Your Business Name Counts
A big part of creating your business identity is the first step - brainstorming a business name and tagline and then making sure you're not encroaching on any business names that are not already in use.
Try to pick a name that's easy to remember, easy to pronounce, and that relates to the product or service you're selling.
Brainstorming a Tagline
Along with your name, a tagline can be an important part of your business identity. A tagline is a word or phrase that helps people readily identify with what you do or what you sell. "You're in good hands with Allstate" or GE's "We bring good things to life" are two examples.
A tagline is part of your unique business identity and is meant to be used for a very long time.
Tagline vs. Slogan
You can differentiate between a tagline and a "slogan" by remembering that a slogan is typically used with a single marketing campaign, whereas a tagline should be considered permanent.
You'll want to develop your tagline early on in the life of your business so you can incorporate it into your logo, business cards, letterhead, and web site from the very beginning. While you can add it later, you'll have to have designs redone and stationery and business cards reprinted, which can mean unnecessary expense.
Make Sure Your Business Name and Tagline are Not in Use
Once you've decided on several (say, at least five) names and taglines, you'll want to research them to make sure they're available. You don't want to use them if they're already being used, especially if that business is one of your competitors or is located in your area. You certainly don't want to infringe on someone else's trademark or service mark.
You can check on the availability of a business name within your state through your state's Secretary of State's office. Your state's website is likely to have a search box where you can type your proposed business name and see if it's already registered. Don't register yet, because if you're going to do business with out of state customers, you'll need to make sure you're not treading on someone else's trademark before you register the business name. Additionally, you'll want to establish your business address and telephone numbers before you register your business with your state. That way, you won't need to update your records with the Secretary of State's office once you get a business address and phone number and your personal contact information won't be used for your business contact information.
Searching the Internet for Your Business Name and Tagline
It's also a good idea, and a necessity if you plan to do business outside of your state, to conduct an Internet search using both your proposed names and taglines to see who else might be using them. Is the user active in your area? Do they do the same type of work or sell the same type of product as your home business? Do they show a trademark (TM) or service mark (SM) next to the name and/or tagline? If so, select an alternate.
While you don't register a tagline, you should consider using a trademark or service mark as soon as you can. In many states, the ability to trademark your tagline will be based on the length of time the tagline was in use when it comes time to apply for the registered trademark. Of course, if you can, consider hiring an attorney to help you with this.
Your Business Name and Your Website's Domain Name
If you're planning to have a website, you'll also want to see which domain names are available that match your business name, tag line, or that relate to what you do or sell. You can search Network Solutions' WHOIS database to check domain name availability. Try to use short, easy-to-remember and easy-to-spell names for your domain name.
If the domain name is available you'll be encouraged to reserve it, but shop around for the best price you can get on a domain name registration before you actually reserve it. The domain name registration business is highly competitive and there are great deals to be had if you shop around.
Much like registering your new business name, if you hold off on claiming the domain name for your business until you have a business address and phone numbers, you can keep your home contact information private.
Keep Your Business Name and Tagline to Yourself
Keep your business name secret until it's registered and keep that catchy tagline to yourself for right now. While you may be tempted to share your great business name and tagline with everyone you know, someone may overhear you and register the name or use your tagline before you get the chance.
More in the Business Identity Series
- 8 Steps to Your Business Identity - Introduction & Overview
- Address and Phone Numbers for Your Home Business
- Checking into an Employer ID Number with the IRS
- Opening a Business Bank Account
- Creating Your Business Logo
- Ordering Your Business Cards
- Creating and Ordering Your Business Stationery
- Establishing Your Business Website