Choosing a business name: knowing your competitors

When you’re doing your competitor analysis, it can seem that all the good names are already taken. You can break through this deadlock by taking a step back and looking at trends in your ‘neighbourhood’. If you’re designing a house, you’ll think about how you want your house to relate to the trends in your street. Do you want to blend in? Or do you want something a bit more radical?


Spot the trends

There are five broad types of names you’ll see when you look at your competitors:

1. Acronyms. IBM uses this approach.

2. Creative names: words that don’t directly describe the business, but create an atmosphere. Virgin uses this approach.

3. Invented words: Google and Microsoft use this approach.

4. Descriptive names: literal descriptions of what the business does, such as ‘The Landscape Construction Company’.

5. Personal names: using an individual name, or the name of a family. Donna Karan uses this approach for her clothing business.


Local research

To give some more practical examples, I researched business naming trends in Canberra across two very different professions: counsellors and electricians.

In both professions, choosing a personal name was the most popular approach – almost 50% of businesses went down this path. For counsellors, choosing literal descriptions such as ‘Canberra Counselling Service’ was also a popular choice. Electricians were more likely to use creative names such as ‘Star Electrical’.

Browsing online Yellow-pages listings will give you a picture of the naming strategies in your field.


My experience

When I was choosing a name for my writing business, I noticed many of my competitors took one of these approaches:

  • Creative, humorous names, such as ‘Mightier than’ (referring to the saying ‘The Pen is Mightier than the Sword’)
  • Descriptive names such as ‘Copywriting for Web’
  • Creative, but abstract names like ‘Precise English’.

I decided to break from the trends. I wanted a name that evoked something real – something outside the field of communications.

What strategy is right for your business?

Read on…

Choosing a Business Name, by Matt Fenwick.  I’ve nearly finished writing it.

This will work through the whole process of choosing a name – and give you advice on the pitfalls of acronymn names – and is it wise to use your own name for your business?  Email me if you’d like a copy sent to you.

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