Business name change? Here’s what to think about when changing business name
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Business name change? Here’s what to think about when changing business name

Business Name Change

Knowing what you need to think about when changing business name is crucial to avoiding some serious branding issues. A business name change isn’t something you should enter into lightly. Just like choosing your company’s name in the first place, renaming your brand is something which requires significant focus and consideration.

Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are with your initial naming strategy, there’s always a chance your title could end up losing its appeal over time. As businesses and industries change, and consumer preferences evolve, a once wonderful name can gradually lose its luster.

The good news is changing your business name is a possibility. However, there are various steps you’ll need to think about to ensure you complete this process without any issues.

Here’s what you need to know before changing your business name…

Can you change your business name?

First, you’ll need to determine whether a business name change is actually possible.

In most cases, companies are free to change their names as often as they like, provided the new name they choose is available, and they fill out the correct documentation. However, if your business has other partners and stakeholders besides you, it may be necessary to get their permission first.

Ensure you know the structure of your company before you try changing your name, and make sure you have permission from all of the relevant people.

It’s also worth noting you’ll need to set aside time for the various actions involved in changing your name. You can’t simply update your website and call it a day.

You’ll need to:

  • File the appropriate documentation with your government to register your business.
  • Purchase your new name from a professional hosting company online.
  • Update your website and online assets.
  • Pay for the creation of a new logo to accompany your name.
  • Upload all of your brand assets which feature your name.
  • Communicate with your target audience.
  • Adjust your branding strategy and marketing materials.
  • Pay for copyrights and trademarks.
Business Name Change

When is changing your business name a good idea?

Changing your business name is a lot of work. Even if you already have an excellent name in mind, or you’ve accessed the services of a naming agency to help you, there’s still a lot of paperwork to get through.

The process of renaming your company can be extremely time-consuming and expensive – but it’s worth it in the right circumstances.

There are certain cases where it may make sense to rename your company, such as:

Poor differentiation

If your name is too close to the name of another brand, or it doesn’t help you to stand out in your industry, you might want to opt for something a little more memorable. The right name is an important part of differentiating your business.

Once you find a new name that’s different from the title you used before, make sure you copyright or trademark the moniker to ensure it isn’t replicated.

Identity issues

Your name might have reflected your company when you first started, but as your business has grown and the services or products you offer have changed, it might be time for something new.

For instance, if your name started out as “Sarah’s Shoes,” and you’ve evolved to sell all kinds of clothing products, then you may need to switch to something a little broader to identify your business.

Your name is outdated

If you named your business in the midst of a trend, there’s a good chance your identity will become outdated overtime. If your title is too long and complex or no longer appeals to the kind of audience you want to reach, then it might be time to look for something a little more relevant.

In some cases, this could just mean shortening your title, like Dunkin’ Donuts did when it became “Dunkin’.”

It’s too generic

Creativity is key when it comes to standing out in today’s competitive world. If your name is generic and boring, it’s not going to have the right influence on your target audience.

As you begin to learn more about your audience, and your personality starts to shine through in your organization, you may be able to switch to something more memorable.

Your name is too complex

In today’s fast-paced world, customers want to be able to find the companies they’re looking for quickly. A complex name that’s difficult to spell or say will hamper your company’s growth.

This is particularly true if your customers are constantly miss-spelling your business name when looking for you online.

What to think about when changing business name

The list of what to think about when changing business name can be longer than you’d think. There’s more to it than simply finding a new moniker with a greater appeal.

The first thing you’ll need to think about is your reason for changing your name. Changing the title of your business takes a lot of work, and can be very expensive, so make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.

Changing your business name because you’re bored or want to take advantage of a new trend is never a good idea.

It’s also worth thinking about whether the potential benefits of changing your name outweigh the downsides. Even if you’re a new company, there’s a good chance you’ve invested a decent amount of time and effort into building “brand equity” into your current name.

Will you get more out of a new name than you’ve already gotten out of your naming strategy?

Other points to think about include:

The cost

Changing a name is expensive for a lot of reasons. The paperwork you need to submit with your state can cost between $20 and $150. Then you have the fees of trademarking your new name to think about.

