How To Come Up With A Business Name [Step-by-Step]
We live in a start-up culture where new businesses are constantly popping up, and then disappearing just as quickly. For a new business, your company name is the first thing that potential customers will see, so you need to make sure it’s a good one. What’s the process for generating creative business names? In this article, we’ll show you how to come up with a business name that customers will understand, recognise, and eventually love!
This article walks you through a comprehensive step-by-step process on generating creative business name ideas, so you can find something awesome for your company. We have even created a business generator worksheet that you can download free and use with this article. Easy!
Table of contents
- Summarise your brand
- List related keywords
- Brainstorm names
- Rank and shortlist names
- Check availability of names
- Give final scores for names
- Lock in a winner!
How to come up with a creative business name— worksheets
Before you begin, this process will be much easier if you use our free worksheets, which contain all the information you need to come up with a range of creative business names and to choose a stand-out winner. If you don’t use our free resources, then you can create your own in Excel or Google sheets and you can still follow the entire process in this article, it will just take you a bit longer!
How to come up with a business name
Good business names are harder to come by
Business names used to be simple. They often used the names of business founders like David Jones or Barnes & Noble. Some used a description of what the business did, like AT&T or Telecom. Creating company names was straightforward, straight-laced and straight-up-boring.
Things are different now. With such a crowded marketplace, you’ve only got seconds to catch the attention of your market, appropriately describe your product, and be memorable enough to make an impression. That’s a lot of pressure for just your company name! Our process helps you to find the perfect business name through structured brainstorming, scoring your ideas and checking whether they are available. Good luck and have fun with the process!
Stage 1—A brand summary is the foundation for generating creative business names
Before sitting down to come up with ideas for creative business names, get together a brand summary. By answering the points below, you can create a brand profile that will help to create the seeds that will help you to create the right business name:
- Why does your business exist? What problems do your products or services solve for your customers? What core needs are you fulfilling?
- What are your long-term goals and what is the mission of your business?
- What are the primary values of your business? (For example – is ‘trust’ a key value?) If you haven’t already, you should consider creating mission vision values statements for your company.
- What are the names of your competitors? How is your brand different from them?
- Who are your customers? What customer groups or buyer personas are most important to you? Who is your ideal customer?
- What are your customers looking for? What will appeal or not appeal to them? Why do people choose to spend their money with you?
- What are you offering? (If you have multiple services, like electric and solar, maybe your name should reflect both or be equally appealing to both)
- How does your product or service make people feel?
- What industry terms are associated with your business? (Authenticity? Accredited?)
- What are the personality traits of your brand?
- What is your brand’s style? (Traditional? Fresh? Fun? Exciting?)
By answering the questions above, you will already be creating words and phrases that can assist you to generate business names, but don’t get ahead of yourself! Just focus on answering the questions in the way that works for you. Your aim is to create a single page brand summary document that will guide you in the next stages.
Stage 2—Brain dump lots of keywords to kick start the process
Your brand profile should put you in a clearer frame of mind, and allow you to really get into the process of creating business names. But before you start, make sure you’re armed with three things: time for the process, an open mind, and a variety of people you can bounce ideas off. A good old Thesaurus never went astray, either!
Ever played Taboo or Scattergories? If so, they’re going to come in handy.
Your objective for this section is to think of as many words as possible that are associated with your brand. Just get them all down, primary school style, on a big piece of paper. Use colour, symbols and word associations. Look up synonyms in your thesaurus. While you are thinking of words, keep going back to your brand profile, as this can set you off with another flow of ideas or a new theme to think of different ideas. Don’t filter yourself in this stage, just keep writing down lots of ideas.
A technique called Googlestorming is useful to generate word associations. Simply search for related products, concepts and ideas and look for the suggested works that Google comes up with. Selling ice cream? Google words associated with it— cold, ice, frozen—and see what you can come up with. Try to approach this task creatively, and think outside the box to help you find that innovative, catchy name. Keep bouncing around concepts, but keep them simple, marketable, and memorable.
At the end of this section, you should have a big list of words that are closely or vaguely associated with your brand, values, customers, competitors, products, services or anything else you can think of. This list of words will be your resources to start thinking of business names and you may have started to create a few already which is fine too.
Stage 3—Brainstorming business name ideas
Now that you have plenty of words and ideas, can you see any obvious connections or combinations? The aim of this stage is to start to combine the list of words into names, so play with the words you have and try them out in different orders and in as many combinations as you can. This is the biggest stage of the process, so now you can get really creative!
a. Create a big list of business name ideas
To make this stage easy, you’ll need to start making a list of potential business name ideas. Again, it’s key not to be judgemental about the names, just write down any and all combinations you come up with. We will filter them out later and even ones you don’t like make help you to come with others that you love, so list them all out.
Open our free Excel downloadable worksheet, and add as many creative business names as possible, just filling out the first column for now. Or if you chose not to download the worksheet, feel free to make your own version.
b. Need more business name ideas?
