A great business name identifies your business, tells your customers and prospects something meaningful about your brand, and helps to differentiate your business from your competition.
By Katie Lundin
But what should you do if the name you’ve been using for your business isn’t effective at accomplishing those goals?
Here are 4 reasons to consider renaming your business… and 7 tips to help you pull it off successfully.
Why Change Your Business Name?
Here are some of the most common reasons to consider a new business name…
#1 Trademark Issues
Occasionally more than one company has the same name. Or, the names are so similar that they may as well be the same.
When this occurs, there’s a good chance that one of those companies will get a cease-and-desist letter requesting that they stop using that name.
This is exactly what happened to entrepreneur Jacob Childrey and his established food spice company. He received a cease-and-desist letter from a much larger competitor.
Fortunately, Jacob found a fresh, powerful new name for his company.
You are at a big disadvantage too if another business with your name is caught up in a scandal. The resulting reputation blow will affect your business as well!
To learn more about how to properly register and protect your business name, check out What Small Businesses Need to Know about Trademarks.
#2 Your Name No Longer Reflects Your Business
Businesses grow and change over time.
Some business names are adaptable enough to survive this growth. Others are not.
Not all changes warrant a new business name. But, some do.
- Have you recently switched to a new product or service?
- Did your business merge with another?
- Has your business philosophy or mission changed significantly?
If you answered “yes” to any of these, then it may be time to consider a new name that better reflects your brand’s current identity.
#3 Your Name is Not Unique
Your business name needs to stand out.
If you are one of ten variations of the same generic business name, you will be nearly impossible for customers to find on the web. They don’t want to sift through a full page of search results to find just the right “ABC Plumbing.”
#4 Your Name is Confusing/ Hard to Spell
A business name that doesn’t make sense and confuses consumers won’t be remembered.
And if it’s hard to spell, your customers may end up finding one of your competitors instead.
How to Rename Your Business
Follow these tips to name or rename your business to help ensure that your new name serves your business well for the long run. For more about naming a company, be sure to read 10 Tips for Naming Your Startup or Small Business.
#1 Start with your Brand
Your business name should be an extension and representation of your brand. So, start by thinking about your brand.
- What does your business do?
- What does your business stand for?
- How is your business different from your competition?
- What is your brand’s personality? (Quirky, Solemn, Formal, Playful, Aggressive, Warm)
- What is your unique value proposition?
Take your time and give some serious thought to what your brand is now. You knew your old brand, so you may be tempted to blow through this process. Don’t.
If you’re changing your business name, enough has changed that you need to take the time to rediscover what your brand is today.
#2 Make it Easy to Pronounce and Spell
Don’t make it harder to find you with an unpronounceable name or a name even Rhodes Scholars can’t spell. As in all aspects of your business, make your name easy for your customers.
#3 Avoid Too Narrow and Too Wide – Aim for The Goldilocks Zone
Choose a name that is unique, but flexible enough to allow your business room to grow.
Review your prospective names to ensure you avoid the following traps:
- Names that are linked to specific technologies likely to become outdated (remember Radio Shack?)
- Names with a focus so narrow that they preclude future evolution (ie. “Just Cabinets”)
- Geographical references that may make your business seem irrelevant in a broader market
- Broad or generic names without personality that don’t tell consumers anything about your brand
#4 Don’t Forget to Differentiate
It’s vital that your new business name help your brand stand out from your competitors. So, get to know who they are. And then choose a name that can’t be confused with theirs.
#5 Get Your Logistical Ducks In a Row
Here’s a quick list of logistical chores you’ll need to complete in order to ensure that you can legally operate under your new business name and protect that business name from competitors.
- Ensure the name is available to trademark (Check the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) on the USPTO website).
- Check to see if an appropriate domain name is available. We recommend searching here.
- Register the new name with your state and/or the Federal Trademark Commission. You can read up on the basics of trademarking here and research the requirements for your state here.
- Update or amend any legal documents to reflect your new name.
- Notify the IRS of your new name.
#6 Remember to Tell Your Story
Renaming your business isn’t ever just renaming – it’s also re-branding.
And, part of a successful rebranding process is figuring out the authentic brand story you want your audience to associate with your business.
After you’ve selected your new name, decide how you’ll publicly share the brand story that supports your new name.
#7 Update All of Your Branding Elements
Sharing your brand story is an important piece of the renaming/rebranding process. And, in order to make it stick, you’ll need to update all of your visual branding elements. After all, a strong brand is important for your business.
This includes updating your business logo, business cards and stationery, your website, and any other visual collateral like data sheets, or marketing collateral.
Every aspect of your brand will be impacted from start to finish. So, make sure to complete the transformation your name change will start throughout your brand.
When you realize that a name change is in your future, follow our tips to do it right.
Katie Lundin is on the customer support team at Crowdspring, a marketplace for crowdsourced logo design, web design, graphic design, product design and company naming services. She helps entrepreneurs, small businesses and agencies with branding, design and naming, and writes about entrepreneurship, small business and design on Crowdspring’s small business blog.