10 Tips on Choosing The Name For A Small Business
By Mark Swartz
The power of a business name can be enormous. Google, Telus, Bombardier…these appellations speak volumes about their companies.
Yet choosing the name for a small business can be complicated. Catchy and unique is one thing. The name must also conform to legal requirements and be available for key social media. Here are 10 tips for naming your company smartly.
1) Think Future
The name you select my represent your business for a long time. Today it might just be you operating part-time from a basement. As you grow, the firm’s name should be usable for a larger, more diverse base of customers. Eventually you may even want to incorporate [see below for item c)].
2) Create an Initial List Of Possible Names
You probably have some ideas already of what to call your company. Maybe it’s a variation on your first or last names. Or some whimsical words that captured your attention. Write those on a list for now as initial ideas.
3) Do A Competitive Business Name Search
Take a look at how companies you compete against are named. Conduct some inexpensive market intelligence for this via online phone directories and trade association listings. You’ll need to avoid infringing on an existing company’s name. But those could also spur your creativity.
4) Filter The List For Some Potential Favourites
Once you have enough contenders, begin to sort and filter them. Sort by categories such as descriptive terms vs. ones that are unrelated-but-catchy. Filter each term so that you only pick those that are shorter, memorable and easy to spell.
5) See If You Need French Versions Too
If you plan to do business where French language is required (or just desirable), does your chosen version translate readily? That shouldn’t be an issue if you are merely using your personal names. It will arise if you’ll be translating something like “Carl’s Doors” into its French equivalent.
6) Check How Each Name Looks In Lower Case Letters, URL Format
Many company names use two words or more. These combo terms – GlaxoSmithKine, Carl’s Doors – may look fine when using upper case letters for each terms. Except look what happens to the innocent sounding “Dollars Exchange” without capital letters, both words pushed together: dollarsexchange.ca
7) Do A Name and Trademark Search
Whether you incorporate or start as a sole proprietor [see below for item a)], the name you select can’t conflict with an existing trademark, tradename or someone's intellectual property. You could find yourself facing a lawsuit and possible loss of your business name. Do a free preliminary name search at the CIPO (Canadian Intellectual Property Office) site. Make note of possible conflicts.
8) Ensure That The Name Is Securable For Key Social Media Sites
Find out if the proposed name has been taken yet for social media sites. Look especially on the most popular ones (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, SnapChat). Use a search engine like Namechk.com and KnowEm.com. They run a name against more than 100 social media properties at once. To avoid scams, always confirm the important ones directly at the issuing site. Use a trusted domain purchase service to buy and renew URLs.
9) Register your Business Name Legally
Almost all businesses in Canada must legally register their business names [see below for item b)] in their respective provinces or territories. The exception is for sole proprietorships that use only the owner's legal name. Business name registration is inexpensive and can be applied for at (or on) the business registering site in the main province where your firm will be operating.
10) Protect The Name With A Trademark
Once you start using your business name, it becomes your piece of intellectual property. Protect it further by applying for a trademark. That would make it far easier to assert your legal rights if someone tries to copy or infringe on it. Trademarking is a fairly long and costly process.
However it may be worth it after all the effort you’ve made to find that perfect company name.