The Name Game - The Mechanics of Rebranding

I recently had the opportunity to share the story about changing my small business name to 144 Stitches here and on my friend Nicole's Blog. Since then, I have gotten a few requests to talk about the mechanics of changing your business name.  So here we go.

So you are all excited, you have researched and brainstormed and picked your new business and gotten your new logo. Woohoo!!!  So much excitement. And now so much work to do to implement the change before you can tell the world about it! And I know you want to start using your awesome new logo right away. But don't ... wait. There is work to be done. Oh the mechanics!

And get it because it is hard enough to go through a re-branding without the mechanics. But there are lots of little steps along the way to prep and help you plan for a smooth transition so that you can focus on the brand itself. Here are some tips below and you can print this checklist.

Let's start with the nitty gritty. The business side.

Make sure to contact your local Secretary of State to get your business license updated with your new name. If you have an EIN, you will want to contact the IRS too. This is all very easy and can be done with a phone call or filling out an online form. You don't want to have any issues with payment processing so make sure to have a conversation with your bank that you are changing names and update your details on PayPal, SquareUp or any other processing service you use. Make sure to get your new email address and forward your old one. Also add the update to your signature for outgoing email.

About a week or two before you go live, do an email blast to your vendors and customers with the exciting news. This is ESSENTIAL! Vendors will need to update their billing and contact records so that you have a bit of a seamless transition but helps them as well. Customers will need to know. You can even tie it in to a bit of a re-launch promotion if you are so inclined. Make it fun! But just make sure to let your peeps know!


WEBSITE & Web presence side.

Now, do not laugh, but I suggest doing all of the web “switching” mechanics late at night. I did mine at like 2:00am one night. This is for a few reasons:

1.    Late at night it is quiet and I can focus and get it done without as much possibility of being distracted and making a mistake.
2.    Late at night it is unlikely that I would “lose” my name in the few seconds of the transfer
3.    Then I get to make a big woo hoo announcement in the morning.


Purchase your new domain immediately once you decide on your new name and redirect it to your current site.  Do not cancel your old domain, as you will need to redirect traffic to your new domain to capture any lingering hyperlinks as well as handle any traffic from people who may go to your old name as habit. I suggest to budget and plan to keep your old domain for at least one year or two if you can. Some keep them forever.

When you are ready for your 2am website switch, it is a few steps depending on who hosts your site. Check their FAQ page for the best way to update the domain then "forward" your old domain to your new one. This will allow all previous backlinks to remain active. If you are changing your name on Etsy, they will keep the backlins for you and will also not allow anyone to take the old name. But I would still suggest making a note in your shop announcements.

Check anywhere on your site that you may need to update your business name such as an FAQ or policies page. Maybe in some item details you refer to the brand itself and that needs to be updated. The logo and art will need an update as well. Do a full look through every page of your site to be sure nothing was missed.

Next Up: Web Presences and social media.

Register your social media handles with your new name as soon as you decide what the name will be. Do not “set up” the accounts. Just open them to get your name and then make them “locked” private accounts until you are ready to go live. Do not follow anyone or post or accept followers. You are JUST grabbing your name.

Then when you are ready, the day before you go live, have a late night switch sesh.

Ok the mechanics of the social media switch are a bit intricate, again why I did this at 2 am. Here is a step by step I did for Instagram and you can apply this to other channels as well.

1.    Log in to the account for the NEW NAME and change the “name” to NEWNAME1

2.    Log out of that account.

3.    Log in to the OLD name account (current account) and change the “name” to your NEW business name

4.    Log out of that account.

5.    Log back into the place holder account that you called NEWNAME1 and change the “name” to your OLD business name

6.    Add a note in the profile directing followers who go here to your NEW page

And last but not least: When do you do all these things?

As with most things in life, timing is key. I will use my own business as an example here. I sell mostly cozy gear. Wintry wool items and delights. So while I decided in December to change my name, it was the worst time to do so. First of all because I was at the height of my busy season. But second of all, and perhaps more important, because people were shopping for my items. Why make it hard or confusing for them to find me?

No. In this case, I put a pin in the project. Once busy season ended I started the behind the scenes process as mentioned about. Paperwork and filings and such. Filed trademark on the new logo. All the little details. Then, over the summer I implemented the change. Don't forget sites like Google and Bing and other search engine take time to cache your data. So for me, summer was a good lead time to the next busy season.

I made the change and then when I announced my fall collection it was a bit of a new re-launch. Very exciting and added a buzz to my next season. It was an added element that in fact made for a nice boost.

So think about your customers. Think about your market. And decide how much time you need to get ready. Take the above steps immediately (securing your domain, starting the paperwork, securing new social media handles) but perhaps wait for the right time for implementing them.

While rebranding can be an overwhelming and daunting event, the mechanics of it all do not have to overwhelm you. I hope these tips and checklist help the you through the process.