Changing your business name can feel daunting, even insurmountable. And we’re not going to lie to you – there’s definitely a fair amount of work involved if you want to maintain your hard-won reputation when switching to a new brand name.
But naturally, we’re here to take you through all the steps. In this handy article, you’ll first find out how to pick a new business name. Hint: using a business name generator is a great way to explore your creative options.
We’ll then walk you through the practical steps of changing your business name. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you’ll read our best tips for communicating this change both internally and externally. This stage is non-negotiable!
But first – why change a name at all?
Why Change Your Business Name?
There are plenty of reasons why you might want to change your business name. If you’ve recently merged with another company, you might want to signal this new partnership with an updated title. Or perhaps you want to reflect your hard-won status as the best small business phone service in your industry area.
As you can see, there are myriad situations in which you might want to freshen up your company branding with a new name. But let’s be clear – this is not a risk-free process. Your company’s name is inextricably linked with brand awareness and it’s key not to mess this up.
Take the UK postal service as a cautionary tale. Known as the Royal Mail, they spent millions to change their name to Consignia in 2001, only to change the name back after a sheer 12 months due to customer confusion and boycotts from unions. Their crime? Not communicating the reasoning behind the rebranding effectively.
So now you see – changing your name might feel necessary, but it’s equally important that it’s done in the right way to avoid damaging your brand.
How to Pick a New Business Name
This is the part of the process that requires bucketloads of creativity. And if you’re really struggling, Wordlab has an in-depth article taking you through how to come up with a business name, so it might be a good idea to read that once you’ve finished this article.
1.- Realign Your Brand Strategy
Our first tip? Don’t actually brainstorm right away. Instead, start with brand strategy. Remember, this is your company’s mission and how it is communicated to the outside world. Think: do you need to rebrand? Is it time to freshen up your brand strategy? Consider the components of a successful brand strategy: your core identity, your competitive advantage, the audience’s profile, and your brand’s positioning.
Maybe your reason for renaming links to a change in one of the above components. Does your current business name reflect the updated value or service that your company provides? For example, maybe your company now allows users to utilize a program via a remote computer login – make sure they know about it with an on-point name!
2.- Conduct a Brand-Led Naming Process
Okay, we’re finally through to the good stuff. Now you get to choose your new business name!
Don’t forget that sparkling new brand strategy that you’ve just refreshed. Be led by the core components of this strategy when considering what you want your name to reflect.
As for methodology, use any of the following prompts to get started:
- Word mashups
- Your own name (this can add a personal touch or legitimacy that smaller companies may lack)
- Latin or other languages (Did you know that Volvo means “I roll” in Latin?)
- Personal meaning
- Geographical landmarks
- Symbols (such as Omega watches)
- Interesting sounds (luxury brands often opt for vowels and silent letters, for example)
- Allusions (Ajax was stronger than anyone in ancient Greece. Now he’s cutting through kitchen ‘grease’ in modern times!)
- Acronyms and initials (many opt for the founders’ initials)
Don’t be shy when you go through the list. You probably need hundreds of names to start with! Remember that you’re aiming for quality, so it’s best to get every single idea down. And then, get ruthless.
3.- Use a Checklist
Once you’ve got your shortlist of new business names, use our handy checklist to make sure it’s viable for the outside world:
- Is it different enough?
- Is it easy to say out loud and to spell?
- Can you trademark it?
- Are the domain and relevant social media available?
A quick word on the final point, before we go on to the practicalities. The importance of trademarking, or intellectual property management, is not to be understated here. Otherwise, you could get sued and lose all that hard-won brand awareness and reputation. It’s definitely best to err on the side of caution here – make sure that you are one hundred percent able to trademark that new name.
Next, it’s time to quickly go through the practical steps of changing your business name.
How to Change Your Business Name
We’ll keep this section short because the various legalities and technicalities can vary from country to country.
But the no-brainers include updating bank accounts, business licenses and permits, and informing the tax authorities.
You’ll also need to change business documents such as contracts and loan agreements. And, importantly, all your marketing material.
It would be a smart idea to take inventory of all your marketing material in advance, so you don’t miss anything else. Have you also considered your domain name? One tip we can give you is to make sure you have the right domain endings for your global customers. For example, getting that .co.uk domain is important for offering your British audience a sense of localized service.
Finally, brand design needs to be considered, such as font, color palettes, iconography, illustrations, graphics, and avatars. With a renaming often comes a branding overhauling, so don’t forget to consider these visual elements too.
Don’t forget that branding can also cover internal structures, such as teams. So if you’re changing the name of the entire company, why not freshen up group structures with new titles, using a team name generator? There’s no doubt that people work harder when they feel connected to a strong purpose or group.
How to Communicate Your New Business Name
You’ve officially found the perfect name and you’ve ticked all the legal boxes.
Don’t get too comfortable, though. The last hurdle may well be the most important one. Remember that Royal Mail/Consignia communications fiasco we mentioned before?
It proves that communicating your new business name is just as important as coming up with the perfect new name for your brand.
There are two strands to your communications strategy: internal and external. Let’s dig a little deeper.
1.- Internal Communications
This involves telling employees and other stakeholders about the name change. It’s so crucial to have your staff on board for this name change, as many of them will be the ones interacting with customers and fielding questions and queries.
To that end, make sure employees are briefed way in advance of the official roll-out. Have a meeting – or several – where your reasoning is explained in detail. Let them ask questions, or even involve them in the actual naming process.
The more they know, the more they’ll understand, which is a crucial part of their being enthusiastic ambassadors for your company.
2.- External Communications
This is the big one: letting your clients and the general public know. Create a cohesive, multichannel communications strategy that explains your rationale – but keep it short and snappy. Imagine your customer support staff working in call center operations having to explain this multiple times a day – they need to have a quick and confident explanation in their back pocket.
It’s also important to choose one single day for the big switchover. This doesn’t mean you should neglect transitional communications on either side of this date – such as informing customers that while the brand name has changed, your excellent product or service hasn’t – but it cuts down on confusion and keeps things simple.
Make sure that your communications strategy includes targeted online marketing with specific branded keywords. This way, your clients and the general public can easily find and recognize your new business name without any hassle.
Finally, consider the most appropriate communication material for your client base. Do you offer small business VoIP phone systems? Then perhaps an individualized email gives that personal touch, rather than relying solely on a website banner. But don’t forget that most people need to hear something several times for information to stick in their heads. So, make sure you repeat that message everywhere!
Ready to Unleash the Power of a New Business Name?
There’s no doubt that changing the name of your business can be complicated and, at times, stressful. But it’s important to also look on the bright side.
Consider the fact that changing your business name actually offers ample opportunity for improving brand awareness. Why not go big and spread the news with the media, small or national?
You could even try discounts or campaigns to bring in new customers and reward old ones. This tactic takes a leaf out of ecommerce retargeting strategies, where every opportunity is optimized in order to turn a visitor into a lead.
Finally, don’t forget to have fun. It’s not every day that you get to give your company a titular makeover – so enjoy it!