Today, we're talking about the five biggest mistakes that I see when naming your online business. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when starting their online business is they don't do a proper name search. I got four more mistakes where those come from about things that people do wrong when they're trying to name their business.
Naming your business and the products or services you sell may not be as simple as one would initially think. Frankly, that's because a lot of people just don't give very much thought to naming their business.
Naming Your Business Mistake #1 – They Don't Give Any Thought to the Name
They come up with the first thing that comes to mind, they go ahead, they register it, they form their LLC, they're off to the races and that's really all they do. That's mistake number one is that they don't give enough thought to the name.
This is something that you should really take some time to come up with a good name. You're going to want to brainstorm, you're going to want to think about what your business is all about, you're going to want to think about what your value proposition is, you're going to think about what your target market is. You're going to need to think about things like, what are the benefits that you really want your clients and customers to get if they come to your brand. And you're going to want to take all of these different variables and figure out what is going to be the best name for my business. That's what you need to do.
Naming Your Business Mistake #2 – Not Doing a Proper Name Search
There are literally entire books written about coming up with a good, articulate name that really captures the essence of what your business is all about. Just coming up with a name off the top of your head, that's never going to work for your business. So that's the single biggest mistake I see people make. Mistake number two, I already alluded to in the introduction and that is that they don't conduct a proper name search. A lot of people might go online, they might Google the name they're thinking about, and look at the first couple of pages, the results, not finding anything and think, you know what? We got a winner here. Let's do this. But unfortunately in the real world, that is just not sufficient.
There's too much at stake here, because if you use a name that somebody else has already using, and God forbid somebody already trademarked that name. They find out about it and they send you a cease and desist letter, not only can they take your name, they can take your intellectual property, they can take your website, they can take all the goodwill that you've generated through your business, but they can also sue you in federal court. So you don't want that happening. So you need to do better than just doing a quick Google search to seeing whether or not somebody else is using your name.
Naming Your Business Mistake #3 – Not Searching for Name Variations
The third mistake I see people make is that they're not doing searches for variations of the name. So they might search for one name on The US Patent and Trademark Office and Google and all these places, but they're not doing any searches. So before you start doing a search for any of these names, you want to go to Google and you would just want to start typing some variations, and see what other names might be very similar to yours. You want to check different spellings of the name. You want to check different varieties of the name.
So I just read a book it's called Permission to Screw Up by Kristen Hadeed. She started a company called Student Maid Brigade, after she got started and she had printed off some flyers, and some schwag, and some marketing materials for her business. She got a cease and desist letter from a company called Maid Brigade. If she had done a search for Student Maid Brigade, which is what she had named her company. She would have found that Made Brigade, even though it was not exactly the same, it was still sufficiently similar that they could prevent her from using the name Student Maid Brigade. So she had to change her name for company to Student Maid.
Naming Your Business Mistake #4 – Picking a Name that Can't be Trademarked
So the fourth mistake I see people make is that they pick a name that's either too generic or too descriptive, such that it can't ever be trademarked. So descriptive names are names that directly describe the product or service that you're going to be selling. They use the owner's name and the product or service that you're going to be selling, or they use the geography and the product or service. So there's a lot of law firms here where I live in North Carolina, that they named themselves Triangle Law Group, because I live in the triangle, or Carry Estate Planning, or Raleigh Divorce Lawyers.
They're very descriptive, but they're not capable of being trademarked. There really is no protection for those names because they're not unique. They're just completely descriptive to the service they provide. Also, they don't distinguish that law firm from any other law firm in the area. So if you pick a descriptive name like that, you're not going to be able to trademark it ever. The only exception to this is if that name acquires some sort of distinctiveness over time. Some examples of names that have actually become trademarks because they've acquired secondary meaning include Hilton Hotels. Now that's a name that uses the owner's name and the brand, but because Hilton has become synonymous with a type of hotel chain, it is trademarked. American Airlines is another one, Bank of America would be another.
These are all names that are merely descriptive, and wouldn't otherwise be able to be trademarked, but because they've acquired secondary meaning over time, they are capable of being trademarked. I don't know about you, but I'm not one as a small business owner, as an online entrepreneur, like you are. You probably don't have much time to develop 10 or 15 years of business into building that secondary meaning. So my recommendation would be not to pick a descriptive name for your brand name or for the products or services that you sell. Then along those lines, there's also things called generic names and these are never going to be trademarkable.
For online business, if you sell something like SEO services, well, that is merely generic. SEO is synonymous with search engine optimization, you can't trademark that. Similarly, names like computers or table or camera, you can't trademark those names. So I'm not saying you have to trademark your business right away, but if you pick a name that you can't ever trademark, then there's no value in it.
Naming Your Business Mistake #5 – Not Protecting the Brand Name
The fifth mistake I see people make when they're trying to name their brand or their product or service is that they don't properly protect their brand name once they come up with a good one. So let's say you've spent all this time, all this money, you've come up with a name that's awesome and fantastic. You name your LLC, you name your brand, maybe you come up with some really cool products or services that are different brand names and you start selling.
But then you don't protect your name, and somebody comes in the market and swoops out and steals your intellectual property from you. You might not even realize they're doing it. That's the fifth mistake I see people make when they're choosing a name for their business is they don't properly protect it. Now, the thing is, if you don't properly protect your name under US Trademark Law, then it's possible that you could lose the protection of the trademarks.
That's why so many of these brands like Starbucks, they are so vigilant about protecting their brand. Even if some little mom and pop shop starts selling some sort of knockoff. That sounds like a name that came from Starbucks or uses some sort of derivative of a name that comes from a Starbucks beverage. They will put the hammer down and they will stop that immediately as soon as they find out about it, and they will find out about it. Trust me. They're going to find out about it.
So here's how you protect your brand name once you picked a really cool, awesome brand name is number one, you're going to file for trademark application. Number two, you need to make sure that you're protecting your products and services as well as your brand name. Just because you trademark your brand name doesn't mean you don't want to trademark your products and services as well. A lot of people don't realize that they have a number of different types of intellectual property that they can protect in their business. They usually fail to protect a lot of them. They just protect their main brand name and that's not a good idea.
The third way to protect your business is to make sure you're using the proper symbols behind your brand name. So if you've ever seen that little TM or SM or the R with the circle around it, you fail to use those symbols on your website or in your branding materials, or you use them improperly, or you don't use them at all. I think I just said that. Then, the last way you don't protect your brand is you don't look for other companies that are using it.
The easiest way to do this is to set up Google searches for your brand name, and if you see somebody else pop in with your brand name, either on another social media channel or something else through a Google search that you've set up, then you'll know that somebody else is trying to use it by doing that. Then you can go ahead and send a cease and desist letter or hire a lawyer to send that cease and desist letter for you when the time comes.
So right over here, I've got another video that talks about the different types of names and what are the most powerful names that you can use in your brand. You want to make sure and check that out.