A strong business name identifies your business, tells customers and prospects something meaningful about your brand and helps to differentiate your business from your competition. But what should you do when the name you’ve been using isn’t effective at achieving those goals?
While it's unwise to change your business name just because you’re in the mood for something new, there are times when a change is in your business’s best interest. Here are four reasons when a new name truly is the best choice, and seven tips to help you pull it off successfully.
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 company will get a cease-and-desist letter requesting that the other stop using that name.
And there's no surprise there: Your business could lose money if someone else operates under the same name as yours.
This actually happened to Jacob Childrey and his established food spice company. He received a cease-and-desist letter from a much larger competitor. That's how Childrey came to leverage (my employer) Crowdspring’s global community of 210,000-plus creatives to create a fresh, powerful new name for his company.
Scandal. You are at a big disadvantage too if another business with your name is caught up in a scandal. The resulting reputational blow will affect your business as well! So, it's important to protect your business name to control your brand's message and ensure that you’re not sharing your profits with a competitor. (For information on 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, some not. If your business has outgrown its name, it may be time to think about renaming.
Nellie Akalp, entrepreneur, author and small-business expert, has written on SmallBizTrends, "It’s only natural for a business to grow, evolve or change direction over the course of its lifetime. The name you hatched in the early days may no longer fit your business’s market, activities or brand personality now." Questions to ask yourself include:
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, a new name may better reflect your brand’s current identity.
3. Your name is not unique.
Your business name needs to stand out. It needs to be unique and support your business’s overall brand identity. Generic names like “Publishing Services” or “Professional Tax Accountants” don’t differentiate you from the competition. And they certainly aren’t memorable.
So, even if you deliver fantastic service, well-meaning customers may get your name wrong when they're asked for referrals. Or they may not remember it at all. That means your word-of-mouth marketing will suffer. And so will your web marketing. If yours is one of 10 variations of the same generic business name, you will find it nearly impossible for customers to find you on the web. You don't want them to sift through a full page of search results to find just the right “ABC Plumbing.”
Not to mention that no one really wants to do business with a generic, lackluster company.
Your business, your brand and your customers will all benefit if you switch to a more unique name that really embodies your brand.
4. Your name is confusing or hard to spell.
If your business name is confusing or hard to spell, customers may be unable to find you. It’s that simple. A business name that doesn’t make sense and confuses consumers won’t be remembered.
In fact, there are aspects of brain science to consider here: Mariano Sigman, founder of the Integrative Neuroscience Laboratory of UBA, has written, “A memory is a network of connected elements.” The human brain stores and accesses memories based on associations between two or more pieces of information.
So, if your business name is confusing or unrelated to your business, chances are that consumers' brains won’t form the necessary connections to see your business name and your business as linked. And, if the name is hard to spell, they may end up finding another business and sticking with it.
How to rename your business
If it’s time to rename your business, you’ll want to be careful to get things right this time around. You'll also want to be realistic: Changing your name requires thought and work, not just on your part, but that of your customers. They’ve gotten to know your old brand; now, they’re being asked to unlearn all of that and start over.
This time round, then, follow these tips to name or rename your business to ensure that your new name serves your business well for the long run. For a longer, more detailed version, also be sure to read "10 Tips for Naming Your Startup or Small Business" -- both are from our company.