Is the name of your business a good fit today?

Will it still be a good fit tomorrow?

These are important questions, because you don’t want to get stuck in a situation like Overstock.com, which finds itself having to run ads explaining to people that they aren’t just a purveyor of overstocked items.

Although the commercials are clever and cute, it seems to me that Overstock might prefer to spend their ad budget promoting other aspects of their business.

Here’s what you need to consider:

  • If you’re starting a business, choose a name with enough “headroom” that you can expand, either geographically or in the products/services you offer.
  • If you envision a future expansion that would be at odds with your current name, start planning and perhaps implementing your name change now to make your later expansion seamless…at least name-wise.

Let me give you familiar examples of those points. You have probably noticed that Dunkin‘ Donuts now refers to itself simply as Dunkin‘ more often than not. Dunkin‘ has an expanded menu and also sells its coffee in supermarkets around the country; it needed an identity that wasn’t completely wedded to donuts.

If you have ever been in St. Louis, you’ve probably noticed the St. Louis Bread Company bakery restaurants and how they look just like the Panera in your hometown. That’s because the St. Louis Bread Company expanded and felt the name “Panera” would better support its strategy.

It’s interesting to note that a business whose model is somewhat similar to Panera – Starbucks – didn’t start with a name tied to its first location, which is Seattle. Therefore, it wasn’t forced to manage a name change when it started to expand beyond its original territory.

This comes to mind because I’ve been working with a business in the pet services industry that wants to expand its offerings. Its original name was built around the first service it offered to pet owners. It’s easy to get sucked into that strategy when you’re concerned about search engine optimization.

For example, a new dog groomer in Peoria might be tempted to name their business Peoria’s Best Dog Groomer, hoping that it would make them appear at the top of Google when people searched for “best dog groomer in Peoria.” That might have been true several Internet generations ago, but it’s not true today.

This creates a tension for the business owner who is struggling with creating a name or planning to change an existing name: How can I tell people about the business yet keep the name simple and memorable enough to support expansion? A good tagline can help here, especially when you’re first working to establish a local presence. And, the great thing about taglines is that you can change them occasionally without throwing all your branding out the window, because your name is still your name.

Shakespeare said that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But is the City of York Rose as sweet smelling or marketable outside of York?

SOURCESusan Solovic
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Susan Solovic
Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning serial entrepreneur, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Amazon.com and USA Today bestselling author, and attorney. She was the CEO and co-founder of SBTV.com—small business television—a company she grew from its infancy to a million dollar plus entity. She appears regularly as a featured expert on Fox Business, Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC and can be seen currently as a small business expert on the AT&T Networking Exchange website. Susan is a member of the Board of Trustees of Columbia College and the Advisory Boards for the John Cook School of Entrepreneurship at Saint Louis University as well as the Fishman School of Entrepreneurship at Columbia College. 

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