Learn how successful startups choose a brand name

7 min read
Baruch Labunski

In some ways, being an entrepreneur is like being a parent. You worry about the future. You lose sleep. And you have to choose a name, the label that will identify and define your “baby” for life. Choosing the right brand name is critical to your future success.

Once you have your name picked out, you'll want to share it with the rest of the world. One of the best ways to stand out online is to create a visual logo that represents your brand. Free tools like GoDaddy's Logo Maker can help you accomplish this in a matter of minutes (without needing prior design knowledge).

Need more help narrowing down your choices? Keep reading to find ways you can filter through brand name options before making your final selection.

Learn from the pros

Think about some great examples of brand names — what do these names suggest to you?

  • Amazon (big, powerful, with a logo that says it offers everything from A to Z)
  • Federal Express (authoritative, trustworthy, fast)
  • Groupon (coupons that connote value, for a group!)

The benefits of having a great brand name are huge.

Customers will remember your company and know how to find it online. They’ll associate your business with any positive connotations that come with your name.

A genuinely great brand name will even convey your company identity and ethos, reminding customers of why they should choose you.

Related: The benefits of using a branded email address for business

A few options for choosing a brand name

So you understand the importance of having a solid brand name. But how do you actually go about selecting or creating that name? That’s a little more involved, as you might imagine. Here are just a few options:

1. The traditional approach

Your first and simplest option may be to go with a traditional approach that combines your name with your industry. Something like Smith Accounting or Bob’s Boat Rentals would fall into this straightforward approach.

Sign Outside Coffee Shop

2. Thinking like a customer

Or you could get more creative, and this is where the fun is. Start by listing all the keywords you can think of that future clients might use to search for a company like yours. So:

  • The keywords for a plumber might be “24/7 plumber” or “reliable plumber”
  • A dance studio might be “dance lessons” or “adult dance classes”

To this list, add any words that describe the qualities that describe your business (creative, affordable, certified, etc.). Whether you think the keyword is clever or useful doesn’t matter at this point. The goal is simply to create a list of relevant words.

I recommend starting your list well before you open for business and adding to it over time.

If you’re struggling to come up with keywords, take advantage of tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or Keywords Explorer from Ahrefs.

3. Points of differentiation

Think about what’s going to make your company different from everyone else in your industry. Jot down words that capture your point of difference.

  • Are you more experienced than your competitors?
  • Do you hold a license that matters to customers?
  • Perhaps you offer round-the-clock service, where other similar businesses are only open 9 to 5.

Even think about approaching your business with a sense of humor or some out-of-the-box perspective. Perhaps you’ve had a way with animals since you were a child — add ‘animal whisperer’ to your list of ideas for your pet-sitting business.

Related: 3 business name generators we love

Now feed these words into a name generator

GoDaddy's Business Name Generator

Next, take your list of keywords and head to an online tool that can suggest potential brand names for your business. A few of the free tools I like are:

The more generic your keywords, the more generic your result will be, so play around with the name generators and see if you can create some memorable results.

Start another list with the best names from the name generators, and you’re ready for the next step.

Weed out the names that are taken

Most business name generators will produce results that haven’t already been claimed by other companies, but I wouldn’t necessarily trust those results. Do your homework.

I’d start at the Canadian Trademarks Database for companies in Canada.

You’ll be able to pull up registered trademarks that contain the words you’re considering. And cross off names on your list that are already registered to someone else.

Register the matching domain name

Once you’ve settled on one or two good names, you’ll also want to check to see if an appropriate web domain is available. You don’t want customers to type your business name into Google only to find your web address is something completely different.

Check if the name you want is available now

Protect your brand

Taking the extra step to register your brand as a trademark can help you safeguard the fruits of your labor and prevent other people from cashing in on your success. The Canadian Trademarks Database mentioned above will walk you through the process.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you’re really struggling to find a brand name, you could hire a professional to help. There’s the cheapo route of finding a freelancer on a site like Fiverr, or you can hire a more experienced professional on a site like Upwork.

If you have a bigger budget, you can purchase services from a branding and marketing expert, who can help with logo development and other important aspects of branding.

One last thought

I have one more suggestion that takes your company’s brand name just a little bit further. (Although, if you’ve gone with a simple and traditional company name, this last point may be less relevant.)

If you’ve landed on a great brand name, logo or tagline, don’t ignore branded merchandise opportunities.

Maybe you’re selling pizzas, or perhaps you’re brewing craft beer, or you’ve come up with a clever play on words for your gas station. If you’ve got a great brand name, locals or tourists may want to pick up a ball cap or a T-shirt.

I remember being on vacation on a little Caribbean island, and the owner of a tiny craft brewery told me that he actually made more profit on selling T-shirts than he did on selling beer!

Now you may not have some exotic tropical locale to draw in tourists, but a great brand name can still have broad appeal, especially if it’s humorous.

Take the time to get this right

Developing a memorable brand name for your business is an important part of starting a new venture. The right name conveys your image and your culture while helping customers find your company online.

While you may feel intimidated by the process of selecting a brand name, breaking that process down into manageable steps can make the task feel less daunting. Brainstorming, researching and getting feedback can help ensure your brand name puts just the right face on your new business.