As you create a brand name, you may be tempted to go with the most catchy and creative version. While this can be a good company name, there are many factors you need to take into account. Use this brand name checklist as you create your brand name.

1. Who is your audience?

Before you can truly come up with an effective brand name, you’ll need to get clear on who your audience is. What’s their problem and how do you solve it? What keeps them up at night?

Think of one specific person as you come up with ideas. For example: Sarah, who is 32 years old, works at Google and enjoys eating vegan food. She makes $70,000 per year and loves spending her free time doing yoga and hiking around the San Francisco area. All Sarah wants is to start a small business without worrying about bookkeeping.

Get specific and think of the brand names your avatar would be drawn to. What brands do they already like?

2. What are your main services?

Of course, your services are equally important. It wouldn’t make sense to call your company, “Lovely Lined Notebooks” if you only produced printer paper and made zero lined notebooks.

3. What are three words you want to be described with?

Brand perception is a key part of brand name development. How do you actually want to be perceived? Are you classy, laid back, fun or professional? Pick three adjectives you want your customers to describe you with.

4. Is there a backstory or personal trait you can incorporate?

As you start thinking of ideas, I love incorporating a good backstory or personal trait. How was your company founded? Is there a word that resonates with you? Did you have any nicknames in high school? How do you describe your work?

5. List out as many company names as you can think of.

Take your time. It doesn’t have to be done in one sitting. I came up with my business name sitting in my car after pulling into the driveway. Have a notepad, app or other handy note taking tool around at all times to keep adding to the list.

Use alliteration: An Amazing Apple, Lovely Little Limes, Jessica’s Jars

Get creative.

Don’t just copy someone else’s idea or change it only slightly. You’ll stand out if you’re original.

Keep it simple.

Don’t create a brand name that’s more than three or four words.

6. Narrow it down to 1-3 names.

Clean up your brainstorming list. Remove the bad ones. Make decisions on the halfway names and get it down to one to three really great names.

7. Ask yourself, does this company name describe what I do?

If someone sees your company name for the first time with no further description, will they know what you do? This isn’t a requirement, but is something you want to consider.

If you don’t choose an obvious company name, like “John’s Gutter Repair,” then you might want a subtitle such as “residential gutter repairs” that would sit under your creative brand name, “Raindrops of North Carolina.”

8. Take into account the SEO.

This almost falls under checklist item seven because SEO is another way of making sure that Google knows what you do. And all Google wants to know is — do you provide gutter repair services? You can simply optimize your business name for search engines. You could actually name your business, “North Carolina Gutter Repairs,” which is a great way to dominate that keyword. I recommend using the tool Ubersuggest, to look up keywords and see if you could use one specific phrase for your business name. It’s a little less creative, so if you can, try to create a memorable, unique name that might just have a keyword too!

9. Verify that the business name isn’t taken.

Use some of the tools suggested by Legal Zoom to verify that the name isn’t already registered with your state and country.

10. See if the domain and social media handles are available.

After you know that the business name isn’t taken by another company, you still need to make sure someone isn’t using your great idea as a website or social media name. If it’s taken there, it can be hard to establish your business professionally. Check NameCheap, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

11. Poll your friends and family.

Just send the list and say, “I’m branding my company. Which business name is your favorite?” Don’t bias them by hinting at your favorite. You’ll either get help making a decision you were on the fence about or you’ll love one name so much that you’ll defend it and move forward with it even if it’s not popular. What’s most important is that you love it (and will for the lifetime of your business) and your audience will too. Sometimes, friends and family are not your ideal audience so don’t take their opinions too seriously!

12. Is it too close to what your competitors are using?

Be careful not to choose a brand name that someone else is already using, even if slightly different. Double check that your competitors are not using the same name or anything that resembles what you chose. You need to differentiate yourself in the marketplace and your brand name is the first step.

Have any questions on this brand name checklist? Is there something you would add? Comment below!