How to choose an effective company name

Choosing the right name for your business can be a daunting task that can leave quite a few “what ifs.” Do you want it to be personal? Should it be catchy and punchy or should it be straight to the point?

A good name is memorable, stands out from the crowd, speaks to your brand image, and doesn’t limit growth. When you start your search for the perfect business name, begin by deciding what image you want your name to portray and defining the qualities that you want associated with your business.

Here are some key considerations for choosing your business’ name.

Who is your target audience?

What demographics do you want to attract and what words will appeal to them? If you’re wanting to attract young professionals, steer clear of “time-tested” clichés and anachronisms. If you’re appealing to a younger audience, then you may want to add a play on words or something funny to get its attention. For families, you may want to employ verbiage that provides a sense of security or togetherness.

Tailoring your name to your target audience is a great start to drawing new business.

What do you provide for your customers?

Should your name state explicitly what your company offers? For example, if you sell computers, should your name be “Elite computers?” Mentioning product or service offerings is convenient for potential customers and can also help with search engine optimization (SEO) when it comes time to advertise online.

A precaution to consider is that adding a product or service to your name, especially if you decide to trademark it, is that it may limit you. If people believe that you only offer one specific thing, they may not come to you for other services, even though you may provide them. Likewise if you decide to branch out into other areas of your industry, your name may no longer be a good fit.

When attaching your offering to your name, consider the future of your business and your goals.

Does your name communicate the right message?

If you have a particular image you’d like to portray — your business’ personality — does your proposed name match it? You want your company name to communicate the right message, so if you want your business to come off as professional and respectable, you may want to avoid gimmicky names, which may work for other industries.

What are your competitors called?

Take stock of your competition. Look at well-known successes and failures and consider how their company names may have influenced either. To stand out, you may just want to go with a name that’s completely unlike any of your competitors’ names, though still adhering to industry trends.

A riskier but potentially more fruitful option would be to completely eschew industry naming conventions and pick something bold and unexpected.

Other potential limiting factors

If you have the goal of one day expanding beyond your region, then avoid geographic names. This is especially important if you want to open multiple locations in your city. Avoid naming your business after the neighbourhood you started in — if you have to move into a larger building in another part of town, it just won’t make sense.

Any time you come up with a name, consider how it may limit the growth of your business. If you only ever want to make clothing for men, for example, then put “men” in your name, but if you hope to expand your line to include women’s fashions, then avoid the modifier altogether. You may even want to consider other markets that you know you will expand into at some point.

If you plan on hitting foreign markets, be sure your name doesn’t mean something negative, profane, or unintentionally funny in another language or even in current English slang.

Consider the legalities

Avoid playing off of well-known brands and registered trademarks, since your use may be considered copyright infringement. Search through Canada’s Business Registries and make sure the name you’ve chosen isn’t in use. If you’re looking to expand beyond Canada, then you may also have to search for trademarks in other countries.

If you’re thinking about using your own name for the business name, it can work, but it may complicate your eventual exit.

How does it sound when you say it out loud?

The name you’ve chosen may look great in writing, but how would it sound if someone were to mention your business in passing?

For one, is it easy to pronounce or is it a mouthful? Likewise, is it too open to interpretation that it may be regularly mispronounced (Ah-dobe vs. Ah-doh-bee for Adobe)? Also try and name your company something that rolls off the tongue (especially if word-of-mouth advertising is how you get most of your leads).

Try and avoid multiple words that may form new words when said together quickly, like “Sam and Ella’s Diner.”


If you’re having trouble coming up with a business name and need to know more about the legalities, strategic planning, or other business advice, we’d love to help. Call Beal Business Brokers & Advisors at 204-478-7266 or send us an email.

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