Selecting Your Business Name
Given that your company URL is likely to incorporate some aspect of your business name, perhaps even have it as the exact URL, deciding which name to use is likely the best place to start. There are a few important things to remember when selecting the name for your new small business, and paying attention to them is an excellent way to make sure you select the perfect one for you.
What It Should Convey to Customers
There are a couple of initial considerations to take into account when naming your business, all of which deal directly with you and your personal vision for your business. Review your mission statement, which is simply a brief explanation of what you plan to accomplish. Check out your business plan, to see how you plan to accomplish your goals. If you have a unique method of selling your products or services, note it down as well. Finally, take an honest appraisal of who your target audience is, and how they will respond to different approaches or marketing strategies.
Once you have a fairly clear picture of these variables, you need to figure out a name that best conveys the most important points you want to get across to those who see it. The more the name conveys these points to a customer, the less effort they will need to figure out if you are the best vendor to do business with. Less effort is always a plus to someone who is taking time out of their busy schedule to find the best products for their needs.
Creativity is an important part of the naming process. If your business name can convey the aforementioned points and ideas, all while doing so in a memorable and creative fashion, it will have much more success than something drab and forgettable. Given how important your name is, it may be advisable to seek out the services of a naming firm, if you feel your skills are not up to the task. While quality companies can be pricey, it will pay for itself in spades over the life of your business.
Once you have selected the perfect name for your business, it is time to make sure it is available for you to use. The last thing you want is to get established under your business name, only to have another company sue you for trademark infringement. Having to change your business name can throw customers off, and result in them turning to one of your competitors.
Fortunately, resources available free online make this a pretty simple process. Start off with the online database for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which is called Trademark Electronic Search System, or Tess. While that step is really all you need to ensure there are no potential lawsuits coming your way, it is also a good idea to run a Google search, to make sure no one else is using it. While they may not be able to bring suit against you, it can help avoid confusing potential customers.
Another potential consideration is using overly-specific words or identifiers in your business name. For example, if there is any possibility of expansion or move down the line, avoid putting the specific location in your company’s name. If you start out with a specific product, but may take on new product lines in the future, avoid using the product name in your final selection.
Selecting Your Business URL
While most businesses prefer to use either their exact business name for their company’s website URL, or a derivative of it, there are times where it is just not possible. As such, if you need to come up with a different one, there are some simple factors to keep in mind.
- Keep it short and simple. All the uniqueness and creativity in the world is worth little if customers are unable to remember how to find you. A long or confusing URL is too much to type, for customers’ own use or when referring you to a friend or coworker.
- Is the domain name easy to pronounce? Many people refer through word of mouth, so if your URL cannot be pronounced, less people are likely to make it to your site.
- If you have a good idea for a domain name, check social media and marketing resources to make sure they are not taken. While the URL itself may be available, another business or person may be using it on these invaluable services.
While selecting the actual domain name will usually take the most time and effort, there is also which extension you will use that you need to consider. Domain name extensions are the short words or identifiers that follow the second period in the URL. The most common extensions are:
- .com: The most popular extension used. Many people still believe this is the only extension used, or it is the one they type in by default. This makes it the best selection for easy navigation for new customers.
- .net: The second largest, this is usually the choice if the .com is taken. However, it is important to note that having the exact same domain name as another company, other than the extension, can confuse customers and cause you to lose business. As such, if you can reserve both the .com and .net extensions for your business at once, you will never run into that problem.
- .biz: A relative newcomer, this extension is restricted solely to businesses. While it will likely gain in popularity as more businesses build websites, and the more common extensions are taken, it is still relatively scarcely used today.
Registering Your Business Name and URL
When it comes to registering your business name, there are a few different ways to go about it. Which you choose usually depends heavily on which type of business structure you choose. There are three primary ways to register your business name:
- Entity Name: An entity name is registered at the state level, and is used primarily for taxation purposes. The rules and guidelines for registering an entity name vary by state, some of which require it, while others leave it optional. Check your own state’s laws to learn exactly what you need to do.
- Trademark: The trademark is registered at the federal level, and protects against someone else using it anywhere in the United States. Trademarks can also be applied to specific product names, preventing any other business from using anything that is exact or similar.
- Doing Business As (DBA): If you want to conduct business under any other name than your own, and do not need actual legal protection from another entity using it, the DBA is the proper choice. Many states make it a requirement to register a DBA if you do plan on using anything other than your legal name to conduct business, so be sure to check local and state statutes. This also comes with the added advantage of being issued a tax ID number, which can be used to open handy business banking accounts.
Registering a business URL is usually done with a web hosting company, many times paired with cost-effective hosting packages the company offers. Sometimes this can even be free, for a limited time or throughout the life of your business. All you need to do is access the hosting company’s website, check to see if the URL is available, and claim it as your own if it is. It is important to make sure you include correct contact information, or you could lose the URL if you never receive the notice that it is time to renew it.
Selecting and registering your business name and URL is a vital part of the process when creating a modern small business. Any time and effort you put into these important tasks will be compensated in spades by raising your chances exponentially of achieving success.