Finance Globe

U.S. financial and economic topics from several finance writers.
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Creating Your Business Name

Choosing your business name can be fun, but it's one of the most important choices you'll have to make. Many other business decisions can be adjusted later on down the road if they're not working, but it can be difficult to successfully change the name of your business. As your business grows and you develop a customer base, a big reason they'll come back is familiarity with your business name. Changing it later can confuse customers about who you are, and whether you are the same management they originally liked doing business with.

Choosing the right business name from the start will tell your potential customers who you are and what you do. The "who" doesn't necessarily mean they need to know your name, but may be a descriptive term that tells them about your business. Your business name should give your customers the image of a business that is professional and competent, no matter what your business does. Also, consider the other qualities that will be important to your customers; someone who needs visiting nurse services will desire compassion, someone who needs a delivery service will expect reliability, and someone who needs accounting services will want accuracy. Be creative, and use descriptions that are appropriate for your industry.

The right business name will convey a positive experience before your customers even come to you. Have you ever needed a service or product and had to pick one business out of many in the phone book? What made you choose the business you decided to call? Location may be one of the "narrow down" factors, but what if you still had ten to choose from in your area? The name of your business may be the deciding factor when a potential customer has many other choices.

Using some creativity in your business name is good, since you want your business to stand out from your competitors, but be cautious about too much creativity. Some business owners make the mistake of coming up with such a unique name that no body really knows what their business does. How often do you see trucks and vans with a business name painted on the side, but have no idea what kind of product or service they provide? They may have paid big bucks for that paint-job, but their current customers will be the only ones who know what their business does.

You don't have to choose a business name that describes what your business does, it's just that doing so will help make marketing a smaller, less expensive job. There are quite a few successful companies out there with names that say nothing about what they do; Nike, Google, Apple, Lowe's. They became big over years of mass-marketing. Your business may one day grow to become an empire, but be prepared for additional advertising costs to let the world know who you are and what you do.

Important considerations
The law restricts a business name from using terms that are misleading about your business legal structure. You can't use terms in your business name such as corporation or incorporated, or their abbreviations corp. or inc., unless your business is actually incorporated. You can't put LLC after your business name unless you are a limited liability company. And likewise, you must include the proper notation in your business name if your business is indeed incorporated or a limited liability company.

All businesses must register their business name with their state, unless you're a sole proprietor working under your legal name. Registering business names prevents different businesses, with different owners, from having the same name. This ensures that each business can be recognized. If business names weren't registered, someone's business might suffer due to the shady actions or poor customer service of another business with the same name across the state.

Registering your business name is simple. Go to your city or county clerk's office, and your Secretary of State office and file the required form with your assumed business name, also known as a fictitious business name, or your doing business as (DBA) name. If you find that your first choice is taken, you'll have to choose another business name. It's actually a good idea to have a back-up name or two before you go to register. That way, you won't have to come up with something off the top of your head if you find your first choice is taken.

Using your own name
If you are a sole proprietor who plans on using only your legal name to do business, your job is easy. You won't have to be creative, everybody will know who you are, and you won't have to register your business name with your state. A painter named John Smith can do business as himself without registering his name. But, you'll still need to register the business name if you plan on adding something to your name, like John Smith Painting, or will only use part of your full name, like Smith Painting Services. It may take a little more effort to register a business name, but a name that describes your services can bring in more customers than simply a name alone. John Smith Painting's potential customers will know who he is - and what he does - simply by the name of his business.

Using your own name can be effective if you only plan to provide services locally. You may live in a small town where residents put value on the personal relationship, even in business. You may plan to run a body shop or offer a lawn care service. Putting your own name on the business tells customers that you are the person they will deal with, you will personally fix any of their problems, and that you're proud to offer them services.

But unless you're already famous or you are a well-known expert in your field, using your own name can backfire if you plan to offer services or products over a larger area, and especially if you'll go world-wide. Your customers may not really care who you are; they probably don't even expect to personally deal with the owner of the business.

They are likely to be looking for the best, whether it's the best quality or the best price, if they have to search outside of their local area for what they need; your circle of competition will be huge. It will be more effective to choose a business name that stands out from the rest in a world-wide market. Choose a business name that lets every one know you are a leader in your industry, or at least, that you plan to be a leader.

Steps to choosing your business name
  • Think about the message you want your business name to convey to potential customers or clients.
  • Brainstorm and write a list of descriptive terms that send the right message. Use a thesaurus for synonyms.
  • Put a creative spin on plain words, but not so creative that the right message gets lost. Get help from creative friends and family. Even if they don't come up with the perfect name, their ideas may give you ideas.
  • Come up with a few choices and then get opinions. Some names may sound better, some may sound confusing. The opinion of an impartial outsider will help.
  • Check the phone book to see if your choices are already taken. Register your business name with the appropriate offices. Open for business!
The right business name should:
  • be easy to remember and easy to spell, so your customers can tell their friends about you.
  • give a good first impression of your business and stand out from your competitors.
  • be creative but still let your customers know what your business does.
  • convey a positive image so your customers know they are dealing with a pro.
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Friday, 12 April 2024

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