What many business owners fail to understand is that the name they pick for their small business not only sets up the overall tone for their brand, but it can also significantly impact their ranking in online search engines. In episode #130, Gene Marks and Elizabeth Larkin offer insightful advice on how to come up with a memorable business name that will help you build a strong online presence.

Executive Summary

0:55—Today’s Topic:How Do I Come Up with a Creative Name for my Small Business?

2:47—When you consider potential business names, think of ones that will give you a strong online presence. These names should reference your business’s services so that they appear in searches.

4:46—You can try to reverse engineer a name by using a search engine or app to find the keywords associated with the services that your business provides.

5:55—For search purposes, you should also consider incorporating your products into your business name.

7:29–A strong business name needs to reference how it can benefit your customers.

9:04—Consider building your business’s services or products into the domain name of your website to help improve your search potential.

10:45—Gene encourages small business owners to apply to government grants to help obtain initial funding.

Submit Your Question



Elizabeth: Welcome back to the Small Biz Ahead Podcast. This is Elizabeth Larkin from the Hartford and I’m here with Gene Marks of the Marks Group.

Gene: Yes, I’m here and happy. By the way, at some point we do have to share, like we’ve done before, some good TV recommendations, please, and some good book recommendations.

Elizabeth: Yes. We’ll do those this week after the Word of Brilliance.

Gene: Okay.

Elizabeth: Or at the beginning of the Word of Brilliance we’ll share some TV-

Gene: I’ve got a few good TV ones, I’ve got a few good books to recommend as well, all big pop culture stuff. Music, not as much because I listen to … Yeah. Anyway, TV and books.

Elizabeth: Okay. This week’s topic is all about how to come up with a creative name for your small business.

Gene: Creative name for your small business. Listen, as the owner of The Marks Group, I can think of no one better than to talk about coming up with a creative name for your business. I can’t wait to have that discussion.

Elizabeth: All right. We’re going to have that discussion as soon as we hear from our sponsor.

Our Sponsor

This podcast is brought to you by The Hartford. When the unexpected strikes, The Hartford strikes back for over 1 million small business customers with property, liability and worker’s compensation insurance, check out The Hartford’s small business insurance at TheHartford.com.

Question: How Do You Come Up With A Creative Name For Your Small Business? 

Elizabeth: Okay, and we’re back with a discussion on how to choose a creative name for your small business with an individual who literally named their business after themselves.

Gene: When you think about that, it’s funny. We’ve had the relationship over 100+ episodes where I kind of feel like you can ask me any question and I can riff on it and give you some thoughts and give you opinions and all that. You know what, I certainly do have thoughts and opinions on coming up with a creative name for your business, but I do want you to know if you’re listening to this podcast, the name of my company is called The Marks Group. Not only that, but I just recently launched a new business, like a training platform, and what did I call it? The Marks Group Live.

Elizabeth: Which I vehemently disagreed with you naming it that, and we’re going to get into why.

Gene: We actually changed it a little bit. We changed a little bit about it, which we can get in … Let’s use this when you’ll talk about your business, okay? I have this new business, and I’ve been calling it Marks Group Live. I’ve been getting a lot of pushback, particularly from smart people like yourself, Elizabeth, who say, “Why are you calling it that?” I’m always like, “Well, we’re providing live training online and we’re The Marks Group, so therefore, it’s Marks Group Live,” blah, blah, blah.

For starters, here’s something I’ve learned when you talk about coming up with names and being creative about your name. If you’re the type of business that wants to be found online, and nowadays, I don’t care if you’re running a pizza shop or a gas station, you probably do want to be found online. I’m not saying you’re selling products online, but you want to drive people to your website to find out more about you, or to at least come and visit you or to ask questions or whatever. It’s a very important thing. So when people talk about naming their businesses, a lot of it now in 2018 is tied towards your online presence as well.

What should go into your decision, your thought process, for naming your business is, how would this name do in a search? What is the SEO, the search engine optimization, implications of my name? Sometimes it’s nice to have a nice, fun, nifty name, but getting back to this training platform, we’re training on one of the products we sell, which is called Zoho. It’s a CRM product. When people are looking for live online training for Zoho, they’re not searching for Marks …

Elizabeth: That’s exactly my point.

