Nine Tips for Updating Your Business Name
If you don’t think the name of your shop matters, think again, says John Geranios, executive director of Brandings.com. It matters a great deal when it comes to the overall image of your shop, and it plays a huge role in the ultimate success or failure of your enterprise. Your name defines who you are; it’s how people recognize you. So all shop operators should take a thoughtful approach to their naming strategy, and have a strategic plan for how it will be used from a brand development perspective.
Geranios, who has assisted in the development of several small business names—including a handful of automotive facilities—offers advice on how to analyze the quality of your company name, and how to select one that’s right for your organization.
Many small business owners don’t put a ton of thought into their company name. They don’t think it really matters, so they choose an easy name and start their business. But owners should think more strategically than that because the business name is the foundation of their brand. It’s the first thing that customers see, and it’s the concept that all marketing and advertising efforts are focused around. Company names really resonate in the minds of consumers, so you need to make sure you communicate the right message in a very short period of time.
There are multiple reasons to consider updating your name or changing it altogether no matter how long you’ve been in business. It might be far too long and difficult to remember, there might be a new competitor in town to differentiate from, you might offer a new slate of services that your current name no longer reflects, or you might be opening a new or additional location in a new market.
Here are a few foundational elements of choosing a good company name to help you create a brand that’s original, memorable and valuable in your community:
1. Research competing shop names. Your shop name should be different from all others in your market to avoid confusion among consumers. To do that, simply drive around the community, search the phone book, and perform an Internet search to identify every shop in the area. Shop operators can also check with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to confirm whether a certain business name has been registered.
2. Keep it short. Think about how your name will look on your company’s signage, facility and marketing materials. The shorter the name, the better. Limit it to 15 characters or less if possible.
3. Keep it simple. People should be able to easily share your company name with others to generate referrals. It should be easy to spell and pronounce. Make sure the name is spelled with alphabetic letters, and avoid the use of funky spellings, unnecessary letters or hyphens.
4. Evoke emotion. Many shop operators tend to select names that describe where they’re located or who owns the business. But it’s hard to build a memorable brand around those types of names because they’re rather boring and don’t evoke any emotion.
Good business names carry deeper meaning. They evoke positive, pleasant and desirable emotions to improve the perception of the business. If you want to evoke a sense of trust, for example, consider using trust-focused words such as “quality” or “expert.” Language that concisely conveys your skills and expertise are powerful elements that elevate the meaning of the brand and inspire people to visit your facility.
5. Consider your website domain. Ideally, your website URL will exactly match your legal company name. Having a slight variance between the two is not as attractive to consumers. Research whether a matching “.com” URL is available before officially altering your name.
6. Consider Internet searches. Identify the words that consumers in your market tend to use when searching for automotive repairs online. Do they more commonly search for “collision repair” or “auto body”? There are hosts of search engine optimization tools available through Google that help identify the most common words searched in every marketplace. If you have a Google Webmaster account, you can find this information in the keyword analysis tool.
7. Be cautious about being clever. Catchy business names can work, but be careful. There is a fine line between being clever and being dorky. Always avoid using puns, and tread carefully if you’re considering using a play on words.
8. Think about your succession plan. If you’re planning to sell your shop for retirement, the company name makes a significant difference regarding its perceived value to a potential buyer. Buyers are more likely to have interest in shops that aren’t directly tied to the personal name of the current owner.
9. Don’t limit yourself. One common mistake is that owners create names that focus on one aspect of their business, but the name is no longer applicable as the company grows and begins to offer additional services. Say you have plans to branch out into mechanical repairs at some point. You need a name in place that allows people to understand the full slate of services they can receive without limiting it specifically to collision repair.
A good business name will go a long way to successfully advertise and communicate your core competencies. Since marketing is expensive and budgets are tight for most small businesses, the company name has to do a lot of the heavy lifting to make sure people remember who you are. A solid brand name is the best way to leverage and maximize your marketing dollars in a very powerful way.