Slideshow 10 hazards of changing your firm name

  • March 02 2017, 1:10pm EST
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When advisory firms change their names, it can be a headache — especially for partners who believe they have earned their appellation on the letterhead. But sometimes it’s worth the hassle to bring greater distinction and recognition in the marketplace, not to mention easier pronunciation. If your firm is considering a name change, the consulting and branding agency Ingenuity Marketing Group of St. Paul, Minnesota, recommends you avoid these top pitfalls.

1. Alphabet Soup

In the interests of satisfying every existing (or former) partner, some firms decide to use a combination of initials as the new name. But these acronyms are often more difficult to remember and harder to find in organic searches.

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2. Missing Client Input

Don’t miss this opportunity to invite your best clients into the conversation. Focus groups and third-party interviews will enhance those relationships by helping them see that you are invested in the future.

3. Short-term vs. Long-term

It’s great for the new name to honor your firm’s tradition and history, but balance that goal against the focus you'll want to bring on younger professionals and clients. And when adding the appellation of a new hire, make sure “you’re going to have confidence that this person is going to be able to run the business,” said David DeVoe, managing partner at DeVoe & Co.

4. State Law Limitations

Check with your state regarding regulations around firm name changes. There may be limitations on which names you can legally use to avoid public misperceptions.

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5. Domain Searches

Are you going to change your website’s URL address and social user names to match the new name? Make sure a related domain name is actually available.

6. Unintended Inferences

In this age of texting, abbreviation is dangerous. Read your proposed names out loud to a variety of people — young, old and a multicultural group — to help avoid any mispronunciations or double meanings.

7. No Testing

Use your top choices in a mock ad or business card to help the team understand how the names will look with real fonts and colors.

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8. Too Many Decision Makers

Even in a strategic naming process with research to back it up, there will be some people in the firm who won’t like the name. Limit the final decisions to a naming committee and the leadership team. It will help you move forward.

9. No Communications Strategy

Change is hard. Emphasize the positive. Have a PR plan internally for team members and externally for clients and the community. Many people are seeing your new name for the first time. They need clear messaging to avoid assumptions or rumors about the change.

10. Unexpected Costs

Will you need a new building sign? What about your trade show banners? Anything with your name on it may need replacing. Budget for the big stuff early. Small stuff like coffee mugs and t-shirts can be handled later.