If you are taking the plunge and starting a new business, one of the first things you will need to do is choose a business name carefully. There are many factors to consider in building equity in a name. Ultimately your brand will govern your success, so getting it right from the outset needs to involve a process of thought, consideration and planning. So before you do a company name search with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), read this post.
Much like choosing a child’s name, your business is your baby, and you will be living with the choice for many years to come.
Take GoDaddy for example — initially it was named Jomax Technologies after the Arizona street where it was located. When the company founder decided to get a domain name, he and a handful of employees gathered around a keyboard searching for just the right one. They tried BigDaddy.com but it was already registered to someone else. Then they tried GoDaddy.com — and voila! A global company was born.
Too often people rush past the basics to open their doors for business. In so doing, they make compromises on their brand, which can have unknown negative impacts. They are unknown because you never know what you are missing when your messaging misses the mark.
4 things to do before starting a company name search
Before you register that business name, you owe it to yourself to do a little research.
Ask the right questions.
Come up with ideas.
Narrow the list.
Claim your new business name.
Read on for tips on finding a business name that will set you up for success.
Where all great brands begin
Here are some steps you should follow to come up with an appropriate name for your business or startup. Put yourself in the best possible position by completing them before you do a company name search with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
1. Ask the right questions
It’s important you ask (and answer) the following questions before you get serious about choosing a name for your business.
- What is the problem your business is solving?
- Who is your target audience?
- What will make your business unique in the market in which you want to operate?
- What is your ultimate objective for the company (in other words, your vision statement)?
- How will you go about achieving this objective (your mission statement)?
The answers will not only help your naming efforts but could be used to write a business plan. This will come in handy if you ever want to apply for a business loan.
2. Come up with ideas
With the fundamental questions answered, you are now able to think about a name within the parameters set by your responses. For example, if you want to sell clothing to wealthy women who are aged 40+, then including the word “cheap” in the business name would most likely be a mistake.
There are a few different naming options to consider:
Your own name
You could use your own name, possibly along with a reference to the work type or industry. However, in most cases, it is best not to choose this option. Making your name the centre of the business only works when you are a celebrity or have the advertising budget to become one. When it comes to expanding or even selling the business, it is that much harder if you’ve named it after yourself.
Describing your business
Another naming option is to use a descriptive word or words. But the danger of having a business name with more than one word is that inevitably it will be shortened into an acronym, which means you have to do a lot more work to market the brand.
The creative option
Why not combine a couple of words into one new word? If you are clever enough, you can maintain the meaning of the words and the combination will carry the story of your brand further. Try using one of these online business name generators to come up with creative ideas:
All of these tell you if the domain name that matches the suggested business name is available for registration.
You could also consider using an existing word, not even necessarily directly attached to what you do, and give it new meaning (e.g. Apple). We have seen fruit, stones and colours used successfully in this way. Like the first option, this approach is more successful when you have an advertising budget to drive an awareness campaign.
3. Narrow the list
There are two tests any business name needs to pass in order to be a viable option.
The ASIC company name search
Legally, the last thing you want to do is commit to a name that someone else owns. So before you order signs and business cards, check the ASIC business name register.
You can either cross off the business names that are already registered, or come up with a variant on the one you want. However, you do want to avoid positioning yourself where your brand could be confused with another.
Check domain name availability
The next step is to check to see if the domain name is available, preferably using the .com.au extension so people know you are an Australian business. If you have plans to operate globally, it’s worth securing the .com variation if you can.
There are some important reasons why securing a domain name is important to your company name search:
- You must have your own custom domain name in order to have a business website. Once registered, no one else will be able to trade online under your domain name.
- Emailing clients from a Gmail/BigPond/Hotmail generic account is not a good look. In fact, emails coming from such accounts are more likely to be treated as spam — even if they come from a legitimate business. If you have your own domain, your email will be firstname.lastname@example.org.
Avoid confusing customers — make sure your business domain name exactly matches your business name.
It is a mistake to have one name for your business and to use something different again for your domain name. These days attention spans are small, so we need to be delivering one clear, simple message to people. When your business name, email and web address are all the same, your message is clear and reinforced.
GoDaddy offers a free service to check the availability of any domain name within seconds. If your first choice is taken, you should move along to the next business name on your list and repeat the process.
See if the domain you want is available now
Can’t find a .com.au or .com to match the business name you want? Try one of the new domain extensions here — including .sydney and .melbourne. These new extensions open up a world of branding options for Australian startups.
What to do if the domain you really want is taken
If you love a business name and think it a perfect fit for your company but the matching domain name is taken, it’s worth a further check. Sometimes people register domain names and don’t use them, so it’s a good idea to do a quick Google search to see if it is in use with a website. If it isn’t, you can go down the path of trying to see if the current owner is willing to sell it. There’s even a dedicated service to assist you with this process.
4. Claim your new business name
Once you find a business name and matching domain name that are not in use, celebrate by registering your new name with ASIC. Be sure to register the domain as well, so no one else can get to it first.
You should also look to secure the matching social media handles. Services like Namech_k and KnowEm make this quick. Ideally, you want these to be the same as your official business name, but this is not as critical. Most companies don’t promote their actual full social media handles, they simply provide links to them on their website.
Company name search tips
The secret to a successful company name search is to keep it simple. Do the foundation work first, then check name and domain name availability through ASIC and a domain name registrar like GoDaddy.
Remember, the goal is to have a strong, memorable business identity that will help raise awareness about who you are as a company and what you do. It should prompt all who see it to want to find out more about you, a search that will invariably begin online.
Once the name is official, you will need to start thinking about a tagline to help further describe your business. The combination of name and tagline should help tell the story of your company.
Now you are at the point where you can involve a graphic designer to help complete the picture of your brand. Your branding (name + tagline + logo) should help people understand at-a-glance what you do and your desired position in the market.
Your website is your front desk. It’s where people will check you out first before you even know they’re interested in you.
Naming a business is one of the first and most important decisions you’ll ever make. But it doesn’t have to be hard. Just follow the steps I’ve outlined, enjoy the creative process and choose wisely.
Image by: FreeAussieStock