What to consider before changing your business name

Truth & consequences

Think back to the days before your business was up and running. It’s likely that you spent many days (and nights) contemplating the perfect name. Then you finally made a decision. At the time, you believed the name was ideal. But as the days, months and years passed, you began to think about making a change.

It is absolutely possible to change your company’s name. However, this isn’t something you do on a whim. It takes careful consideration on many fronts.

Before you do anything, answer this question: are you ready to abandon the brand you have been building? Brand building is extremely important, as it helps you land new business, stay fresh in the mind of your customers and prospects, and achieve online success. If you decide to change names, all the work you put in is gone. It is time to start fresh.

Are you moving forward with a name change?

If the answer is yes, you need to be 100-percent prepared for everything that will come your way. Neglecting to take your time could have serious consequences.

Here are some things to consider:

1. Legal and tax implications

The U.S. Small Business Administration discusses this in great detail, explaining the legal and regulatory steps involved with changing your company’s name. Not only do you have to notify the proper authorities, such as the IRS, but you may require a new EIN. To avoid any trouble, hire an attorney and tax professional with the appropriate experience and knowledge. It will cost, but it is money well spent.

2. Online implications

Thirty years ago changing the name of your company had nothing to do with the Internet. This wasn’t a consideration. But it’s 2015 — and everything has changed. Here are some questions to answer:

  • Have you secured the domain that matches the new company name?
  • Are the matching social media profiles available?
  • Have you considered the impact this will have on your search engine traffic?

If you care about search engine optimization and organic traffic, changing domain names is easier said than done. Take this story, for example. When NutsOnline.com made the change to Nuts.com, the company was hoping for the best (but expecting the worst). And that is exactly what happened.

Despite bringing a web consultant on board to help with the transition, the site went from receiving approximately 30,000 organic visits each month from Google to approximately 9,000. Worse yet, this happened within a period of two weeks. Roughly three months later, traffic was still down 50 percent. All in all, the decrease in traffic resulted in a loss of 100 to 150 orders a day. Could your business survive a similar situation?

3. Print material

From business cards to flyers to signage, everything has to change. Remember that trade show display that set you back a few thousand dollars? It probably doesn’t hold much value any longer.

Everything associated with your old company can be packed up in boxes and put in storage. It is time to purchase all new print material. For some companies, depending on the size and industry, this could result in an expense of tens of thousands of dollars.

4. Email communication

Once your domain changes, the same holds true for your email address. This might not sound like a big deal, until you consider the fact that all your current clients, past customers and prospects have your current email address.

The best thing you can do is this: have every employee send out an email announcing the change. Then, spend a few months forwarding old emails to the new addresses. This will take some time, and even so there is no guarantee that a few key contacts won’t slip through the cracks once you cancel the old emails.

5. Brand loyalty

This depends largely on how long your company was in business and what you were able to achieve over that time. Some companies have a strong brand. Others didn’t make much of a dent in their market.

According to a recent Accenture study, 28 percent of consumers are loyal to brands and providers. If you change your company name, your brand is left in the past. Those who were loyal to your old company might not be loyal in the future, even if the team and product/service is the same. Why do you think there are more than three billion loyalty program memberships in the United States alone? Simply put, brands realize the importance of loyalty.

There are times when it makes sense to change your business name. For example, if your current name doesn’t accurately convey your product or service, a change could work in your favor.

Conversely, there are times when sticking with your current name is the best option. Can you imagine Pepsi, McDonald’s or Nike making this type of change? Of course not. They have too much invested in their brand.

If you come to the conclusion that changing your business name is the best decision, don’t forget to first consider the five points above. Doing so can help you avoid some unfortunate consequences. And if you are curious about a new company name try out our Business Name Generator.

Image by: David Ortmann via Compfight cc

Meredith Wood is the Editor-in-Chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans that matches business owners with the best funding providers for their business. Prior to Fundera, Meredith was the CCO at Funding Gates. She is a resident Finance Advisor on American Express OPEN Forum and an avid business writer. Her advice consistently appears on such sites as Yahoo!, Fox Business, Amex OPEN, AllBusiness, and many more. Meredith is also the Senior Financial and B2B Correspondent for AlleyWire.