "Sales are often based on an emotional reaction … with many transactions taking place online, this becomes even more important."

Since you can't always achieve a personable relationship with your clients over the internet, you should make sure your brand's personality is evident in its name.

Simplicity

While you want to stand out among similar brands, don't coin a complex name that consumers will soon forget. Keep it simple.

"You must create a name that is easy to type into a web browser and that looks great in a logo," said Romero. "We live in a fashion-conscious time where looking good online and having a name that easily rolls off the tongue as well as it does a web banner is crucial to the long-term success of a business."

Kemp advised picking a name that's easy to say and spell, reflects who your company is, and evokes the right thoughts and feelings you want associated with your brand.

Clever play on words

According to AYTM Blog, one important thing to remember when you are picking product names is to be clever in terms of the words and wordplay you use. In other words, the word choice you use doesn't have to be literal. You should go above and beyond to choose a product name that is more suggestive. For instance, the Ford Mustang was named that way because it's fast a sleek, like a mustang horse.

Compound word

Another thing you can do to create a great product name is to create a compound word. Given that there are millions upon millions of products on the market, finding a unique word or name to use can be next to impossible. Therefore, it has become common for businesses to name products by putting two words together. For instance, Netflix, TurboTax and other brands and products have used this approach. Although each of these are compound words, they also do a great job of describing the products and services they offer.

A person's name 

Another great way to name your products is by using a person's name. For instance, the George Foreman Grill is a great example of this approach. Although they used his stardom to help sell the product, the product had very little to do with the well-known athlete himself.

How to handle name changes

There might come a time when you realize your current name is not working out and you want to change it, another frequently talked-about issue in the business.com community. Kathy Daniels, a business.com community member, asked: "Will changing my business name hurt my SEO?"

According to Romero, it depends on your business entity's structure and its current website's success. If you're changing your name, you likely aren't experiencing good feedback or traffic on your site. If that's the case, there might be little risk of losing even more rankings or traffic, and the name change might be best for your brand.

However, "you will want to work with a professional SEO or digital marketing agency well versed in SEO to ensure that the brand migration is successful and does not hurt any good results you are currently seeing," said Romero.

He added that Google will typically "sandbox" new sites or domains, meaning they won't send traffic or rank you for keywords. To avoid this, he advised downloading all your current pages and redirecting them to the new site, issuing press releases, utilizing social media accounts, and trademarking your domain and brand name. From there, he said, you can work with a professional team on conversion optimization, link-building, content creation, technical SEO and onsite SEO.

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