Gene: Right, yes. People don’t … It’s irrelevant to them that I’m the Marks … They’re looking for Zoho training. So therefore, shouldn’t my new company really be named Live Zoho Training or something related to that product? So that’s exactly what we’ve done. We changed it. We changed it.

Elizabeth: What? I’m so proud of you.

Gene: We now have a URL that’s livezohotraining.com, and we now have a new division of our company, just a breakout, that we’re now calling Live Zoho Training. The reason why is because the company speaks-

Elizabeth: Because Elizabeth Larkin told you to.

Gene: Because Elizabeth Larkin was my motivator. Different people have lots of different advice about the creative, different sort of names for your business. But I believe, Elizabeth, in this day and age, I think your name needs to be tied into search. I really do. Now, some of the things that might help you, there are plenty if you Google keyword search tools … You know what I mean? … for a product. Usually when you set up a website, you want people to find … What are the keywords related to my business or whatnot? They will tell you the most popular words that are out there, or some of the most innovative or intriguing words.

My recommendation is that if you’re thinking of naming your business, depending on what you do, get one of those keyword search tools online. Google AdWords uses it. There’s a great service called Moz, M-O-Z. They provide all sorts of help for search engine optimization and people online. You can download these tools very easily, and you can come up with keywords about what your company does that I think in the end will help you with your search. I mean, you’re not Coca-Cola and Ford, or the Hartford. You know what I mean? You don’t have 100 years of history to build a brand on. You’re a small business, and if you want people to find you, they’re going to find you by what you’re selling. I think you got to tie your name into that.

Elizabeth: Yeah, I think you should actually not get creative and figure out if people are going to search for my business, what are they going to type in when they go to Google?

Gene: Yeah, exactly right. And you’re the best. You always love talking about your doughnut shops and the bakeries that you go into or whatever, and it’s this perfect thing. If you’re going to start up Elizabeth’s Doughnut Shop-

Elizabeth: I can’t even remember the last time I was in a bakery or doughnut shop.

Gene: Isn’t that funny? Well, get out of here. You’ve talked about this one that’s near we live and-

Elizabeth: Because it’s just such an easy example.

Gene: Okay. Well, that’s fine. But the bottom line is that if you were going to open up a doughnut shop or a bakery, you could say bakery and if you looked that up in a keyword, Elizabeth’s Bakery, okay, that describes what you do so that’s certainly a good start. But to me, I would probably get a little bit more granular. You know what I mean? Like Elizabeth’s Sugar Doughnuts, or something that people would-

Elizabeth: Well, the other thing is that that’s not an online business so it doesn’t really … I mean, you can …

Gene: I don’t know. I don’t know if I agree with you on that. I mean, you’re right. I’m not buying doughnuts online, but come on. Our businesses, even a doughnut shop, it comes up when we’re searching Google Maps, Google Places-

Elizabeth: That’s true.

Gene: … Yelp. Even if you’re just, I don’t know, it gets mentioned by other people-

Elizabeth: Well, you should definitely have the word “bakery” in the name if you’re opening a bakery.

Gene: Yeah, okay.

Elizabeth: If I was going to open a bakery, I’ve always had this name in my back pocket. I would call it The Graham Cracker Crust Bakery.

Gene: I love that. I love that. You want to make sure that you’ve got a lot of graham cracker products available, or whatever. I love that.

Elizabeth: I don’t like graham crackers, but I love a graham cracker crust.

Gene: I love that. I love that.

Elizabeth: But one of the things that … My mom is retired, but when she was thinking about retiring she was thinking about doing kind of a side hustle, or not even a side hustle. She was going to retire and open a consulting business in the field she was working in. She came up with this really cute wordplay name on it, but it was all about what she would be doing. But I kept saying to her, “Think about what you’re going to do for your clients. Think about naming your business after what clients are going to get from working with you.”

Gene: Correct, correct. It’s good.

Elizabeth: So instead of saying she does academic advising … I can’t remember what the name of it was, but it was some cute wordplay thing she had come up with. I’m like, “You need to lead with what you’re going to be doing for them.”