If English wasn’t your best subject at school or you start to get stuck (which everybody does), we’ve got some tips below for creative ways to join words and phrases and to create more ideas:
- Alliteration (a repeated sound or letter at the beginning of each word). Look for adjectives (describing words) related to your words from Stage One.
- Idioms are common phrases (almost like clichés) that have coded, understood meaning. There’s a list of them here that can help you make some connections between words.
- Can you make an acronym? (use the first letter of each word to create something new)
- Can you use metaphors, similes or imagery?
- Are there different colours that you can associate with your brand? Red may mean exciting (like in Red Balloon). Golden may symbolise something precious and memorable (like in Golden Octopus Foundation).
c. Try creating categories from your brain dump of keywords
You might try to organise your brain dump of keywords from the last stage into categories. You can try categories such as playful, descriptive, metaphorical or symbolic, and conjoined or linked. If your product is technical and service-based, perhaps being descriptive (an accurate reflection of services) is the sensible choice. Are you offering two services or are there two concepts or ideas with a clear link between them? This approach doesn’t work for everyone, but it helps you to think differently and it might help you to generate another group of creative business names to add to your list.
d. Free generator tools
Here are a few free generator tools that might help you finalise this stage of brainstorming your business name:
- Dot-o-mator: This tool reflects names currently available. It helps you combine beginnings and ends to come up with a new list of names.
- Business Name Tool: Select a few keywords and then watch a list generate for you.
- Naming By Write Press & Rhymer By Write Press: This combines keywords with similar names or rhyming words.
- Brandbucket: (Be careful here – cost can be a factor). Buy your domain and they’ll help with your logo and name.
- Power Thesaurus: Another tool to use to come up with synonyms for your creative business name.
- Rhymer: Another tool that finds rhymes to help compose a good business name, but like any free company name generation tool it can create some dead ends too, so just try it out and see.
- Adjective: Place the words you like the most from your brain dump before or after the random adjective generator. Even use this to create the adjectives to best describe your business to create this list prior to trying to combine words into business name ideas.
We also wrote a comprehensive article on the best business name generators out there.
e. Friends and fun can create great business name ideas too!
If you get stuck after these different approaches or you just want to make it more fun, call in your support team! Can they spot any more great combinations? Remember—you’re looking at creating a business name that is simple, honest, and reflective of your brand. Two (or three or four) heads are better than one and a drink or two might get the creativity flowing!
By now you may have a list of 20, 50 or 100 business names and in there somewhere are at least ten good business names. So now you can start the process of refining and selecting the best ones.
Stage 4—Scoring and shortlisting your business name ideas
To create a shortlist of business name ideas, you need some sort of scoring methodology or you can get lost and not know which ones you really like.
We recommend using our free worksheet as this helps to create a more scientific approach to your selection. Even if you don’t use our sheet, you can use the same principles yourself but rating each business name with a score of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest) for a set of factors such as:
- 1st Impression Power (score 1 to 5)
- Projection Of Brand Values (score 1 to 5)
- Easy To Read And Pronounce (score 1 to 5)
You can think of other factors too, but these three we have found to work really well. The numerical score is important, as this helps you to rate and order your business name idea choices for your final decision phase. If you are using the free worksheet, the scoring process in the section above will allow you to order your whole list using the ‘Business Name Score’ column (if you’re using your own spreadsheet, prioritise by the total score of the scoring factors, such as ‘1st Impression Power’, etc.). If the ‘Business Name Score’ is 10 or greater, go to the ‘Shortlist Decision’ column and select ‘Approved’, otherwise, select ‘Rejected’.
Now you need to check the availability of your business name before you get too attached, so hold off on printing those business cards just yet!
Stage 5—Check the availability of your business name ideas
Fair warning, this stage can be a bit disappointing and you’ll almost certainly lose some of your favour business name ideas. We don’t want to do this stage any earlier in the process, as you’ll filter out too many good ideas, but you have to do it eventually. I recommend working through your favourite business name ideas first and only focusing on the business names that you marked as ‘Approved’ based on their score in the shortlist section, as this availability checking stage takes a while.
a. Critical business name idea availability tests
There are four critical tests your new business name ideas have to pass. If they fail only one of these it isn’t necessarily the end, but you can see pretty quickly if your business name idea is too close to something that’s already being used. Go through each of your best business names and complete these tests in detail (it take about 10 mins per business name idea to test them properly).
1. Australian competitor searches
Do a Google search for your business name idea. If there is a close match in Australia (or whatever country you plan to operate in) then it’s not a good sign and you may have to reject the name. If there is a close or exact match in a different country or a different industry then the business name is probably still ok. However, you will need to eliminate any business name ideas that have close to a competitor in the same market. You need to avoid potentially detrimental brand confusion. We recommend rating each name with a grade such as, ‘Appears Ok’, ‘Throw It Back’ or ‘Borderline’. This isn’t exact, but it gives you a good indication and that’s all you need at this point.
