Mindmap: Choosing a business name
Find out and remember all the need-to-know of naming.
Trademarks: If you pick a name too similar to an
already trademarked name, you might find yourself in the Company
names Tribunal or the Intellectual Property Office, faces with
scathing fines. Avoid it by checking the Intellectual
Property Office website .
Non-identical: If you're a limited company, you can't
use a name identical to one already on the Companies House
Offensive: You can't use a name deemed offensive to
Sensitive: You can't use sensitive words such as
'Royal', 'English', 'Foundation', 'Authority', 'Society', or
professional titles such as 'Solicitor'. Check with Companies House
for the full list if in doubt.
Business name vs company name: If you're a limited
company, your business name is the name you use from day-to-day
with customers (e.g. Bobsters), whereas your company name is the
full name with suffixes that Companies House uses (e.g. Bobsters
Endings: if you're a company, your company name has
to end with the relevant words or abbreviations - 'limited' or
'ltd', 'plc', 'limited liability partnership' or 'LLP', or any
Premises: If you're a limited company, you have to
display your name on your business premises, even if you're a home
Alphabet prominence?: Most directories are listed
alphabetically - if your customers are likely to find you in one,
aim to be nearer the top by choosing a name beginning with A, B, C
or one of the early letters.
Urls: It's absolutely crucial you get a good url (web
address) for your business name - make thorough checks with
potential names and check all .com, .co.uk, .net and .biz endings.
Remember though that you can play around with abbreviating your
business name if there's nothing free. Unusual spellings can help
you find free urls, which is why so many new companies use them -
Smarta being a case in point!
Explanatory?: Do you want your name to explain what
you do? An explanatory name can help up your Google ranking and
tell your potential customers how you can help them (Janice's
Flowers, Smithson Carpenters, etc).
Search: Do extensive online searches and look in
local directories and Yellow Pages to make sure a similar business
doesn't already have a name like the one you have in mind,
otherwise your customers will get confused and you risk losing
custom to them.
Memorable: Simply, don't choose a name that no one
can remember - run suggestions by friends to see.
Length: Don't go overly long - it'll look weird on
signage and stationary and be more difficult to remember.
Capitalisation: Going lower case is a bit of a fad
among new, particularly online, businesses at the moment - it very
much signifies young, fresh, trendy types of company. If you want
to strike customers as established and mature, stick to normal
Spelling: Playing around with unusual spellings can
help you secure unique urls, and gives an air of trendiness and
newness to your business.
Family: Surnames and mentions of next of kin (Giles
& Son) give a sense of heritage and often bring a feeling of
formality, prestige and a long-running business - but don't do it
unless you genuinely have a family business, or you may have to
answer a few awkward customer questions!
Puns: Puns tend to work best for low-cost brands -
particularly hairdressers, for some reason (Hairway to heaven). But
avoid them if you're trying to convey a more expensive image.
Your own name: When you meet people they'll feel
valued that they're meeting you, as you are clearly the owner of
the business. However, that can also be limiting, as it may make
you seem smaller than you want.
Regional: Mentioning a place name (Riverford
Organics) can give a brand a homely feel, and works nicely among
the home-made and ethical crowd, as well as encouraging loyalty in
your local area. But it can be limiting if you have grand plans -
think of Norwich Union's recent and very costly rebrand to Aviva so
they could appeal to a global audience.
Language 2.0: There has been a whole host of
linguistic fashions in business naming that have sprung up with web
2.0 (the current version if the internet) - placing 'i' or 'e'
before any word, using a kooky spelling (flickr, tumblr), using
lower case and mixing letters with punctuation (del.icio.us, ?What
If!). But you need to think very carefully before indulging - such
names may make your business name and your brand feel outdated in
years to come.
HMRC: When sole traders register as self-employed
with HMRC they also give their business name if it's different from
their own name. (You register as self-employed as soon as you're
actively seeking work.)
Companies House: If you're a limited company, you
need to register your name with Companies House. Sole traders don't
Online: Snap up the url you've found that fits your
business name immediately, and register it with as many endings as
you can too (.com, .co.uk, .biz, .net). If you don't, someone else
will - and you don't want to be stung by having to buy the domain
name off them further down the line.
Smarta offers a company registration service powered by the
National Business Register. You can search for available
names then register a business name, or set up a company and/or
register a trademark with us. You will receive a professional
binder with all your official documents via post within 3 days.
Go to our company registration tool here: Company registration tool
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