Gene: Exactly right, because that’s how people are going to be searching for you and that’s how they’re going to get to know you. So yeah, once in a while companies stumble onto … They create … Like Uber, for example, or even Airbnb is an interesting play when I think about those guys, because they provide bed and breakfasts. That’s kind of an interesting, if you’re looking for a B&B, you would stumble onto, when they were just starting up. But I get it that some companies, their names have absolutely nothing to do with what they do. But I don’t think we have that luxury as much nowadays when we’re starting up a business.

Elizabeth: No, and it’s really, really expensive to build a brand. So you might as well just put exactly what you’re going to be doing for your customers, like Auto Body Shop. Fine. That’s what they’re going to be googling.

Gene: Yeah, and I have one final thing to add. There’s a really good service. You could do this with any of the web-based, the people that host, like the GoDaddys of the world. There’s also a service out there that’s called Donuts as well. We were just talking about bakeries, but this has nothing to do with a bakery. I think they’re a domain service. You can search Donuts domain. What they do is they sell all these website domains that are not just .com, because the internet opened all that up a couple of years ago. There is a website that’s like .bakery or .retail or .store. So you can actually build that in your website. If you sell office stationery and you have an office stationery store, your website could be officestationery.store. All of that I think should figure into your name so that people can find you online. I think it’s really important to be found online.

Elizabeth: Definitely. All right, we’ll be right back with Gene’s Word of Brilliance.


Elizabeth: And we’re back with Gene’s Word of Brilliance.

Gene: Elizabeth, recently the Department of Energy has announced that they issued $31 million in small business research and development funding grants. They do this every year. It is part of their technology funding that they do. They do small business innovation research programs. $31 million that’s going out to dozens of small businesses with grants anywhere from $150,000 up to $225,000. It’s a wonderful way for seed capital to get your money started. A lot of these grants that they give out, they would like you to employ people but they also have milestones to get your stuff.

The reason why I bring that out is because if you’re a small business and you’re a startup and you’re looking to get yourself going, the federal government has so much money available through their grants programs. I mean, this is just the Department of Energy. I mean, the Department of Interior, the Department of Education, the Small Business Administration, there are so many departments in the federal government that offer hundreds of millions of dollars of grants and they are looking for small businesses to do this to, they’re looking for minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses.

There’s a lot of opportunity to get money, so if you’re looking for money don’t ignore the opportunities that are out there from the government. Grants.gov is the one spot that I’ve always gone to in the past that is this one catch-all site of all the grants that are available that are being issued by the federal government. Some of them are easy to get; some of them are not so easy to get. But I really think it’s a big source of potential funding for a small business and I don’t think it should be ignored. Again, $31 million from Department of Energy. That’s just a drop in the bucket of what’s out there.

Elizabeth: How hard is it to get one of these grants?

Gene: You know, it’s funny that you say that. First of all, it’s the government so by definition it’s going to be bureaucratic to do. But you know what, you get out of it what you put into it. The typical grants process, it’s easier, again, if you’re a minority or a woman-owned business, Hispanic-owned business or whatever, that certainly makes it easier for you to get government grants. They fast track you if that’s the case.

The application process varies depending on the grant that you’re applying for. You may need some assistance in writing a grant application, which means you may need to hire a consultant. You can find plenty of them on LinkedIn to help you do that. But here’s the thing. Once you learn, it becomes a skill in itself. I know small business that have gotten very good at applying and getting grants. It was tough the first one or two times they went through the process, and now they can do it much, much easier. Once you’re in the system and you’ve got a process down and you’ve been there, getting more grant money becomes easier and easier to do.

Elizabeth: What are the tax implications of this?

Gene: Oh, it’s tax-free money.

Elizabeth: Tax-free. Okay.

Gene: It’s tax-free money. What it is, most of the grants, they’re grants. So they’re not even go loans. This isn’t like an SBA loan. They’re giving you the money. Some of them tie you to employment. Depends on where you are. This Department of Energy grants don’t because they know it’s being given to small tech companies that are trying to source certain things. But really, other than that, there’s no tax implications of receiving the money. There are reporting implications, though. You have to account for where the money went to, so that takes some time. The tax from the government is a tax on your time to apply and then also to report back to them what you use the money for. But again, a lot of opportunities there.

