Overview: LLC Naming Best Practices
Choosing the best name for an LLC can involve many approaches. First, certain linguistic rules should be considered, such as making sure that the brand name isn't a pun or copying another brand, that the name is strong etc. Secondly, naming should be approached not only as a creative process but should also involve help from people with a background in linguistics and trademark law in order to come up with a name that gets across what the company wants to convey. Choosing the name based on the fact that every person in the company loves it isn't the right approach. There are also different legal requirements involved in the naming process such as meeting the state’s business entity naming requirements for LLCs. In the consulting business, the two main options when it comes to business naming are using the founder's name as the name of the business or coming up with an original branded name.
During the research, the main conclusion when it comes to the practice of naming a business is that marketing, linguistics, and other naming experts, don't make a distinction between naming a senior-level practice and a startup. Instead, it is suggested that the founder(s) focus on the field they intend to serve and assess the seriousness of their field — e.g. if a person plans to open a salad bar, they can develop a highly creative name, and a consulting agency that will target business clients from the start should be more careful when it comes to highly creative or innovative names. In order to answer all the questions this research posed, we researched specifically how naming a business should be approached regarding the name itself, the technicalities around the name and the way it will impact the digital presence of the company. Following that, we also provide answers into how a company name impacts branding, how it appears in Google searches, and how to tailor a name to resonate with different audiences including the online audience. On top of that, we also provide input into choosing a name when it comes to domain naming.
CHOOSING THE BEST NAME
There are certain linguistic rules that are applicable to all naming processes:
1. "Pick a name that lends itself to wordplay" — Eat My Words, is a naming company that decided to put a fun twist to their practice.
2. A strong name is a simple name — the main rules when it comes to simple names are it should be easy to spell and pronounce, and it should also provide meaning to your target audience: "Any time you have to explain your name or apologize for it, you're just devaluing your brand."
3. Avoid using puns — Using puns in company names is very risky, and rarely yields positive results.
4. Don't copy others — This approach should be taken especially seriously when considering the industry you are targeting. If all the companies in the consulting business have the word "consulting" in their title, coming up with a distinctive name will set you apart.
5. Using a foreign word — A good example is Acer. The name Acer means 'acute' or 'sharp' Latin, and is very on brand with the company's mission.
6. Say the word aloud — When the word is said aloud, be sure that people are not confused about the spelling of the name.
7. Get feedback on the name — "Come up with 5 or 10 names and then run them by friends, family members, and trusted colleagues. Get feedback from your target audience as well".
Invoiceberry interviewed different experts about their naming practices. Their approach was to target as many fields as possible, and they also interviewed a consulting expert Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, who is the founder of Falcon Valley Group. She said: "The name of my communication consulting firm is Falcon Valley Group. Consultants often name their business after themselves, as in Jones and Associates. With a long and difficult last name like Falkenthal, I couldn’t possibly ask people to navigate it as a business name. My surname is German, and the English translation is Falcon Valley. Voila — Falcon Valley Group. It took me 15 minutes to decide on this name. I never wavered. I had a talented graphic artist work with me on branding and a logo which reflected my brand and niche position. It has served me well without a single change for 13 years."
The Naming Group, a professional naming service, provided tips and tricks as to how to approach the naming practice in order to yield best results:
1. Naming isn't a purely creative task: "When you are brand naming, the name you select has to be strategically impeccable. It has to make sense and at least not offend millions of people around the globe."
2. Names aren't supposed to just sound good: "The point is to find a name that gets across what the company wants to convey, rather than one that every person involved in the naming process loves."
3. Get help from people with a background in linguistics and trademark law.
4. The best approach is to first come up with a dozen (in their case hundreds) of names, and then shorten the list through a few rounds of consideration.
5. A name can be too original: "The amount of meaning a name communicates lies along a continuum. On the one end, there’s an overly descriptive name. On the other end, there are so-called empty vessel names, which are so far removed from actual words that they come off as meaningless. The ideal name falls somewhere in the middle, but if you end up too far toward the empty vessel side, your name will be a target for mockery."
