People rarely want to buy just a business name as opposed to the business itself. This generally occurs only when the name has some type of importance to the person who is trying to buy it; has an outstanding reputation attached to it; or is unusually marketable. The most common purchase of business names involves website domain names, particularly those with the potential to pull in a lot of page hits.
Determine if a similar business name exists. A business name can be more difficult to sell if it can be easily mistaken for another business name, even if the other business is in another industry. Multiple businesses with similar names can further reduce the name's value. The more unusual the name, the easier it will be to sell.
Establish your right to sell the business name. If the business is named directly after you–say, William Campbell Proud Catering–and only you, then you have direct ownership of the name. However, if the name isn’t trademarked or otherwise protected by local, state or federal law, you might have no authority to sell it. That means a potential buyer could take it without paying you a penny.
Prove the name’s validity. That can be difficult because the kind of proof wanted will vary with each potential buyer. Some will consider a trademarked name more valuable. Others will be more interested in the reputation attached to the name. Still others will see name longevity as more important. Many will want a name that is highly marketable. To prove a business name’s validity, you will have to address all of these angles.
Recognize that when it comes to web domain names, shorter is better. Short business names that get to the heart of what a business is are easier for a customer to remember. Names that are long, hyphenated, difficult to pronounce or hard to spell won’t capture the same amount of attention and will be more difficult to sell.
Remove any obstacles attached to the name. If the business has accumulated a large amount of outstanding debt, has a tax lien, is being sued or has any other type of problem attached to it, its “value” is severely reduced. All of these obstacles must be removed before you try to sell the name. Even then, the damage caused by these problems might not be overcome. No buyer wants to purchase another person’s problems.
Set a dollar value for the business name. That can be tricky because all of the factors noted in the steps above must be considered in establishing such a value. Problems in just one or two areas can severely hurt the dollar value attached to the business name.
Be ready to negotiate. Few buyers are going to be willing to pay your top asking price even when you have been able to prove the name's worth. Always have in mind the minimum amount you are willing to accept.
A business and education specialist for 30 years, Chantel Alise also owned a management and marketing training company. She has written newsletters and training manuals as well as business articles for Enid News and Eagle's Business Journal. She is principle writer for Beauty Biz. Alsie attended Thomas Nelson Community College (Virginia) and Phillips University (Oklahoma).