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If your business is already up and running, most likely it already has a name, but if you are just starting out, one of the hardest decisions can be what it will be called.

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a business name and there are no hard and fast rules you must adhere to ensure the name you choose is the right one.

For example, some experts advise choosing an abstract name that is a blank slate, while others insist the only route to follow when naming your business is choosing one which conveys a clear message about who you are and what you do.

The end decision is yours and perhaps the best advice is to simply “go with your gut”, but there are some things you should take into consideration before taking the plunge and having the signwriters splash your new name above the door of your new shop or across the side of your work van. Even stationery, such as business cards, can be expensive, so you need to make sure you have made the right decision before splashing the cash.

Here are some pointers you should be taking into account:

Check on the competition

You want your business to be memorable and easily recognisable, so it’s worth taking the time to do your research and make sure there are no other businesses already using your chosen name. Picking a name which is already in use could spell disaster for your business, even landing you in hot water legally.

Think about your audience

Is the target market for your business primarily young/old or both? If they are old are they going to be down with that “trendy” spelling, for example using a z instead of an s? Whoever you are aiming for, you need to consider how easy it is to spell and remember your chosen name.

Don’t limit yourself

You may only be expecting to sell one product or service within your home town, but how sure are you that those parameters won’t change over time? What if your business grows and you want to sell other products or expand into neighbouring towns. Or even take your business to a national or global market? Will “Small Town Fairy Crafts” still fit the bill?

Make your business name memorable

There are many aspects to this. You need a name that people will see in the newspaper, for example and still remember (and know how to spell) when they decide to look you up on the internet the following day. Will they be able to do that if you use your name, initials or numbers in your name? On the other hand, could you make a memorable name by joining two words together which fit your business to create a new word which is easy to remember? It may even be worth deciding on a few “key” words or phrases that fit your business and looking them up in a foreign language and using those words for your business name.

Visualise the brand

How will your name look in print? Will it lend itself to a logo that conveys the kind of message you want to be sending out. What sort of font will it be in? What colour? Your business name has to fit in with your overall marketing strategy and branding of your company, so you may have come up with a great name but the message it conveys is cutesy while you were aiming for a cutting edge feel to your business – or vice versa.

Keep it short and simple

There is a balance to be struck with the length of your name. The truth is, if your business name is a word of six letters or less you are unlikely to be able to secure the domain name for it (See: Check Web Availability), but if your name is too long or too complicated, no one will remember it.

Check web availability

It’s all very well coming up with a brilliant name to go on your sparkling business stationery or on the sign above the shop door, but if your business is to succeed the chances are you need an online presence too. So, you need to find a suitable domain name. Potential customers are always going to find it easier to locate you if your website and social media accounts reflect your “real world” name.

Get input

There are tools online – some better than others – which you can use to help you come up with a business name. Most are based on the principle of you adding some keywords which describe your business and the tool combines them in different ways. Some also check if the matching domain name is available. Whichever way you come up with potential names for your business, it’s best to put them to the test with a real life audience. Draw up a shortlist of a few of your favourites and ask people whose opinions you trust to tell you what they think. If you have to explain a name, or, even worse, apologise for it, the chances are your business is doomed before it’s even got off the ground, so avoid those like the plague.

Of course, the final decision on your new business’s name is yours and yours alone. As we said earlier, trust your instinct.  If you love a name – even after sleeping on it for a few days – go for it. It could be the next Starbucks, Microsoft or KFC.