Plus, there’s the fee of buying a domain name, creating a new logo, designing new branding assets, and investing in new marketing campaigns. The cost quickly adds up.

Your customers

Do you know for a fact your target audience will like this name better than your old title? If you’re not sure, you could risk alienating loyal customers who have already developed a strong connection with your brand.

Consider using a poll or survey to collect some insights from your customers before you jump in.

Other options

You could always look into registering a “DBA”, or “Doing Business As” name if a full name change doesn’t make sense. This could be a good idea if you’re simply shortening the name you already have to something simpler.

The availability of the new name

Take some time before changing your business name to make sure your new title is available. The last thing you want to do is warn your audience you’re going to be taking on a new title, then discover the name isn’t available.

You can check for name availability on databases like this one.

Business Name Change

How to change your business name

If, after some careful consideration, you’ve decided a business name change is definitely the right choice for you, then the first step is research. Check you have the approval of all your relevant stakeholders, and make sure everyone approves the new name.

Next, use a trademark search tool to make sure your name hasn’t already been registered by someone else. Once you’re convinced you can safely access your new name, the steps for changing your name will vary depending on where you are.

In the US, these are the steps you’ll follow:

Step 1: Notify the state

For partnerships and sole proprietors, it’s usually ok to contact the local government in your area and inquire about the steps required to update your business name. If you’re operating as an LLC or corporation, you’ll need to file a full name amendment with your state of incorporation.

If you operate in multiple states, you’ll need to file a name amendment in all of these locations.

Step 2: Contact the IRS

For the purpose of your federal tax bills, you’ll need to inform the IRS of any name changes. The exact process you’ll need to follow will depend on the type of business you run.

For instance, sole proprietorships will simply have to contact the IRS using the address they mail their tax returns to.

If you’re not sure about the process for your business, the best thing you can do is reach out to the IRS and get some direct guidance. There may be specific forms you need to file.

Step 3: Decide if you need a new EIN

Most of the time, a business name change won’t require you to apply for a new Employer Identification Number. However, if you change the structure or ownership of your business too, then you might need to update these forms.

Contact the IRS to determine whether it’s necessary to apply for a new EIN or not.

Step 4: Update permits and licenses

Business licenses and permits can be given on a local, state, and federal basis. For Example, sales tax permits are given on a state level, while building permits are issued on a local level.

After making a change to your business name, you’ll need to contact the government agencies associated with each permit and ensure they’re updated.

Make sure you update your business insurance too.

Step 5: Update your company information

Updating your company information with your new name is probably the most time-consuming and complex part of the name changing process. You’ll need to adjust everything from the signature on your email address, to the information on Google my Business.

It’s worth taking some time before updating your business name to get your audience prepared for the change. Letting your customers know a change is coming, rather than just switching directly from one business name to another, will help to minimize confusion.

Business name change checklist

Not sure if you’ve covered everything you need to think about when changing business name?

Here’s a quick checklist to keep you on track…

Choosing your name:

  • Brainstorm new names or hire the services of a naming agency.
  • Check the meaning of the name in different locations to avoid embarrassment.
  • Get buy-in for your new name from your stakeholders and business partners.
  • Choose your business name and research its availability.
  • Purchase your domain name for your new website (consider getting more than one TLD, like .com and co for your company).
  • Set up social media profiles with your new company name.
  • Trademark your new name when possible.

Updating your name (legally):

  • Notify the state of your name change.
  • Fill out the appropriate forms and documentation for your name change.
  • Pay any fees associated with changing your name.
  • Contact the IRS (and find out if you need a new EIN).
  • Update your permits, licenses, and insurance.
  • Update your company information on all official documentation.
  • Make sure employees and shareholders are aware of the change
  • Inform your bank of your new company name, and open a new account if necessary.
  • Update your internal documentation (employee contracts etc.).

