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Have You Outgrown the Company Name You Started With? Renaming Tips

Although the most common reason clients come to my company for a new business name is a stern warning letter they've received from a law firm charging trademark infringement, the second most common reason for renaming is that the company has outgrown its original name in some way. If this applies to you, here's how to proceed so you end up with a company name you can live and grow with for many years.

Perhaps you've outgrown your original name geographically. If you were River Valley Plumbing and now your service area extends far beyond River Valley in two directions, that is indeed a valid reason for finding a new name. Just remember that the new name does not also have to be a geographical name. Think about whether there's something you particularly want your company to be known for, such as environmentally friendly supplies or fast emergency service. If so, those can be the themes around which you build your new name.

Or perhaps you've outgrown the specialty indicated in your original company name. For instance, you launched the business as Senior At-Home Care, but now you serve all ages and run errands in addition to providing personal care assistance. Here too, don't assume your new name has to focus on exactly what your company does. Instead, you might look for a name that evokes the benefit of your work - that you eliminate the frustrations of daily life, that you promote independence for frail or disabled people, and so on.

To get started with your renaming, identify the business goals and objectives that you want the new name to meet. Who is the target market? How can you best position yourselves vis-�-vis present and future competitors? What qualities do your ideal customers tend to appreciate most when they find you? Are new clients typically looking for you in the Yellow Pages (where it would be good to be near the beginning of the alphabet), online (where you need a name that's easy to spell and remember), or through word of mouth (where memorability is most important)?

Second, what kind of statement do you want to make about your company? How do you want to be perceived? Would a cute name help or hinder you? Would a practical, matter-of-fact name be better than a humorous, attention-getting one?

Third, brainstorm a couple of dozen possible names. Along with this article, you'll find a link to a free brainstorming guide for company names. Keep the brainstorming going for several days, because each time you come back to your list after being away from it, you'll get additional ideas.

Fourth, go back to the business goals and objectives you identified and use them to screen your list of possible names. Cross off those that are off target, and highlight the ones that get across your desired message best. Select your top three company name candidates.

Last, perform a legal check with the assistance of an attorney to find out whether your top three choices are legally okay. Very often, this step reveals that one or more of the names you were excited about would make you legally vulnerable for one reason or another and have to be eliminated from your list.

Now you're in a position to make a final decision. Make sure the name you choose contains room for further growth, since that's the reason you were looking for a new company name to begin with!

Marcia Yudkin is Head Stork of Named At Last, a company that brainstorms creative business names, product names and tag lines for clients. For a systematic process of coming up with an appealing and effective name or tag line, download a free copy of "19 Steps to the Perfect Company Name, Product Name or Tag Line" at www.namedatlast.com/19steps.htm

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