As I drive down the roads in Bentonville, Ark., I see many small businesses and often wonder how their names came to be- names like Acorn, Tea and Spice Exchange, Thai Kitchen, Big Rub BBQ, Table Mesa and Ron’s Hamburgers. What do these names mean to them, to their customers? Were they created from a month long customer/industry key word analysis, a family name + the businesses industry, a play on words type rhyme or maybe the first phrase spoken by their 3 year old? Will these local names become not-so-small businesses, like Walmart, Arvest or Tyson (I hope so because they are great :)? Will your small business be a household name and how do you make it that way?
A Rose by any other name…
As Shakespeare once penned, does it really matter the name of a company as long as the quality of products and services it produces is amazing? Ok, well he didn’t say it quite like that however, I think he would have said it, had he loved small businesses as much as we do. While this blog won’t be covering the importance of ensuring your products and services are of high quality, we do want to emphasize that your name is nothing without quality products to back it up. Your reputation is on the line with every product sold or service completed and dissatisfied customers will never forget your name. Thank goodness for us, neither do satisfied customers and we want to give them a great name to recommend to everyone they know.
Speaking of recomendations, we probably got some from our friends on household names like Google, Uber, Yerdle, Automatic and Apple. You wouldn’t know what their company does from the name but, it doesn’t stop us from welcoming them into our homes and businesses. But how did these once small businesses make it big, even though their names didn’t immediately tell you everything about what they do and why you need them? It’s simple, they had a story behind their name. It was unique, creative, it stood out from their competition, it fit into their brand and they had a strong marketing and sales plan to show how the quality and one-of-a-kind nature of their products and services supported that name.
Now, some disagree with this approach and suggest you pick a name that clearly defines what your business does and who you are, to set you apart from your competition. In this school of thought, a name like this makes it easier for your customer to find you and associate your business with what they need. Great examples like this are Ford Motor Company, American Airlines, Hallmark Cards and CarMart.
Either way you go, you want to make sure that your name is:
- easy to spell and pronounce
- is easy to remember
- sets you apart from your competition
We’ve got a winner
However you get to the “winning” name of your small business, there are a few very important steps in the development process that you need to go through to ensure that your name can, in fact, be your name exclusively.
- Check for trademarks – This may not seem to matter early on but as you grow your business, you don’t want to find out that your business name is taken in another state. You definitely don’t want to find out through a cease and desist letter demanding that you change your name and everything that you have created. Visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Offices’ trademark tool to check your name and possibly file for a trademark.
- Check on state filings – Whether you incorporate now or stick with a DBA, you will want to see if your business name already exists in another part of your state
- Check for open domain names – As we have talked about in other blogs, your online presence is very important and so is the ownership of your small business brand there. Visit WHOIS Records to determine if a domain with your business name is taken. Also, it’s very important to look for other variations of your name like acronyms and .com, .org options. You may want to purchase all of the options available.
- Social media pages – Check your name on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well as Pinterest, Google+ and Jabber if those channels are important to your customer base. If they already exist, are you willing to create another variation of your name? Also, will your customer mistake your business for theirs?
For other information and tips on how to select a solid small business name, visit the U.S. Small Business Association website.
One more thing to note: If you have a small business and the name has not cleared the criteria above or you feel that the name really doesn’t represent your business, brand or doesn’t catch the attention of your customer – it’s better to change your name and brand when you are small than when you are a big business. One great example of this is Walmart – they didn’t start as Walmart but Sam Walton started Walton 5&10 and Bud’s before he got to be named Walmart (also a reminder that even the great ones don’t always get it right the first time).
Now, tell me about you
Lastly, once you have selected your small business name, you want to tell people about it. Going back to my original question, I want to know what’s behind a business name, especially when they are creative and unusual. I am more likely to choose one new business over another if they have a great story around their name or how they came to be a business. This can be part of your branding and can help sell your company to others, making you more relatable to your customer and to separate you from your competition.
For example, my business name, Type 3 Web design. It tells you what we do, web design, but it also differentiates us with others. But what is Type 3, you ask? Well, I will tell you.
Type 3 isn’t a web design term. Type 3, in the outdoor world, is the 3rd level of fun. It’s a high risk, difficult activity, like summiting a mountain or going on a month long hike but, that has potential to have an amazing, long lasting reward – something that changes you for the rest of your life. It’s one of those events that you and your friends share stories about every time you get together.
For us, Type 3 doesn’t just represent fun for the outdoor world but we also believe that it applies to owning or running a small business. It’s what you throw your life into – blood, sweat and tears – to make your life and the lives of others, better, more rewarding and if you pick the right people to work with, into something amazing. These are the decisions that help us define our lives. We believe that T3 represents our business, the businesses we work with and the way we go “all in” helping small business owners bring their business to online success.
I hope this blog helped you select your business name or inspired you to review your online business needs, making sure your business name really is yours. I’d love to hear the story on how you selected your small business name or leave us a tip on how to create a great name.