2. ASIC business name availability
This is a more formal test to see if you can legally trade under your proposed new business name in Australia. In order to use your business name, you have to be able to register it with ASIC. Head to the ASIC website to check if the business name is available for use. You can search their business name register using this link. Once you check the database, you will be able to mark your business name as, ‘Yes – Available’, ‘No – Not Available’ or ‘Need Manual Check’. You normally get a yes or no answer, but if you get a ‘needs manual check’, you’ll need to reach out to ASIC to check further.
3. Domain name availability for your business name ideas
Use one of the many domain registration services like WebCentral or Crazy Domains and do a search for your business name ideas. You don’t need to buy anything yet, but do a few searches to see what you you could buy. If you’re in Australia, the best domain extension is a ‘com.au’, but check out ‘.com’ or ‘.net.au’ or other variations too. Just see what you can get to make sure you can get a domain name that is either an exact match to your business name or a close variation and a domain extension that works for you. In the worksheet, mark the ‘Domain Available’ column. with, ‘Yes – Available’, ‘No – Unavailable’ or ‘Close Variation’, so you have a quick record when you’re making your final assessment. You might also wish to add some notes, so you can remember what was available when you review everything at the end.
4. Trademark checks for your business name ideas
In order to check for Trademarks, you’re best to engage with a trademark lawyer or an IP lawyer. However, you can also do your own searches using the IP Australia website to see what might be available. You don’t HAVE to have a trademark in order to use a business name, but it’s risky if you don’t own the trademark, as you could be force to stop using your new business name in the future, which would be frustrating and expensive. When using the IP Australian website, you will need to do some reading, so the first time you use it be prepared to invest some time into learning. You need to be aware of Trademark Classes, so do read about this before you start your searches, as this is super important. Once you’re ready to start searching, use the free trademark search tool (just add in some trademark classes to refine your search). At the end of this process for each of your business name ideas, you can mark them on the spreadsheet as, ‘Appears Ok’, ‘Throw It Back’or ‘Needs Manual Check’.
b. Bonus social media business name checks
Checking for social media names , such as Facebook Page names or Twitter handles is a good idea, but it’s not essential. This shouldn’t drive your main choice for business name ideas, but it might be handy if you have a split decision, plus it’s a good idea to check this anyway.
Check your user name availability across different social media platforms. Ideally, you would want your social media usernames consistent across all platforms but in reality that can be challenging. Don’t be afraid to create variations, for example, the Wall Street Journal named their Twitter handle simply “WSJ.” At Media Heroes, we use “MediaHeroesAU.” It’s still worth a check and a nice easy tool to check all your platforms is Namecheckr.
We recommend checking this at the very end of the process for no more than 3-5 of your final choices.
Stage 6 – Final scores for your business names
Using your name generator spreadsheet, you should now have all of your ‘Approved’ business names (with scores of at least 10 or more) completely checked for the four critical availability checks (Australian competitors, ASIC business names, domain name and trademarks). If your top scoring business name ideas fail one or more of the availability tests, then consider marking them as ‘Rejected’ in the ‘Shortlist Decision’ column so you can cut your list down to a final selection.
You might find that even at this late stage you come up with new business name ideas. It’s fine to come up with new ideas to test at any sage, just put them into your spreadsheet and complete all the tests to see if they make the final selection.
At this point of the process, you should have around 3 to 5 business names that you prefer. If you still have too many selections left, you can always raise the minimum score from 10 to 12 in your spreadsheet and mark the lower ones as ‘Rejected’ or you can simply select the top 5 scoring names that pass all or most of the variability tests.
Now it’s decision time! Using your 3-5 shortlisted business name ideas, you can either simply select your favourite, or you can get some more input. If you have a trusted professional network, send your shortlist to them for opinions and feedback, just make sure they keep the names private, as you haven’t secured your domain names yet (we don’t recommend creating a Facebook post to ask this or someone may swoop in and grab your business name from you).
Stage 7—Lock in your creative business name!
Victory is so close! There’s only one thing left to do…lock it in!
After your victory dance, make sure you thoroughly complete all registrations for your name of choice before you go ahead and start building everything. Register your domain name and register your ASIC business name first, then you can start the trademark process shortly afterwards and finally you can start grabbing your social user names. Once that’s complete and confirmed, you can move on to logo development and the creation of your brand.
Seatbelts on, all arms and legs inside the vehicle and get ready for savvy digital marketing to rocket you to new heights!
Once your logo has been designed and finalised, you can stamp your branding on your emails by following this guide on how to create an email signature.
Any final hints and tips for business name ideas?
- Make sure it’s easy to hear, say, spell and understand.
- Unique doesn’t necessarily mean obscure or mysterious—make sure your customers can connect your name to your product.
- Your domain name doesn’t have to exactly match your business name!
- Don’t go too niche in case your business model changes down the track.
- Give your new brand the best chance of success by getting serious about your digital marketing either by putting in the time and money yourself or by engaging with a digital growth agency that’s serious about results!
There are a lot of people ready to give you advice about how to create a business name, but at the end of the day, it really needs to be your decision. With any luck, you’ll be associated with this name for years to come.