How to choose the right name for your business

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Should you go with something traditional or do you dare to be a little bit different?

Coming up with a name for your new venture is perhaps the first big decision you have to make. It will represent you and your services, so it’s vital that you get it right.

Your gut feeling may be telling you that you need to pick a name that sticks in people’s minds. After all, there are so many XYZ Accountants out there already, right?

There is, however, a fine line between catchy and pretentious or even tacky.

So how can you be memorable, but also professional, modern and approachable? And what else should you consider?

Target audience

The name should appeal to you, but first and foremost, it should resonate well with your prospects and clients.

Remember the first rule of marketing: you are NOT the client,” says Tim Prizeman, director at public relations agency Kelso Consulting, who has been advising accountancy firms for 25 years. “Test several potential names on people you know who fit your client profile. A small sample won’t be representative so don’t slavishly follow the feedback, but do use it for guidance.”

That said, it’s perfectly ok to put forward a name that you, as the business owner, personally connect to.

“In many ways it’s firstly an emotive decision based on a feeling that a name is inspiring,” says Neil Svensen, co-founder and CEO at branding agency Rufus Leonard. “Many of the names we all know and love started life based on the fact that the name just felt right, often accompanied by a compelling story about its origins.”

There’s certainly a compelling story behind the origins of Zenza, the name Annette Powell MAAT chose for her practice.

Powell says: “We holiday in the same part of Spain each year, it’s quaint, cultural and picturesque. One evening a few years ago we went to the end of the pier in the main town of Dénia, walked through a steel door and climbed a rather industrial-looking staircase only to discover this hidden, open-air bar called Zensa. Not only was it beautiful and serene with panoramic views of the harbour, the customer service was also the best we’ve ever experienced in Spain. So our Zenza is also like this hidden gem, with the same high standards for all of our clients.”

Zenza’s tagline – “Take a seat, relax and let Zenza take care of all your Bookkeeping, Credit Control and Payroll concerns” – also captures the essence of Powell’s brand.

Powell also recalls how she ignored her father saying “Zenza” would be at the back of the phone book. “For me, it’s something distinctive which makes us stand out from the crowd. Also, we’ve created something different with our practice – we are not the average bookkeepers, we offer a wrap around service to help clients grow their business – and the name adds to that.”

Unleash your creativity

But how creative can you be with the name, considering the traditional ‘image’ of the profession?

Svensen says it’s entirely up to you. “As long as the name reflects the business itself and there is a story around it, there’s no rule that says accountancy practices must have very sensible names. But it’s imperative that you consider how it will be used, how it sounds when it’s spoken, and how you can build on it or incorporate it in your marketing messages. A name is rarely, if ever, experienced in isolation.”

Rachel Balchin combined catchy with sensible when she decided on “Bulldog Accounting”. She’s got two bulldogs – Esme and Rocky – who she sometimes takes along to client meetings, “with varying degrees of chaos”.

She says: “I debated using a combination of initials, or my name, but that’s what everyone else seems to do and ‘Balchin Accounting’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it. In the end, I wanted to be open about something I love and went with my gut. It’s worked really well, the name makes me memorable and more human. I’ve had people contact me only because they liked the name, or were curious about me. It’s also fair to say that, generally, my clients are looking for someone a bit less formal, a bit more fun.”

Balchin admits she didn’t really consider the connotations of the word ‘bulldog’ itself. “That said, there are some great traits embodied by the breed: tenacity, integrity, loyalty, strength and calm – all very valuable when you’re in charge of someone’s finances.”

The name makes marketing easy, too. “I pretty much just post pictures of bulldogs and I’m totally on brand.”

What to avoid

Naming a business after yourself conveys a promise of a personal, familial service, but it may also create an expectation that clients will deal with you and you alone.

Powell adds: “I knew that I wanted to grow the business and that I didn’t want it to be just me – I feel that not including my name in the business name makes it easier to scale. Also, it would make it less easy to market when I decide to retire.”

Prizeman says to also avoid names that are all initials. “Big firms like PwC and EY have vast marketing budgets, you don’t. Initials are harder for people to read and remember, so go for something that will make you that much easier to remember and recommend.”

He recommends that you don’t use ‘Solutions’ in your business name, either. “It’s a weak word that is tagged onto the name of businesses in all sorts of sectors, yet says nothing about what the business does nor is it in any way memorable.”

Other considerations

If you’re setting up as a private limited company, you need to check name availability at Companies House – the name cannot be the same as another registered company’s name and/or an existing trade mark. The rules are different for sole traders and business partnerships.

You should also check the availability of domain names.

Pete Jovetic, head of SEO at digital marketing agency Impression, says: “For example, if the top-level domain is free, but the .com isn’t, how will this impact your potential clients trying to reach you when they incorrectly input your address into Google? If both are free, then great – register and safeguard as many domain names as possible.”

Finally, check Twitter and Facebook to see if your desired social handles are available.

For great business tips and information on starting a small business, Informi offers business advice and support, made easy.

Iwona Tokc-Wilde is a business journalist.

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