A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. – William Shakespeare
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.
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 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.
Start with your brand. Your business name should be an extension and representation of your brand essence. So, start by thinking about your brand:
- What does your business do?
- 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. You knew your old brand, so you may be tempted to blow through this process. Don’t. Once you’ve defined your new brand, brainstorm names that support the most important elements. If a name doesn’t relate to your brand in a meaningful way, cut it from the list.
Make it easy to pronounce and spell. Hopefully, this is self-explanatory. In the age of Google and the internet of things, it’s vital that your business be easy to find online.
Margaret Wolfson, founder and chief creative officer of branding/naming agency River + Wolf, pointed out that “a visible digital presence is absolutely critical to the success of any business. You want people to be able to search for and find you with little effort.”
So, don’t choose a name that makes it hard to find you, or is something even a Rhodes scholar can’t spell.
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 prospective names to ensure you avoid names that are:
- linked to specific technologies likely to become outdated (remember Radio Shack?)
- have a focus so narrow that they preclude future evolution (i.e., “Just Cabinets”)
- contain geographical references that may make your business irrelevant in a broader market
- so broad or generic without personality that they don’t tell consumers anything about your brand
Wolfson noted that a name should be able to embrace eventual product extensions. A notable example is the name change Steve Jobs made from “Apple Computer” to “Apple.” This gave the company room to grow into not-yet-imagined watches, iPads and iPhones.
Don’t forget to differentiate. Do you know who your competitors are? It’s vital that your new business name help your brand stand out from them. So, get to know who they are. Then choose a name that can’t be confused with theirs.
Otherwise, you’ll be back at this renaming rodeo again before you know it.
Get your logistical ducks in a row. Renaming your business isn’t just a creative branding endeavor — it’s also a practical one. Here are the logistical and legal chores you’ll need to complete:
- 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. I 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.
For a more in-depth look at all of the practical steps to fully updating your business name, check out this article.
Remember to tell your story. Renaming your business isn’t ever just renaming – it’s also rebranding. And part of a successful rebranding process is figuring out the authentic brand story you want your audience to associate with your business.
Since your business name is a central element of your brand, it’s essential that you figure out how your new name relates to that brand story. Alina Wheeler’s recently updated book Designing Brand Identity addressed this issue, pointing out that names are powerful tools, but they don’t tell the whole story. A name change alone – that neglects to consider all brand communications – could be seen as superficial.
Whether you opt for a social media campaign, an email series to existing customers, a television or radio ad, make sure your customers can see and understand the new you.
Update all branding elements. Sharing your brand story is an important piece of the renaming/rebranding process. To make it stick, you’ll need to update all of your visual branding elements. This includes updating your business logo, business cards and stationery, your website and any other visual collateral like data sheets, or marketing collateral.
As Wheeler recommends that you:
- Consider how new taglines, design, communications and other context-building tools should work with the new name to build a rich new story that you can own.
- Think holistically. Whenever you rename a business, make sure that name is part of a complete, authentic brand.
- Recognise that every aspect of your brand will be impacted from start to finish. Make sure to complete the transformation your name change will start throughout your brand.
Changing your business name is a hassle. It can be tough on your business to rebuild relationships after a change of that magnitude. So, if you can avoid it, don’t do it. But, if you find yourself facing a cease-and-desist order or running a business that just doesn’t match up with the name it’s operating under, you may have to.
When you realise that a name change is in your future, gird your loins and make sure to get it right this time around.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Put On Your Wellies: It’s Time To Wade Into Risk
Entrepreneurs aren’t all leaping into the unknown like lemmings off a cliff, but they do need to consider it…
You’ve had a great idea. You’ve looked into its development. You’ve recognised that it has potential beyond just what Auntie Mabel and Mike From The Grocer think. And you’ve clearly nailed a pain point that can make money. Now it is time to take the risk of running with it.
Every big idea comes with risk. You can’t step out into the world of entrepreneurial thinking and business development without it. Your idea may fail. It will also be time consuming, demanding, hungry for money, and hard work. It is unrealistic to expect that your project will leap out into the world and be an unmitigated success.
It is also unrealistic to assume that it isn’t worth taking this risk.
There are steps that you can follow to ensure that your risk is managed so you aren’t blindly leaping off that cliff…
Step 01: Do your research
No, canvassing your neighbours, friends and family is not doing research. You need to know that your idea will appeal to a broad market and that it will have significant legs. This may sound like daft advice, but you would be surprised how many people think an idea will take off just because Susan in Accounting said so.
Step 02: Understand the costs
Projects are hungry for money and investment. Realistically work out your budgets and how much it will cost to take your project off the ground and then stick to it.
A calculated risk is a far better bet than one that shoots from the hip and hopes for the best. You can also use this as an opportunity to draw a clear line under where you will stop investing and end the project. If it keeps eating money and isn’t getting anywhere with results you need to be able to walk away.
Step 03: Know when to walk away
As mentioned before, this can be defined by a line you’ve drawn in the proverbial sand (and budget) but no matter where you draw this line, you have to stick to it. Often, when time, money and energy have been poured into a project it can be incredibly hard to walk away.
