Naming Your Business – Getting it Right

Mar 26, 2019

I have a confession to make, I’ve never really been very good at naming things. Anything for that matter. My first son, Travis Aaron, I was just a few weeks away from delivering him but couldn’t think of a name that I was happy with at all. I worked at a pizza restaurant at the…

I have a confession to make, I've never really been very good at naming things. Anything for that matter. My first son, Travis Aaron, I was just a few weeks away from delivering him but couldn't think of a name that I was happy with at all. I worked at a pizza restaurant at the time and my co-workers decided I should name the baby after them. The only problem? I wasn't going to give my son 22 names! So everyone who wanted the baby to be named after them put their name in a jar and we had a drawing. The two names drawn were Travis Aaron - I don't remember if they were in that order or not but that's the order I chose. I don't even remember the two people!

Business Naming Challenges

Several years ago, I was faced with the challenge of naming my business and I was clueless. I went to the internet for ideas; here's the information I found:

  • do a brainstorming session
  • add keywords of what you do
  • use your name
  • don't use your name
  • get creative
  • make it easy to remember
travis rose
Rose Fields with Travis in 1990

The list of ideas was endless but I was no closer to naming the business. I wanted potential customers to look at my name and know what the business offered. At the time I was designing websites and offering social media services. I grabbed a few keywords and they sounded good to me, 'Social Web Design'.

Once I'd settled on this name, I hit a bump in the road. I had to purchase my domain name and guess what? Someone else thought those three keywords were a good idea for a domain name. I decided to get creative! I created a "unique" spelling for design and came up with Social Web Dzine. I snagged up that domain name and went to work getting clients and building the business.

Business Naming Fiasco

Fast forward a few years and would you believe people have trouble spelling "dzine"? Try giving out that email address over the phone! Not only do they have trouble spelling it but some people didn't have any idea what we do!

At first it was a minor annoyance but as time passed I could tell my unique name was hurting me in the search engines and causing confusion for potential customers. Since I was busy trying to bring in new customers and working with my current customers I decided to put a band-aid on it and keep going. I came up with Social, Web Design & Marketing since we now offer digital marketing services. That band-aid has only lasted a few months and made things even worse with the extra keywords! Not only was it worse in the search engines but I didn't bother to get a new domain name, I just stuck with the one I had. I was still facing the same spelling hassle, the same email hassle, and my search rankings were dropping on top of it.

Business Naming Inspiration

A few months ago while working with a client, we started talking about how the business was doing. I told her a little about what was happening and that I was trying to find a solution to the mess I'd made. She gave me some excellent insights that has turned things around in a tremendous way.

She told me she'd noticed discrepancies between how our website was written and the way I interact with clients. She said when I'm working with clients I'm down-to-earth, friendly, easy to understand, I don't ramble on with a lot of tech stuff. She went on with quite a bit more useful info. She'd worked in print marketing many years earlier and said companies were often too intimidated to work with a marketing agency because they're difficult to work with, you can't understand what they're telling you, and they don't create personal relationships with their clients.

After our meeting, I decided to critically look at our website and took the time to actually see it from a customer's perspective. The website was very stiff, formal, and business-like. It didn't come across as friendly and approachable. From the cute, 'techy" name "Social Web Dzine" or "Social, Web Design & Marketing" to the language, images, layout, and clutter - everything about the website screamed formal, techy, and unapproachable.

Create a Brand - Not Just a Name

That moment led to a new journey. Not a journey to just rename the business but to create a brand that reflected who we are, what we do, how we do it, and who we work with. I went back to the internet to research ideas for naming a business but this time my search took me in a different direction. Instead of just trying to come up with a name I liked, I started with the attributes that made my clients want to work with me.

  • friendly
  • approachable
  • down-to-earth
  • talk in every day language

In an ideal scenario, you're not in the same situation I was facing. Ideally, you're reading this and are just starting your business; you haven't made the mistakes I made.

If you're just getting started, you most likely won't have the benefit of getting feedback from customers to learn why they like working with you. No worries! I have some tools you can use that'll work for you whether you're just getting started or you've already made a mess and need to re-brand your business.

Naming Your Business The Right Way

Maybe this isn't the exact process some expert business guru would tell you to use. For me, this is the right way to name your business. You're going to need a way to write stuff down to create some lists. Everyone always tells me writing stuff down on paper is the best way to unplug and focus. I don't care if you use pen & paper or write up a list on your computer, the important part is start writing.

Whether you're naming or renaming your business, you're at the beginning so we're going to start with the basics.

  • 1

    What does your business do?

    Are you a roofer? Write it down. Do you clean chimneys? Write it down. Carpet cleaner? Write it down. What is the primary service your business offers. For us, it's website design; and yes, I wrote it down!

  • 2

    What else?

