A smart, catchy business name can help you stand out in a crowded industry by piquing the interest of prospective clients.
Many founders opt for simplicity by naming the company after themselves. But this strategy can bring challenges when you go to sell your business down the road, says Richard Heft, executive director of Ext. Marketing Inc. in Toronto. Alternatively, the founder may get stuck as the business’s go-to person, no matter how expansive or high-functioning the team has become.
Here are five considerations for naming (or re-naming) your practice:
1. Pronounce it
“The name should sound good when you say it out loud,” says Andrew Broadhead, communications manager at Ext. Marketing.
In the world of investments, some people add several extra, unnecessary words to their firm name, such as “investment,” “management,” or “incorporated,” Broadhead says. Instead, keep it short and sweet.
2. Don’t let your name limit your services
Your company name should not only explain what the company does, but be flexible enough to encompass any services you might offer in the future, Heft says.
For example, if you name your company “Smith’s Retirement Solutions,” you may have difficulty to moving into estate planning five years later.
“Your name should give you the ability to grow your services, grow the company and grow the level of professionalism,” Heft says.
3. Assess the market
Check the availability of a name’s potential for a web address, Heft says. If your preferred URL is already taken, it likely means that your desired name is not available.
If you find a few similarly named companies in your web search, research what demographic they serve, Heft says. For example, if you’re located in Ontario and there is a company with a similar name based in B.C., you should consider carefully whether you plan to expand nationally one day. If so, you probably should opt for another name.
4. Hire a trademark lawyer
Legal advice can be invaluable in choosing a name.
“The last thing you want to do is invest a lot of time and money branding your company,” Broadhead says, “and all of a sudden receive a letter from a lawyer saying you’re infringing on someone else’s copyright.”
Hiring a lawyer may slow down your pace in launching the business, Broadhead adds, but the peace of mind you receive can be priceless.
5. Envision your larger brand
Your company name is part of a larger branding exercise, so you’ll want to ensure there’s a marketing professional on staff — or an outsourced marketing company — that can help spread brand awareness, Broadhead says.
In addition to your name, you also should develop taglines (to expand on what your company represents), logos, web pages, and social-media accounts.
“You’ll need to think very holistically about what this name is going to represent,” Broadhead says, “and how you can execute that creatively.”