You think ‘but I have put so much into this, just one more’ and then it gets to a point where the ‘just one more’ has taken you so far down the line that walking away feels impossible. Leave. Learn the lessons. Apply them to your next project.
Mind The Gap
The entrepreneur’s guide to finding the gaps and building the right solutions.
Innovation may very well be the key to business success but finding the gap into which your innovative thinking can fit is often a lot harder than people realise. Some may be struck by inspiration in the shower, others by that moment of blinding insight in a meeting, however, for most people finding that big idea isn’t that simple. They want to be an entrepreneur and start their own high-growth business, but they need some ideas on how to find that big idea.
Here are five…
It sounds trite but networking is actually an excellent way of picking up on patterns and trends in conversation and business problems. The trick is to note them down and pay attention. Soon, you will find patterns emerging and ideas forming.
2. Look for pain
Just as networking can reveal trends in the market, so can spending time reading. The latter will also help you find common business pain points. These are the touchpoints that frustrate people, annoy business owners, affect productivity, or impact employee engagement.
Be the Panado that fixes these pains.
This is probably the most annoying of the ideas, but it is unfortunately (or fortunately) very true. Luck does play a role in helping you capture that big idea. However, luck isn’t just standing around and random people offering you opportunities. Luck is found at networking events, it is found in research and it is found in conversations with other entrepreneurs.
4. Luck needs courage
You may have found the big idea through your network, a pain point or pure blind luck, but if you don’t have the courage to take it and run with it, you will lose it to someone else.
Being bold in business is highly underrated because most people assume that everyone is bold and prepared to take big leaps into the unknown. However, not all brilliant entrepreneurs were ready to throw their family funds to the wind and leap into an idea – they were courageous enough to figure out a way of harnessing their ideas realistically.
5. Pay attention
This is probably one of the most vital ways of finding a gap in the market. Often, people are so busy that they don’t really pay attention to that niggling issue that always bothers them on a commute, or in a mall, or at a meeting. This niggling issue could very well be the next big business opportunity. Pay attention to it and find out if that issue can be solved with your innovative thinking.
5 Things To Know About Your “Toddler” Business
As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind.
Ah, toddlers. Those irresistible bundles of joy bring a huge amount of energy, curiosity and fun to any family – but there’s also frustration and worry that comes with their unpredictability, as they grow and start to become more independent. If you own a business and it’s successfully past its “infancy” of the first year or so, it’s likely it will also go through a toddler stage of its lifecycle.
Pete Hammond, founder of luxury safari company SafariScapes, agrees with this. “Our business is now three and a half years old, and we’ve found that we’re not yet big enough to justify employing a large team of people to handle the day-to-day admin tasks, yet we still need to grow the business as well,” he says. “As a result, our main challenge is finding the time to step back and see the bigger picture. Kind of like when you are raising a busy toddler and you spend most of your time running after them!”
As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind:
1. This too shall pass
Everything in life is temporary – and that goes for both the good and the bad. It’s as helpful to remember this when you’re facing the might of a toddler temper tantrum, as it is when you’re facing throws of uncertainty in your business. If your new(ish) venture is going through a rough patch in its first few years, it can be easy to think about giving up – but don’t. As long as you have an overall big idea that you believe can add value to your customers, keep pushing through the rough parts until you come out the other side.
2. Appreciate what this phase brings
The toddler years mean that the initial newborn joy is officially behind you. But these small humans also bring their own kinds of joy, as you watch them learn new skills, say funny things, and give affection back to you. While your two-year-old business may not hold the same exhilaration for you as it did during those first few months, there are now different things to appreciate about it: Maybe you’re expanding your product range, or employing new people who can take the workload off you.
3. Establish boundaries
Toddlers thrive on boundary and routine – and your toddler business will too. As it grows into a new phase, try and establish limits in terms of the type of clients you want to work with and the type of work you’ll do. It’s also a good idea to make a decision about the hours you’ll work and when you’ll switch off, which will help you establish a good work-life balance.
4. Take a break
Every parent with a toddler needs a break every now and then, even if that means a walk around the block (on your own!), a dinner out with friends, or even a few days away. The same is true for a demanding small business: every so often, remember to take time out to rest properly, where you switch off your laptop and completely unplug. You’ll return much more inspired and resilient to deal with the everyday uncertainty that it brings.
5. Give it space to make mistakes
While the unpredictability of a young business can be stressful and tiring, it’s also a time for trying new things without the risk of huge consequences if they don’t quite work. After all, it’s much simpler to change your USP if you’re a small business employing a few people, rather than a big company where 50 people are relying on you for their salary, or where you’ve received a huge amount of investment capital. While you may fail in some of the things you try with your business (in fact, this is almost guaranteed), see it as a toddler that’s resilient enough to pick itself up, dust its knees and keep moving forward.
During this phase of business growth it’s also essential to have the right type of medical aid cover. There are medical schemes such as Fedhealth which has a number of medical aid options and value-added benefits to ensure that your health and wellness is taken care of too. After all, the healthier you and your staff are, the more productive your business will be – during the toddler (business) stage and beyond.
While this phase can be frustrating, it’s a sign that your business is growing and adapting, rather than remaining in its infancy, and that can only be a good thing! So embrace the difficulties, learn from them, and watch as your business strides forward confidently into the next exciting phase.