Of all the elements of branding your business, selecting a name may be one of the strangest, most challenging parts.
In my first round of owning a creative business, I was just “Hannah Pomphrey Graphic Design.” It became pretty clear to me by the second time around that I wanted a distinct name for my business…but I wasn’t sure yet what that name was going to be.
As you know, I eventually settled on Hue & Tone Creative – which I LOVE – but it took a while to get there. If you’re lucky, your first idea will be a totally original one, and no existing businesses will have a similar name. That’s not quite how it happened over here, though.
If you’re starting the process of narrowing down a name, here are a couple of questions to ask yourself to help streamline the process.
1: Should I use my name?
Whether or not you want to use your own name for your business is one of the first things to consider. Often businesses start organically and individuals naturally fall in to using their given name. If you’ve already built your business using your own name, and have significant recognition in your community, chances are you should keep it that way.
Not liking your name, having a super generic name or having a name that’s a little tricky to spell are considerations if you’re starting a brand-new business, but they’re iffy justifications for changing the name of an already-thriving operation.
Tip: Not sure about your name? How about your initials?
If you’re starting from square one and aren’t sure which route to go, think about where you want to position yourself in your market. If you’re running a web based business and your name’s Anna Smith, you’re making it hard for potential clients to find you. If you’re aiming to reach local clients only, this might not be a problem.
Take into account whether you plan to remain a one-person operation long-term. If you’re looking to grow your business quickly or might acquire a partner, you may want to go ahead and incorporate and build your business under a less personal name.
Tip: If you’re in a small town market and want to keep business local, a corporate-sounding name risks making clients think you’re going to be charging corporate rates.
2: What are my services?
Make sure your business name reflects the services you’re offering to customers. It sounds obvious, but you’ve only got a few words to communicate to clients what you do and it won’t serve you to mislead them.
Make a list of your services and see what fits best. Should you be New Name Creative, New Name Social, New Name Marketing, or New Name Studio?
For example, if you’re really looking to work primarily with social media clients, you’re going to confuse people by using the word “Creative” in your business name. Likewise, if you’re a broader creative business you shouldn’t be “New Name Social.” Some words might be catchier or trendier, but if they don’t reflect what you do, you’re going to miss out on potential clients.
If you’re not sure what fits best, go back to the drawing board and figure out who your ideal client is before naming your business. You can’t appeal to everyone – so don’t try. Tailor your branding to the clients you hope to attract.
3: What are some things people might associate with me or my business?
Is there something you’re known for? Do you always wear pink; do you have a well known nickname? Are you obsessed with a certain animal?
Make a list of words people may associate with you, interests and hobbies. Star the ones that would be most relevant to your business’s services and see what you can do with that!
Exhausted those ideas? Move on to making a list of qualities you’d like people to associate with your business or a list of industry terms.
Tip: Try to keep your name around or under 13 characters.
4: Is this name taken?
Once you have a list of potential names, use GoDaddy to see if a similar domain is available. Then, conduct a Google search to see if anyone else has the same name. Next, make sure there is something that works available on all the major social media networks. People need to be able to find you as easily as possible – and consistency is key.
Things like being consistent with the editorial aspects – for instance, whether you use a numeral “4” or spell out the word “four” – will only increase your brand cohesion. The shorter the better – we opted for “@hueandtone” on our social media, even though our website also has the word creative (www.hueandtonecreative.com).
Tip: Ask yourself -- is this name clear, concise, compelling and consistent?
I was originally obsessed with the idea of “Top Knot Creative,” but someone had recently purchased the domain and claimed the Facebook page. Instead of getting stuck on trying to make one thing work (I then got fixated on Top Knot Studio) keep looking around and trying new names.
Can’t seem to find anything that’s available? Don’t get discouraged. Keep trying different combinations until you find something that works. You’ll get there!
5: What do other people think?
When you finally think you have a winner, conduct a quick focus group with your friends and family and see what they think. I’d originally decided on “Mood Creative” – I even had the domain in my GoDaddy Cart – when all my friends told me it made them think of tie-dye and drugs. After hearing this from four different people, I realized I should probably move on.
If your friends and family who love you don’t like your new name, imagine how hard it’s going to be to get complete strangers on board.
After making my way through these steps (some more than once), we are now Hue & Tone Creative – and I couldn’t be happier with the name.
If you already own a creative business, how did you come up with its name? If you’re making business plans for the future, what other branding info would be helpful to you?