CHOOSING A LEGAL NAME for a llc
LLC's legal name is "the official name used when you file with the state to form your LLC or corporation. It appears on your formation documents (e.g., Articles of Incorporation or Certificate of Organization.) This name must meet the state’s business entity naming requirements for LLCs and corporations". On top of a legal name, an LLC can also have any number of DBA (doing-business-as) names at the same time: "For example, if your LLC’s legal name is Smith and Jones, LLC, you could file a DBA (doing-business-as) to do business in the community as Best Painters". The DBA name can be used for branding and marketing.
The legal name has to be distinguishable from other names of different entities on record with the state. In that sense, each state has different rules and regulations when it comes to how it decides whether a name is distinctive enough to be distinguishable (and acceptable for registering).
States also require the name to include certain words indicating the business structure. For LLCs, the legal name normally has to "include words like Limited Liability Company, Limited Company; or abbreviations like L.L.C., LLC, L.C., LC, or Ltd. Liability Co."
In a number of different states, it is also prohibited to use certain words in the name that would be misleading for the public, e.g. a state will not allow “Insurance” in the name of a company that isn't an insurance company.
Using a name check can help in determining whether someone holds the name you are looking to take or holds a similar name: "With a name check, you can determine if your preferred name is available in state records or is already in use by another business. Doing a name check helps prevent a state from rejecting your documents because the name isn’t available when you try to incorporate."
If you are already set on the name and plan on registering your company down the road, there is a process in place where you can reserve the name with the state: "Most states let you file a name reservation to protect your right to use that name for a period of time. A name reservation usually lasts 60 to 120 days, but the duration varies by state. Many states allow you to renew the reservation."
There are a few more specific naming rules that are also important: "Differences in grammar typically do not make an LLC name distinguishable in the State’s eyes. For example:
• LLC, L.L.C., Corp, Inc (Oasis Pool & Spas, L.L.C. vs. Oasis Pool & Spas, Inc.)
• Singular, plural, and possessive (Oasis Pool, LLC vs. Oasis Pools, LLC)
• A, An, The (Oasis Pools, LLC vs. The Oasis Pools, LLC)
• and, or, & (Oasis Pools & Spas, LLC vs. Oasis Pools and Spas, LLC)
• Hyphens, slashes, periods, commas (Oasis Pools and Spas, LLC vs. Oasis Pools–Spas, LLC)".
NAMING PRACTICES FOR consulting businesses
The two main options for consulting businesses are using the founder's name as the name of the business (e.g. Bloomberg after Michael Bloomberg or McKinsey & Company after James McKinsey) or coming up with a branded name.
The first approach of using a founder's name can be executed if the founder's name isn't too generic and will, therefore, be available for registration of a domain and business. However, the author notes that even if the founder has a generic name, they can use the combination of the name with the words "consulting" or "finance", which would give a result such as Jane Fonda Consulting or Clooney Finances. This approach is recommended if a company consists of only one person or a pair of independent contractors, in which case the names can be combined into a merged company name.
The second approach is harder as it involves the process of creating a brand name. A website titled Brandroot provides a good overview of the names they came up with and offer for sale in the consulting business. The idea they came up can be a good starting point for brainstorming, and they include names such as: istakeholder, Synergeze, Winnerforce, TradeViser, Consultician etc.
On top of that, there are different sites that can help you brainstorm names, including:
1. VisualThesaurus.com (helps you visually identify a keyword)
2. Shopify Business Name Generator (is able to generate a business name idea and also checks for domain availability)
3. NameMesh.com (a startup name generator)
4. Naminum.com (name generator based on a theme)
domain for a consulting business
The seven main rules for creating a domain for a consulting business are as follows:
1. Keep it simple — The simpler your domain name is, the easier it is for people to remember it. Additionally, try to avoid "substituting words with letters or numbers (like ready2go or helpUgrow). This can lead to confusion and is generally less professional in appearance unless it’s the actual name of your business (e.g. Consultants R’ Us)".
2. Try to stay on brand — It would be wise to try to include all or at least a part of your name into your domain.
3. Consider all your options — For years, the only domain extensions that were available were .com and .org. Now, domains extension field is expanding and includes extensions such as .consulting or .agency. This means you can still use your full company name, even if it's unavailable with the .com extension, by using one of the newer extension options.
