Before you change your business name, there are some steps you need to take to ensure a smooth transition and positive reception from your audience.
There are many reasons the original business name doesn’t always have staying power – lack of relevance, a change in business model, etc. – and some businesses admit they just didn’t put much thought into the name.
Some businesses that are huge today started out with names that were less than stellar. For example:
|Brad’s Drink||Pepsi Cola|
|Software Development Labs||Oracle|
1. Brainstorm different business names
Before you change your business name, the first step you should take is brainstorming several name options. One method to use: Write down industry words in one column, adjectives you like in another, and a third for different ways to put those words together (try blending words to create unique business names).
2. Narrow your list down to 3
First, you should analyze the list of possible new business names you’ve come up with and narrow it down to the best of the best. Try to narrow it down to no more than 3 different business names. That will make the next step easier, as you’ll have to do some research on each name you haven’t discarded to finish the process of elimination.
3. Research the top 3 business names
Now, it’s time to research the top 3 names on your list to see if they’re truly available for your business to use. The first step is checking with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website, where you can search the possible new business names to see if they’ve been taken by someone else or if they’re available to trademark. If one of the business names on your list has been taken, you’ve narrowed it down to your final 2.
The second step is finding out if there’s a related domain name available for each of the business names left on your list. It’s okay to get a little creative to make a business name “fit” with an available domain name, but if it doesn’t look professional, just cross it off your list and go with the last name standing.
Finally, your secretary of state’s website has a tool that allows you to check and see whether your business name has been registered in your state. If it hasn’t, congratulations! You can now take the next step in changing your business name.
4. Fill out the name change form online
Every state office has a website where you can find and download forms to help you change your business name. The forms are listed under different names according to state. There may be a fee for the name change form. You can find the link to your secretary of state’s website in the second bulleted point above.
5. Change your business name on permits and licenses
If you’ve already been operating as a business under a different name, you’ll need to change all your licenses and permits to reflect your new business name. You’ll have to contact each office you have secured permits and licenses from to get the new name on your forms. Fees may apply.
6. Tell the IRS about your name change
Depending on the type of business you’re operating, the IRS has different requirements and steps to take for business name changes. You can check the IRS website for specific requirements. You may only need to write the name change on your next return!
You’ll also need to apply for a new EIN (employer identification number). IRS Publication 1635 contains information on who should reapply for a new EIN after a business name change.
7. Make the switch elsewhere
Your company logo, letterheads, forms, documents, envelopes, website, signage – it all needs to be updated with your new business name now. To easily handle the website switch, change the logo and branding on your old site and have your administrator redirect your old website to the new domain.
8. Explain the change to customers
Depending on the reason you change your business name, consider explaining the change to customers, who will no doubt wonder what prompted the change. If it’s to create a positive fresh start with new goals and better methods, why not tell them that? Write a press release about the name change, post about it social media, and find creative ways to get people involved.