How to change your business name is relatively simple compared to how to change your product name. Some companies produce products under their business name so when they change their business name they may be changing their product name as well.

So, let’s start with simply changing your business name and not necessarily the name of your product. Here are the seven questions to ask yourself that are most widely agreed upon, with a few extra tips from our own experience:

1. Is the Name Available?

Check out the domain name. No sense going any further if you can’t get your hands on the domain name for your new business name. If that’s free, or you can afford to buy it, great! Then check with the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure you’re not infringing on someone else’s legal business name.

2. Does Your State Know?

Ask your Secretary of State’s office for a form and file it with your new name so you will be legally accessible. Also, check with your local sales tax board for their requirements.

3. Does Your Federal and Local Government Know?

Depending on your type of business, there are permits and licenses that must be updated. Also check on your state and federal licenses and permits as well as your city, county, region and any special districts which may be relevant.

4. Does the IRS Know?

Check them out. They will want an official IRS name change. Go online to find out how to change your address with the IRS.

5. Do You Have a New EIN?

You will need a new Employer Identification Number from the IRS.

6. Do all your business documents have your new name?

Check out your contracts, leases and agreements to bring them all current. You may also need new checks from your bank, and new credit cards that have your new business name.

7. How Will Your Customers Know?

From our experience, this is the biggest challenge you face. You certainly don’t want to lose any of your customers because you changed your name. This is a common problem with name changes that can cause major confusion in the marketplace.

The Sales Implications of a Business Name Change

business name change checklistSo, let’s discuss the implications in the marketplace of changing your name. If your legal business name is the same or is in direct association with your brand name on your CPG products, you are in severe jeopardy of losing your customers. Why? Simply because they typically won’t be able to find your products anymore. They have been trained (by you) to look for your old name.

And remember all the system forms you will have to file with the companies with whom you are doing business. It’s crucial that your retailers and wholesalers don’t lose track of you in their systems. It’s crucial that you don’t lose your sales history with those companies since sales trends will be based on past performance.

Evolution, Not Revolution

When it comes to changing your brand name, think long and hard about it. It’s not only a ton of filings, both legal and business, but all those years you have spent building brand recognition in the mind of your customer goes poof!

Beware of marketing people who think “It’s time for a change!” when your real problem may be poor distribution or poor merchandising. Beware of career climbers who want to make their mark by getting the credit for a rebranding or name-changing campaign. They may be into their next job long before what they did has its full impact on damage to sales.

If you have tried everything and you still believe you need to change your name, do it slowly through evolution, not revolution. Go for a period of time with both names on your CPG package, the one they know bold and the new one weaker. Then go for another period with the two names the same size. Then make the new name larger and larger until you can drop your old name. This process may take a year or two, but it’s worth the wait to save your customers. Evolve into the new name. Don’t shock your customers, or worse, make them suspicious about if you were purchased or if your quality or price will change.

Don’t forget to put some big money aside in your budget for advertising the name change. This will be a sustained campaign that can be very expensive!

Now, are you sure you want to change your name?

Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) & Shelf Smarts courses to help consumer product brand builders achieve success. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular business site at www.thebarefootspirit.com.

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact sales@thebarefootspirit.com.