4. Include keywords — If the name of the business isn't available in the domain format you desire, you can tailor it to match the Google keywords. For example, the company that primarily provides consulting online can opt for MarysOnline.consulting. Additionally, if the company plans to serve only a restricted geographical area (e.g. Chicago), the company can have the domain ChicagoConsulting.com. If this approach is used, the keywords in the domain should also appear in the words on the company website to yield better search results.
5. Make it memorable — If a domain is memorable it leads to processing fluency, which is a concept where "we remember and have more positive associations with things that we can easily say and easily think about, and that includes pronounceability in our own minds."
6. Make sure people can say it — If a brand name or a domain name is something people can't pronounce, it leads to the loss of processing fluency, as well as the loss of word-of-mouth marketing.
7. Do your research — Copyright and trademark claims can lead to a loss of the domain name, and other penalties. If you're ever involved in a dispute over trademark claims, the decision will be a judge's which means the name you choose should be distinctive enough for a judge to think so as well, in order to avoid future money loses.
A Colorado branding agency Oblique Design categorizes naming as a branding process that can take a few different paths. When choosing a name, they choose a path they want to take and stick to it. They also recommend this process to their customers. Their approaches are:
1. The Obvious Name — "If telling the market what you do is your priority, then an obvious name is a no-fuss solution. If you are a smoothie shop, then naming your store “The Smoothie Shop” guarantees no one will ever be confused about what you do. However, there are two very strong reasons that there aren’t many brands out there with this type of name. First, it’s extremely hard to protect or defend in a lawsuit. After all, you can’t protect the word “smoothie.” Second, if you ever want to venture into other areas of business, your name can easily become confusing. If “The Smoothie Shop” wants to start serving salads, it will be difficult to attract the salad market."
2. The Clever Name — This approach is specific to companies that want their clients to know what they do but also play on their goods or services in order to come up with an effective name: "By taking an obvious name and putting a spin on it, you make your name more unique (again, read: protectable). Many brands do this; Bed Bath and Beyond, Burger King and Steak-n-Shake are great examples. The truth is, any brand strives for a name that says what they do. The hard part is making it unique and ownable."
3. The Out-Of-Left-Field Name — In this category are Google, Yahoo, Nike, and Adidas: "They are words you’ve never heard of, perhaps never existed before and have seemingly nothing to do with their respective brands. These names are unique, extremely protectable, and can be easier for your branding firm to work with, as you’re starting with a word that seems to have no meaning."
4. The Timeless Name — In this category are Pepsi, Ford, Warner Brothers and AT&T. Timeless isn't a name that can be just created, it is the name of "a brand that’s grown into itself, and the only effort that takes is to bring the brand to life and give it staying power".
When considering a name, you should also think of how it sounds in other languages that aren't English. Even if your consulting agency won't expand to other markets and have a global presence, it still might work with a German or Japanese client. This is the reason the name needs to work in different languages. A good example of a bad naming practice is Honda Fit, which almost ended up with the name Honda Fitta, "but the company changed the name when it realized that "fitta" was slang for female genitalia in Swedish. The company later started calling it the Honda Jazz outside of North America."
Another thing to consider is that different languages will have a different pronunciation of certain letters. For example, in Germany, "Vicks sells its products under the name Wick because the German pronunciation of the original brand name (in which a “v” is pronounced like an “f”) sounds like a slang word for sex."
If you don't come up with a foreign name yourself, your clients might still do it. An example of this is Coca-Cola when it first started selling the Coca-Cola products in China in 1927 and didn’t come up with a new name that "made sense in Chinese characters. Instead, shopkeepers transliterated the name Coca-Cola phonetically on their signage, leading to odd meanings like bite the wax tadpole. In 1928, Coke registered a Chinese trademark for the Mandarin 可口可乐 (K'o K'ou K'o Lê), which the company translates as to permit mouth to be able to rejoice."
There are different approaches that can be pursued when naming a brand. We provide the linguistics rules for naming as well as a brand-focused approach to naming to give a complete overview of how naming a business can be conducted. An LLC can register a legal name that must meet the state’s business entity naming requirements for LLCs, and also have a number of doing-business-as names for everyday use, branding, and marketing needs. The two main options for consulting businesses are using the founder's name as the name of the business (e.g., Bloomberg after Michael Bloomberg) or coming up with an original branded name.