Perhaps there once was a time when your company name made perfect sense to you. After all, a lot of effort goes into coming up with a name for your LLC. Company names don’t just appear out of thin air. For many business owners, the name of their LLC has a special significance and meaning. Business owners may try to come up with unique and witty names that highlight their brand or even mission statement. But no matter how much time and effort goes into the “naming” process, sometimes it simply doesn’t work.
What’s In a Business Name?
A lot can ride on the name of a company. It’s your number-one identification marker and what potential customers will find in their searches and see in advertisements. Your company name is both the face and flag of your business and the foundation of your branding and marketing strategy. Choosing the right name and making sure that name isn’t already taken are key initial steps in establishing a business and making a mark in whatever industry you are in.
So before you jump into selling products or services, make sure you have a company name that identifies with your mission and the purpose of your organization. Some points to consider in choosing the right name can include:
Being able to identify with your business or product.
Keeping it simple and easy to remember.
Standing out from the crowd, as well as being unique and memorable.
Choosing a catchy name.
Preventing potential trademark issues by making sure that the name is not already taken.
Avoiding name recognition problems, especially if your name is close to that of another company.
Being timeless (and avoid designing name a logo that will go out of style).
Making sure your company name is not offensive.
Incfile has a free Business Name Generator tool to help make this process easier. All you have to do is enter a few keywords related to your business. These could be related to your business niche, the types of products and services you'll offer, who your ideal customer is or the goals you have set for your business. Our tool will take these keywords to create dozens of possible business names for you to choose from.
When Should You Consider Changing Your Company Name?
Whether it’s due to branding problems or the fact that customers just “don’t get it,” there are many reasons why names don’t catch on or work for a business. The good news is that you don’t need to remain stuck with a name that doesn’t work. Here are a few reasons why you may want to change your business name:
You acquired a business that has a sordid past.
Though the price of buying the business may have been a bargain, the business also came with some baggage. Even though these issues may have been resolved long ago, the company name might still reflect on its unsavory past. (Remember Blackwater?) Go for a fresh start and change the name!
The name is obsolete and does not resonate with your potential customer base.
Names like Bob's Beepers, The Pony Express and Allgood's Apothecary may not have the same relevance that had 30, 60 or 120 years ago. Names — and the messaging they carry — can grow obsolete. Make sure you have a name that resonates and also represents your product or service.
No one can remember — or pronounce — your business name.
Cheers was a fictional bar with a loyal customer base. It had a short, easy-to-remember and timeless name that connected well with its business. If the name of your business is long, complicated, easy to forget or difficult to pronounce, then change it! Become a place "where everybody knows your name."
You're expanding or changing your products or services.
Adding to your products or services can be a convincing driver to change an existing business name. For some businesses, the pivot can be a natural evolution. Bob's Beepers can easily transition to Bob's Wireless.
Your company name is too similar to another business.
Name and brand confusion can muddy the waters. It can confuse and irritate potential customers and cost business. It's also very unoriginal to operate in an industry that has businesses with similar names. Why compete with Italian restaurants like The Real Umberto's, Original Umberto's and King Umberto's when you can stand out from the crowd with your own unique name?
Your name is location-based and you're expanding.
It's fine to own a deli in Cherry Valley called Cherry Valley Deli. It may even instill a sense of loyalty within the community, but will the name identification resonate in other cities? Probably not. Having a Cherry Valley Deli in Yorktown Heights or Fourth Street Saloon on Cambridge Road makes very little sense.
If your company name does not follow any of the criteria listed above — or if the general business environment and market conditions have changed — you should consider changing your business name. A change in name can either address mistakes made when the business first formed or be a response to macro influences and industry-wide concerns that will affect your business through no fault of your own.
Major Companies That Changed Their Names for the Better
Making a name change can help breathe new life into your business. Companies, both big and small, have taken steps to transform their business and create a new identity. Consider the name changes made by these major companies.
Original Company Name
Computer Tabulating Recording Corporation
International Business Machines (IBM)
Blue Ribbon Sports
Sound of Music
Quantum Computer Services
How to Change Your Business Name
If you are ready to make the move and change the name of your LLC, there are several steps that need to be made. The first and most critical step is to come up with a new name for your business. Once you’ve come up with a new name that helps resolve any earlier issues, it is important to work through the following actions, which will allow you to move ahead under a new name for your LLC.
Make sure that the new name for your business is not already taken. Incfile's free Business Name Search tool will help (more on this below).
Check with your bank and any other creditors and lenders, and see if you can change the name on your existing accounts or if you will need to open up new accounts.
Make sure to update all of your business licenses and permits with the new name.
Also make sure to update all of your business documents and notify the IRS of your business name change.
Check if your business name will also require a new EIN.
Make sure to use the new name on everything: letterhead, correspondence, mailers, promotions, invoices, purchase orders...even your company’s magazine subscriptions!
Notify your customers with an email blast or advertisement. Make sure the public knows and that the name change is marked as a positive change. Have a grand opening celebration once you are ready to resume business under the new name.
Free Business Name Search Tool
Utilizing Incfile’s free Business Name Search tool is a great place to start the process of changing your business name. The process is quick and easy and will allow Incfile to do the research for you by checking with your Secretary of State. Once the search is complete and you’re clear to proceed with a new name, Incfile can file an amendment to your Articles of Organization or Articles of Incorporation and get the ball rolling with creating a new business name.
Since 2004, Incfile has helped over 250,000 entrepreneurs and small business owners form their companies and navigate through the various forms and filings required to start a business. If you are thinking about changing your business's name and want to make sure that a new name is available, take advantage of Incfile’s free name search tool. Take the first step as you course-correct with a new name and navigate toward business success.
Peter Mavrikis is an author and editor with over 25 years of experience in publishing. He has worked as the Editorial Director for Barron’s Educational Series, as well as Kaplan Test Prep, where he ran the test prep, foreign language, and study guide divisions. Peter has also written several books on history, exploration, science, and technology.