Are you considering to change your business name? There are a number of reasons why, as a small business owner, you may be contemplating this option. Is your business name not catchy or attractive enough? What is different or unique about your name? After a while, you may have realized that your business name is too long, confusing or even hard to spell. In other cases, the reason why you are thinking about a change could not be in the name itself, in but the nature of your business: your services or products may have diversified, changed or grown since the original name. Whatever the case is, a new, captivating name can kick start a business into reaching a wider consumer base and catching the eye of potential customers. We are going to discuss how to change your business name, and what you need to consider before doing so.
10 Steps to Change Your Business Name
Changing a business name is not difficult, but we are going to walk you through it step by step all the same:
- Brainstorm a New Name. Obviously, you will want to have an idea of what your new name will be when you decide to change it. You want the name to be short, work well in a tagline, and be easy for customers to say, spell, and remember. You want to make sure your new name isn’t hard to understand or unpleasant to see or say. There some online tools that can help you: Shopify Business Name Generator and NameMesh.com are tools that generate business names and check domain availability instantly. Naminum.com is also a name generator that starts from a base word or a theme you provide.
- See if the Name is Taken. Before you begin the process of changing your business name, make sure to do an exhaustive search on whether the name is already taken or if it’s available for you to use. You don’t want to spend all the time and effort applying for a name change only to learn that the name is being used by someone else. Be sure to do an internet search, search your secretary of state’s website, look up similar trademarks, and check if the “.com” (domain name) is available for that name (you may be able to buy the domain name from the holder if they are not a business).
- Notify your Secretary of State. You must notify your state’s Secretary of State if you change the name of your business. Visit your Secretary of State’s website to find the required forms to submit in order to formally change the name of your business (fees will likely apply).
- Change your DBA (if you have one). If you currently have a DBA (“Doing Business As” name, or fictitious name for your business) you will also likely want to amend that to reflect your new name. This is simply another form you need to fill out (and another fee you will likely have to pay). You can learn here more on DBA and when you need one for your business. You can also set up a DBA easily using LegalZoom. Learn here how.
- Update Licenses and Permits. If your business has any licenses or permits (which is quite likely) you will need to notify the organizations that issued them to you about your name change. You definitely want to make sure all of your licenses and permits will remain valid after the name change.
- Notify the IRS. You will also have to notify the IRS when you change the name of your business. The action required to notify the name change will depend on the type of business you have: sole proprietorship, corporation, or partnership. On the IRS website, you can find the specific requirements for each type of business. Also, note that you don’t have to apply for a new EIN (Employer Identification Number). Even if you change your name after you are issued an EIN, notifying the IRS of the name change will be sufficient.
- Update Business Documents and Contracts. You will need to go through all of your business documents and contracts and change the name of your business to the new one. This includes things like company letterhead, leases, client agreements, records, employee contracts, etc.
- Rebrand. One of the more difficult parts of changing your business’s name is having to rebrand your company. You will have to change the business name on all business cards, advertisement materials, website content, logos, company vehicles, uniforms, etc. But this could be a great opportunity to also change or refresh the look and feel of your business (which includes, among others, the color palette you use in all your marketing materials, the type of font you use in your written materials, etc.) All this may cost a lot of time (and probably money) but you want to be sure that potential customers don’t get confused if they run across your older name or image.
- Update Your Online Presence. Similar to the step above, make sure you change your business name in your social media accounts and your digital marketing materials.
- Communicate the Change to Customers and Vendors. While the name change may attract new customers, you don’t want to leave current customers or vendors out of the loop. If you have important clients or vendors it is crucial to let them know of your name change as soon as possible to remove any sort of confusion. Not doing so can lead to mix-ups that can hurt sales or cause you to be missing inventory when you need it. If possible, it may be wise to focus your new marketing strategy on the name change itself to also capture any previous customers who come across the advertisements.
To sum up, remember your business name is a powerful marketing tool that can attract more clients and increase your sales, but you have to pick your new choice carefully. As with any other business decision, it is helpful to consider the advantages and disadvantages involved in a name change:
+ A fresh, catchy name can spark interest in potential or former customers.
+ A better name can make your business more marketable and allow you to reach a wider consumer base.
+ A great business name can tell customers exactly what to expect and make them excited of coming into your business.
+ A business name that is broader and doesn’t include your name can help if other investors come into the company or you decide to diversify the services you provide.
But, at the same time…
– A name change can be quite costly in terms of time and money between the fees, rebranding, and notifying of proper government agencies.
– A name change always has the potential to turn some current customers away, either because they don’t keep up with your business to know your name changed or dislike the name for whatever reason.
Overall, a name change can often provide a lot of benefits to your company when done right. If you want more information on business technology, financing, accounting, and marketing, be sure to subscribe to the Camino Financial Newsletter. Every week you’ll receive more tips like the ones you just read and useful tools and resources to better manage your finances and grow your business.