Choosing a brand name for your new business or product is usually the first thing you want to do; it’s fun and exciting to decide on a name, design a logo and give your idea its own identity!
But before you hit ‘submit’ on that business registration or go spending money on a logo design, it’s a good idea to do some basic checks to be sure you can use it, and avoid some expensive rebranding exercise down the track.
I’ve seen it happen so many times, and once you have launched a brand it’s much harder, more expensive and messy to change the name than if you take a little time to plan it properly at the outset.
Here’s my tried and tested 9 step process for choosing a good brand name.
1. Get clear on your ideal customer
Before you start coming up with names, you need to be crystal clear who this business/ product or service is going to be targetted at because the brand should resonate with them.
Go through the process of creating an avatar of your ideal customer so that you can put yourself in their shoes when you get to shortlisting the possible names.
See the name from their point of view – what sounds good, what’s cool, and what’s definitely not cool!
Tip: if you don’t have an ideal customer or an avatar, you can download my free template at the bottom of this page.
2. Note down your search keywords
Before you brainstorm, think about what your main keywords are for this business or service. What would people search for if they were wanting to find you and your competitors?
It could be a simple as what you do (i.e. Nutritionist), or maybe the problems you’re solving (i.e. food intolerance, gut health).
Tip: If your brandname contains a major keyword it is GREAT for SEO.
3. Brainstorm ideas
This is the fun bit!! You want to create a big list of all possible names. Get a few people together because creativity explodes when you can bounce ideas off each other.
During the brainstorm let any crazy or whacky idea be included in the list. Any idea is a good idea! Don’t start crossing them off yet, put every idea down as it may spark another idea which leads you to ‘the one’.
4. Shortlist favourite brand names
Ok, now you can cross off any you don’t like. Try to keep open-minded and have at least 7 options on your short list.
In this step I like to say them out loud. Imagine you’re answering the phone and see if any of them are hard to say or just sound odd.
Tip: Use common spelling for words rather than making up your own unique version. It’s better for search (tick!) and makes it easier for your customers to remember.
5. Domain name search
Now you have your shortlist, the real checks start.
I like to do the domain names first because if you can’t get the domain for a proposed brand name, you need to either modify the name to be unique, or cross it off your list.
You want a domain that nobody else owns any version of.
I recommend you always buy the .com as well as your national domain (such as .com.au for Australian businesses).
Even in you don’t plan to use the .com version, buy it anyway and redirect it to your primary domain name. If you don’t own the .com, you’re allowing someone else to buy it and you won’t have any control over what they put on the site. They could try to mimic your business if you’re doing well, or they might be oblivious – either way it’s far from ideal when your prospects are trying to find you online.
If someone else owns the .com, don’t consider using the .net or .co version. People will always try a .com ending first, so you’re making it harder for your prospects to find your website.
Avoid domains that have ‘backorder’ on them. This means someone else owns it right now and they may wish to sell it to you for a high price. You’re better off finding a unique domain that you can buy directly from the registrar.
Creating a domain name also tests your brand name out – what does it look like when combined into one word? Sometimes when you combine words together it can look like other words, and not always polite ones!
6. Check your relevant trademarks register and business name register
Check to see if anyone already owns a trademark for your proposed name in your jurisdiction. If their business is in the same industry as yours, cross it off your list.
If it’s a totally unrelated industry, you can still proceed.
Check the business name register for other businesses that have registered your business name. This isn’t a show stopper if someone else has registered the same name, as they aren’t always trading under that name.
However, if you can avoid being the same as someone else I would strongly recommend it as things may change in the future.
7. Check competitors’ names
Check the names of your competitors and other players in your wider industry, including overseas.
Do a Google search on some keywords that you would use to describe your services to find companies operating in your sector.
If you find any companies that are similar to your shortlisted names, or have the same initials, cross those ones off your list.
Why? Because you don’t want your audience to get confused between the two of you. Other people don’t pay as much attention to your brand name as you do, so they often don’t notice small differences in a names that sound a bit similar.
There is nothing worse than having your good word of mouth recommendations ending up in your competitor’s sales funnel so try to be unique as possible!
8. Google search your chosen name
Seems obvious, but it’s always worth doing a search on your proposed name to see what pops up in results.
True story – when I was searching for a friends’ website recently, I put her company name into Google. What appeared in the results was a lot of bad press about a different company with the same name who had been in court for fraud and eventually closed down.
While this other company was from a totally different country, it still had the same name and therefore it appeared in the results while my friend’s website was nowhere to be seen.
9. Check social handles are available
This last one probably won’t change your decision, but it’s a good idea to claim your brand name handles asap. If they are already taken, see if you can find a consistent name you can use in each social platform.
There you have it.
If you follow these 9 steps you’ll end up with a great brand name that’s unique and future-proofed.