How to Test and Choose the Best Name for Your Business

How to Test and Choose the Best Name for Your Business

April 27, 2020 6 min read

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur’s contributors are their own.

The following excerpt is from Brad Flowers’ The Naming Book. Buy it now on Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound or click here to buy it direct from us and SAVE 60% in this book if you use code MARKET2021 by 04/24/21.

When I test your company name in beta, my first inclination is to say “no”. Be confident. Stick to your choice. But that’s hard to do. You’ve probably never named a company before and want to be sure that you’re not completely insane.

However, some ways to get feedback are better than others. Here’s how to set up a test for your name finalists.

Create a deck

Use presentation software to find a photo that is relevant to your industry. Place the picture in the background of the slide and make it darker so that the word in white is easy to read. The image makes the word feel more like a brand name and less like a word on a screen. People need to be able to think of the name as something that stands for a company, not just a word on paper. I would use the same picture on each slide to make sure your group is responding to the word and not the picture. Then create two slides for each name using two different fonts. Use Helvetica for the first slide. Use Times New Roman for the second time.

Run a focus group

Gather a small focus group. The best group will have a broad cross-section of people. Ideally, they would be potential customers, but that could be logistically difficult. The main thing is to make sure you have a range of people from those who know a lot about language to those who have a relatively low level of literacy. By that I mean people who don’t read a lot or think critically about language. (This will be easy since that is the majority of people.) This type of group gives you valuable insight into how very different people react to your potential names. One person says, “I love it!” is someone’s “No way. I don’t get it.”

Give your focus group 30 seconds for each slide, or a total of 60 seconds for each name. Have them rate each name from 1 to 10. Also, ask them to write down some first impressions. Then go back and tell them a few sentences about the backstory on each name. Have them note whether knowing what the name means makes their response more or less favorable. This will tell you whether an origin story is helping or hurting the name.

Add up the results. This information shouldn’t make a decision for you, but it does tell you how some people might react to your name. Here is a word of caution from Alexandra Watkins in her book Hello, My Name Is Great: “Because the language belongs to all of us, most people feel very qualified to comment on this. What is difficult is that we are not very good at drawing the line as to which linguistic comments require expertise and which do not. “In other words, listen to what people are saying about the name but remember that they are not experts. Often times, people feel obliged to give their opinion when asked, even if they don’t have a knowledge base for that judgment.

How to choose just one

After removing some names using the criteria above and testing the remaining names with your focus group, you should now have fewer than five names on your list. Here are some specific ways to narrow your list even further and determine which name is the best choice for you.

Search by state company name

Visit your Secretary of State’s website to see if the name is already registered in your state. There will likely be competition for many names. You need to be able to register your name with the state in order to do business there in order for the level of competition to help you eliminate some of your decisions. It’s important to make sure that no other company has your exact name. However, you will likely find names that are similar or use some parts of your suggested name. For example, you might find an Acme Business Solutions. This does not prevent you from registering Acme Pools as a company name.

At this point you are not registering any names. You simply use the government company name search tool to summarize your shortlist of names. You can probably remove one or more names as they are too similar to any other name in your state and industry.

Basic market research

Next, do some Google searches to find direct competitors with the same or similar names. Try searching by geography. For example, if you wanted to start a sports shoe company in the Pacific Northwest called Nike (obviously not a good idea), you could search for “Nike Portland”. Or you can search by store type: Nike Athletic Shoes. Or “Nike running shoes”.

You can do similar searches on social media platforms. Sometimes international companies pop up there that you may have missed elsewhere. Again, this is not a definitive approach to choosing a name. These simple steps eliminate any obvious, obvious problems that may arise, such as: B. Another company with the same or a similar name in the same or a related industry. These searches won’t cover everything, but don’t worry – the next step is for everything you missed.


The next step is to take your finalists through a brand search. You need to know if there is anyone out there who already has and will defend the name you want to use. The easiest way to do this is on the US Patent and Trademark Office website ( This is not a substitute for filing your own trademark. At this point, you’re just trying to remove names that have already been registered as a trademark by another trademark.

In the end, it comes down to a difficult decision. With all the criteria, care, and tech in the world, you still can’t predict whether your customers will get it, love it, or just ignore it. However, you can do your best. And this process is geared towards that goal.

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