    Seriously. What else does your business do? You're a painter, do you do anything else besides paint? If painting houses is the only service you offer, that's fine - move on to the next step. If you have other services, write them down. You're a garden center but you give your clients some design consultation when they make a purchase. You might not realize that some of the things you do are additional services.

write down your ideas
  • 3

    Get specific

    You might say "I paint houses". Okay, that's fine but a house is a very broad category. Maybe you specialize in painting bathrooms so they don't mold. Perhaps you have an eye for Victorian houses and you paint those with historic colors. Interior painting, exterior painting, Victorian house painting, commercial carpet cleaning, timber frame home construction, commercial landscaping, commercial window washing - what exactly do you offer.

Okay, let's pause for a second so I can give you some insight into why this is important for naming your business. As I was working through this process, I began to realize we're more than social media, more than web design; a new idea emerged. My business is a marketing agency. This opened my mind to a broader range of naming options. I believe it helps to think beyond the basics of what you do. Okay, moving on.

  • 4

    Who are your customers?

    You want to choose a name that resonates with your customers, something that makes sense to the people you plan to work with or are working with now. Let's say you're a construction company in Green Bay. Compared to construction companies in Madison, you're "up north". You might think "Up North Construction" is a great idea for your business name. But if you stop and look at your customers or potential customers, you might realize most of them are near Fond du Lac, West Bend, Oshkosh, and areas that don't really think of themselves as being "up north". Perhaps they'd see your name and think you were located in Marinette, River Falls, Minnesota, or Michigan. When they're looking for a contractor you might be eliminating yourself by creating a name which you customers don't identify with.

    If you need some help with identifying your customers, we have an excellent post for you to read.

How Your Brand Personality Affects Your Business

As I was working through the re branding process, I started seeing references to your company's "brand personality". As I researched this, I came across a Brand Personality Quiz. I knew filling in the info on the quiz would add me to their newsletter list but decided I was curious enough to learn what my brand personality was. After I completed the quiz, I was pretty surprised to see the results were very comparable to what my client had said about how I work with clients. I thought I must have skewed the results so I waited a bit and took the quiz again and got the same results. I'm a skeptic so I visited a couple other sites and amazingly got the same results.

So how does your brand personality affect your business name? Kaye Putnam's brand personality quiz was packed full of helpful resources and I highly recommend you visit the quiz to learn your brand's personality.

Armed with all this info, you're not only in the perfect position to name (or rename) your business but you have also created the foundation for your online marketing.

Ready to Name Your Business?

So now on to naming your business, here's a few tips on how to use that info.

  • Start by brainstorming words and phrases that match what you do

  • Short and sweet - three words are a pretty good foundation for a name anything more and it gets to be a lot to say, not to mention how your email address will look.

  • Check out domain names - visit and search for the ideas you have for your name. I'd recommend not trying to get cute and creative if your domain name is taken. It could make it difficult for customers to find you, know what you do, and you could be competing with someone else with the same name who has the ideal domain name already. You want to purchase the .com name - this is what website visitors often look for when looking up your business name. If the name is taken, you might want to visit the domain to see if there's a valid website. If not, the owner might be willing to sell the domain name - but it could be pricey.

  • Don't limit your business - remember Social Web Design (or rather Dzine)? We do more than website design now! Victorian House Painting may only do Victorian homes right now but what if you get into doing historic house painting of other eras? People with a Gothic Revival house are likely to pass you by when looking for someone to paint their historic house.

  • Get some feedback - ask friends, family, people who might potentially be your customers. You want to know what other people think of the name and if it's interesting or confusing. We visited a few home shows before starting this re-branding process and ran the name by a lot people who were vendors at the show. The way people responded was all the info we needed to make the leap.

  • Say it out loud - have other people say it out loud, say it with dotcom added to it. Make sure it sounds as good spoken as it does written. Write it down and ask someone to read it to you to make sure they're able to say it with no explanation.

  • How does it make you feel - take a few days off from thinking about your name and then come back to it. Does it make you feel good, does it give you some anxiety, does it feel right? In the end, the business name you choose is going to be up to you and you're going to have to own it. If you make a mess of naming your business now, you're the one who'll be right where we were and starting over with a new brand, a new name, and new marketing strategies. But sometimes, that's not so bad.

When we went through this process, we came up with a name that we felt was absolutely perfect for us.

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Your Turn

Naming your business can be a lot of fun, it can be a lot of stress, it can be whatever you make it to be! Take the time to enjoy the process and don't let it stress you too much.

Here's one more tip - keep your name positive. We could've gone with No Nonsense Marketing but putting a negative word into your business name unconsciously associates it with negativity.

So go back to your list and eliminate any names that include a negative word or find a way to turn it around into something positive.

Do You Need Someone to Brainstorm With?

We're Here for You!

Just reach out to us and we'll be happy to give you some insight.

2 thoughts on “Naming Your Business – Getting it Right”

  1. Shelly Christie

    Way to go Rose! Think this is perfect and spot on for you. Wishing you all the best and great things for the future of Nerd Free Marketing!

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