Need inspiration for your company name? 8 tips
- Jeanine Hoekstra
- 27 Feb 2019
- Edited 14 Jun 2023
- 5 min
How do you find inspiration for a truly original company name? A name that fits who you are and what you do and manages to stick at the same time. Follow these tips and your company name is sure to stand out from the crowd.
Making up a name for your business used to be simple: you simple combined your surname with the type of business you ran. Johnson painters, Smith’s butchers or just McDonald’s. Nowadays, anyone looking to leap out from the competition has their work cut out for them.
- Your own name
- Coming up with a name
- Original, within reason
- Choosing a tagline
- Standing out
- Changing your company name
- Buying a company name
Let’s clear up a common misunderstanding first. There is nothing wrong with using your own name for your business. Although most entrepreneurs come up with a unique company name, some entrepreneurs still choose to register under their own name. In 2021, 25% of newly registered companies bore their owner’s surname. Using your own name has pros and cons.
Pros of using your own name
Using your own name tells customers exactly whose business they are dealing with, which can help you build customer trust. On top of that, using your own name casts you as an expert in your field.
Somewhat unusual surnames can make for excellent company names, as can names that match perfectly with the products or services you offer. How about Hammer Carpentry or Green’s greengrocers? Chances are that people will remember your name for some time to come.
Cons of using your own name
When you start a business, it is important to look ahead. You may start out as an eenmanszaak first, but if business is booming, you may find yourself hiring staff or operating abroad. Will your own surname still be appropriate if you expand?
And what if you want to sell your business later? You will have literally built a name for yourself and prospective buyers may not want to run a business under your name. In fact, you might not even want them to yourself. Changing the name of a thriving company is bad business, so try to come up with a name that will suit your company now and in the future.
Many budding entrepreneurs think you have to be creative to come up with a good company name. If you ask Namarama’s Floris Hülsmann, nothing could be further from the truth. Floris helps businesses find the perfect name for them. He has even written a book with roadmap to help every entrepreneur find an original name.
Once you have decided to come up with a name yourself, it is time to get brainstorming. You could do this on your own or in a group, and answering these questions can help you on your way:
Who is your target audience?
What will you sell?
What makes you unique?
How do you want to come across? (Affordable or exclusive? Traditional or innovative?)
Try not to be overly critical at first. Before you know it, you might be rubbishing an idea that could work a treat or just needs a little polishing. Erik Guillot, the owner of a Lego shop, first put the name Brick Pilot on his shortlist, before crossing it out. "Because it did not really make any sense." Still, the name he landed on in the end was based on the same idea. "My girlfriend Sanne translated the name into Dutch: Blokkenpiloot (a play on brokkenpiloot, a Dutch word for someone who is particularly accident-prone). It was love at first sight." In fact, Blokkenpiloot came in 3rd in Namespotting’s 2019 name of the year rankings.
According to Hülsmann, a good company name is neither overly common nor too far-fetched. Overly common or obvious names are unlikely to stick, like The Green Life Landscaping. On the other hand, excessively original names can be confusing. What does a business called Blue Banana even do? If you google the name, you will find clothing shops, body piercing shops and entertainment companies from all over the world.
Three tips from Hülsmann to help fuel your creative process:
Extremes: contrast two extremes, like The Vegetarian Butcher.
Foreign languages: see if popping your name into Google Translate produces anything interesting. Translating simple words can have fantastic results, like Estrella, a beer brand that means little more than ‘star’ in Spanish.
Anagram: mix up the letters of your own name or your product. Examples are Leapp (used Apple products) or Stedin (a jumble of the Dutch word dienst, or service).
Video: Come up with a unique business name
Sometimes, even sound, original company names can still raise questions. You can solve this by adding a tagline, a brief, punchy text that explains what your business does. Even if your business already has a name, you can add a tagline afterwards.
A tagline - unlike a slogan - does not have to be particularly creative, it just has to reflect what kind of business you are running so your customers know that they have come to the right place. Examples: 'Nokia, connecting people'. Or ‘Be the first to get the latest news on NU.nl’’.
Online findability is very important. The first thing people do when they want to find you is type your company name into a search engine. When that happens, you want your website to appear among the search results, preferably right at the top.
If you sell chairs, a simple company name like ‘Chair’ would be crystal clear, but climbing the search rankings can be a challenge with such a generic name. The word chair is mentioned on hundreds of thousands of websites, so this name would simply not be distinctive enough.
Tip: Use a SEO keyword in your company name or tagline.
Entrepreneurs are usually looking for a name that sticks. And rightly so, because if you finally manage to reach your target audience, you want them to remember you! With that in mind, Martijn Kok chose the name Stofwisseling for his furniture upholstery business. It is a play on the Dutch word for metabolism that, if you break it down literally, means ‘a change of fabric’. "I wanted to keep things simple, while also standing out. People are more likely to remember going to ‘De Stofwisseling’ than ‘Pete’s upholstery business’."
People are more likely to remember going to ‘De Stofwisseling’ than ‘Pete’s upholstery business’
Once you have a shortlist with good names or, if you are lucky, one perfect name, it is time to check whether there are no other businesses with the same name and whether your chosen name meets all the requirementsBR.
If you have fallen out of love with your current company name, you can always change it. Perhaps it no longer reflects the work you do or you want to give your own twist to a company you just acquired.
Technically speaking, changing your company name is easy. All you have to do is report the change to KVK. You can also choose to add a new trade name. Your listing will stay the same, apart from the fact that your business will have an extra name. Adding a new trade name can be a good idea if you start a new activity or begin selling a new product group. If you want to sever all ties to your previous company name, changing the name would be the obvious thing to do.
If you add a new trade name, it is best to keep separate records for the activities performed under that name. It is not mandatory, but it does keep things clear.
Practically speaking, changing your company name does involve a lot of work. Everyone knows you by your old company name, so you need to let your customers know you have a new name. Besides, you will probably need a new logo and new brochures too. Make sure that your old website refers visitors to your new site and that you update your name everywhere, including on your social media accounts and your Google Business Profile.
If you have put all the tips and tricks from this article into practice and you still cannot come up with an original name, you can always outsource your quest to someone else. You can even order ready-made company names - along with a prefab logo and domain name - online.