Updating your brand:

  • Refresh your marketing literature and tools (including email marketing tools).
  • Update your brand guidelines with insights into your new name.
  • Create a new logo featuring your company name, or reflecting your name.
  • Update your website design and social media profiles with your company name.
  • Amend the content of your website and newsletter, including any signatures.
  • Create a new professional email template with your new company name and logo.
  • Update the terms and conditions on your website, as well as any policy information.
  • Update your contact information and “about us” copy.
  • Update stationary like invoices and business cards.
  • Change the signage at any on-premises environments and vehicles.
  • Notify your clients and customers (it’s best to start generating hype before the change and give your audience some time to get used to the idea).
  • Consider whether you need to continue using your old name alongside your new one for a while (until people get used to the change).
  • Use blog and PR techniques to publicize your name change.
  • Create a new marketing campaign with a focus on drawing attention to your name.
Business Name Change

Remember these things when changing business name

Changing your business name can be an extremely complicated process. This is why most businesses spend so much time and effort looking for the perfect name from day one.

If you decide the best way to grow your brand is to invest in a business name change, it’s important to make sure you won’t have to make any more changes any time soon.

Before you dive into a name change, ask yourself whether you can choose the right title on your own, or whether you need to hire a specialist, like Fabrik Brands.

Sometimes, naming your business can be a lot harder than it seems, particularly if you’re trying to reach customers in a range of different locations. The meaning of words and phrases can differ drastically from one region to the next.

It’s also worth keeping these things in mind:

1. Know your brand

First, make sure you know your brand and the identity you’re trying to create before you make any chances. Your name should be an extension of everything your company stands for, and what it does.

Ask yourself how you’re going to connect with your audience emotionally using this name, and how the title will differentiate you from your competitors.

A great name should instantly convey the personality you’re trying to develop to your customers and help them to understand what you’re all about.

2. Keep it simple

The best names are always the simplest. Something short, easy to spell, and easy to remember will ensure people can share your name with others and find you online. A simpler name is also much easier to including in all kinds of branding assets and logos.

Where possible, stick to a name that’s just one word, or a couple of words, and stay away from anything with confusing spellings.

Trends can inspire a name change, but you shouldn’t be changing your name just because you’ve noticed a lot of companies using the same style of moniker recently. A name shouldn’t be a chance for you to “blend in” with other companies. Your name is a tool for standing out.

Make sure you’re bypassing the trends and focusing on names most likely to have a significant emotional impact on your audience.

4. Don’t go too narrow

One of the worst mistakes companies make with their names, is focusing too heavily on a specific geography or product. For instance, if you call yourself “Worldwide Book Store” and you start selling more than just books within a couple of years, you’ll need to rebrand all over again.

While it’s fine to give your audience an insight into what you do with your brand name, don’t restrict yourself too much.

5. Get more than one opinion

After choosing your name, it’s best to get insights from multiple people from throughout your business, including shareholders, employees, and even some of your customers. It’s easy to assume that a name makes sense when you’re the only one looking at it.

However, you could end up with a title that’s far more complex than you realize.

The best naming strategies rarely happen in a vacuum. Make sure multiple people agree this new name makes sense for your business before you go all-in.

Investing in a successful name change

Knowing what to think about when changing your business name is important. It ensures you update your brand and personality, without completely alienating your audience, or getting into trouble with the relevant authorities.

Ultimately, a business name change takes a lot of work. You can’t simply find a new name and switch over night. You’ll need to do your research, check you’re not stepping on the toes of any trademarks, and ensure you fill out all the right documentation.

At the same time, there’s a lot of work to do when it comes to updating your name in your marketplace. You’ll have to change everything from your logo to your marketing campaigns to reflect your new name. This can require a lot of time and investment.

With all this in mind, it’s worth making sure you take the time to assess your situation carefully, and decide whether a name change is really right for you. It might even be worth seeking extra assistance to ensure you don’t choose the wrong name a second time.

A naming professional might help you to avoid some unnecessary and expensive mistakes.

Fabrik: A naming agency for our times.

We’ve made our name famous by naming other businesses.

Get in touch if you have a company, product, or service that requires a unique name. Click below, and let’s start a conversation today!

Steve Harvey
Steve Harvey
Our co-founder, Steve Harvey, is also a regular contributor to Brand Fabrik, a flagship publication covering topics relevant to anyone in branding, marketing and graphic design. Steve shares his enthusiasm for brand naming through his articles and demonstrates his knowledge and expertise in the naming process.

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