The other thing is, the Department of Energy is still, even under the current administration, is still very much into alternative energies and different ways, a lot more on fossil fuels and things like that, bring you up out of the ground and all that kind of stuff. So they’re looking for people in that area. It changes, I guess is what I’m saying. As each new administration comes and they have different priorities, and then the departments issue grants for small companies to do research that is complementary to the priorities of the administration. Just because you might look at the Department of Energy’s available grants this year and you’re like, “Eh, nothing really is up my alley,” that doesn’t mean that a few years from now there won’t be a bunch that will be. So it should be something you check out every year.

Elizabeth: Good tip. All right, your TV and book recommendations.

Gene: Oh, okay. I’m going to start with a TV recommendation. I just finished watching The Terror on Netflix.

Elizabeth: Is it scary?

Gene: It’s scary, yes. It’s new. It just came out a couple of months ago. Very well-written. It’s a Ridley Scott production. He was the executive producer over it, and one of the directors did Fight Club. Anyway, true story based on two British ships that went into the Arctic looking for the Northwest Passage in the mid-19th century, and no one knows whatever happened to them.

Elizabeth: Oh, wow.

Gene: It’s true story. In fact, no one knew-

Elizabeth: So is it actually very scary?

Gene: No one knew what happened to the ships, and then, spoiler alert, two years ago they found the ships.

Elizabeth: Oh, wow.

Gene: Yeah, just as they were making this series. It’s an eight-part series or something. Very well acted. It’s a British series, so you’ll see a lot of people from Harry Potter and Game of Thrones on it. I’m not going to tell you what happens in it, but I can tell you that a lot of crazy stuff happens and it’s really, really cool.

Elizabeth: Speaking of that, can you believe Game of Thrones won the Emmy again?

Gene: Yeah, let’s not go there. I think there’s other shows that are more deserving of it, although I think Game of Thrones is fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, but I’d like to give … I’m just angry that Tatiana Maslany did not win it for Orphan Black.

Elizabeth: My recommendation, I have two. One of them is Glow, which I just finished watching on Netflix. Two seasons. Gene has only watched the first two episodes.

Gene: Two episodes, yeah. I loved it.

Elizabeth: But he’s excited to keep watching. And the other one is The Americans, which I really think should’ve won the Emmy this year.

Gene: Yeah, it’s a great show.

Elizabeth: It’s fantastic.

Gene: It’s a great show. The ending was great.

Elizabeth: Tell them what you did.

Gene: For all of you guys that don’t want to suffer through-

Elizabeth: There’s six seasons.

Gene: You don’t want to suffer through all six seasons, just do what I did. I watched the whole first season, which was excellent, and then I skipped to the sixth season and I watched the sixth season.

Elizabeth: That is blasphemy. How can you-

Gene: First of all, I picked it up on the sixth season. I didn’t even lose a beat. I mean, all the main characters were still there.

Elizabeth: No. So much happens.

Gene: Believe me, it really wasn’t that big a … And then I watched through the end of the sixth season, and it was great. Loved it.

Elizabeth: That was one of the best finales I’ve ever seen.

Gene: It was a wonderful ending to the show. Sad, but wonderful ending to the show. I really enjoyed it, and I thought the two … Keri Russell, is that her name?

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: And Matthew … I for-

Elizabeth: Rhys.

Gene: Rhys. They’re fantastic. The two of them are just great in that show.

Elizabeth: They’re so good.

Gene: Really enjoyed that show a lot.

Elizabeth: He won the Emmy.

Gene: He won the Emmy. That’s correct.

Elizabeth: Yeah, but she didn’t. She totally deserved it.

Gene: Yeah, she was great.

Elizabeth: Okay, we’ll be back next week, and we’re going to be talking about how to recruit young talent. We’re going to try to get through the entire episode without saying the M word.

Gene: I agree. I agree. Let’s not bring up the M word. I’m sick of the M word. Enough with the M word, okay?

Elizabeth: Okay. Great.

Gene: Okay. Good.

Elizabeth: We’ll talk to you then. Thanks.

Download Our Free eBooks