As much as we’d like to tell ourselves the cover of a book matters less than the content between its covers, the truth is that many readers will judge it first based on characteristics like its title. The same is true of businesses – potential customers look to the business name first for clues as to what might be offered and what kind of experience they may expect.

An effective business name draws people in and acts as an extension of the company’s brand. On the other hand, an ineffective business name can confuse people, fail to capture their attention, or even turn them away.

What should you be thinking about when you’re trying to name your company? Here are four tips for choosing a catchy – and overall winning – business name.

Keep it Short and Snappy

If people can’t say it or spell a company’s name, how often do you think they’ll really think or talk about it? Keeping it brief is important to help people communicate about a business name, but also to eventually create a website URL that’s easy to enter. Steer clear of convoluted spellings or symbols, too; these may deter customers trying to find your business or recommend it to a friend.

Relevance > Cleverness

There are situations in which puns and wordplay can absolutely work. However, it’s important to prioritize clarity and relevance to your line of work over cleverness.

One contributor to Yahoo Small Business shares a time when they almost made a mistake naming their fledgling company. How? By choosing a name that would depend on inside knowledge of chess (Mind Castles) rather than something the layperson would understand at a glance. This case study illustrates why it’s so important to run all business name ideas by trusted third parties who will tell you honestly if they don’t “get” ones that you found clever.

When in doubt, lean toward a name capable of conveying relevance to your products and services. This will help you avoid choosing a name that is too niche, corny, or otherwise off-putting for customers.

Establish your Brand Voice and Personality

Businesses nowadays are more than just places – whether physical or virtual – to procure goods and services. They are also brands, vying for market share in a competitive landscape by exuding personality and traits. The goal of branding is essential to stir positive emotions in members of your target audience.

As you can imagine, your company’s name closely ties into branding. Business names can embody many characteristics of brands: masculinity or femininity, luxury or affordability, playfulness or straightforwardness, etc. Make sure the company name you choose accurately exemplifies the personality and voice of your brand. Think of it as a little clue showing customers a glimpse of who you, and your company, are at heart.

Make sure the Name isn’t taken

Another key step toward naming your business is logistical: Making sure the name isn’t already taken by a competitor, either in terms of a legal trademark and/or an online domain name. Someone may have already beaten you to the punch – which means you’ll need to return to the drawing board and keep brainstorming names until you find one that’s truly unique.

Where should you search to see if the name has already been claimed? Besides running queries on your search engines of choice to see what comes up, check the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Choosing a catchy business name is important, but so is choosing a clear, concise, relevant name in line with your brand – as well as one that no competitors have already been using.

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