- Have your legal counsel(s) immediately review all registration and trademark information, and file a name reservation with the Secretary of State where you are incorporated. (See Resources for list of all these offices).
- Have legal counsel prepare and execute a change of name registration with the state. If nothing else changes in your company charter or ownership, this is only an administrative item with the state.
- As soon as legal gives you the OK to use the new name, you may also want to file a DBA (Fictitious Business Name) at your local county for your old name, with new name as the owner. That way you can do banking and other financial transactions for as long as necessary in both names.
- Immediately review graphics treatments for your corporate identity. Establish both your logo and corporate style guide. Make sure all logos included a little “TM”. Provide this information on a web link to all employees and product engineers too so that the new message is consistent across all product designs and packaging, etc. Provide samples of your new logo in usage to your trademark legal counsel so they can complete your filing for a registered trademark.
- Once your new business name is setup, file immediately for a registered trademark with the US Patent and Trademark office (See Resources section ). Final approval will take over a year and only then can you use the ® symbol. Nowadays you can do this online yourself, though a lawyer is recommended to ensure you get good strong, broad coverage. If it will be a while before you use the name, have your trademark counsel file an ITU (Intent to Use).
- While your final tradename will be XYZ Inc. or XYZ Corp., or XYZ Technologies (or similar) your trademark will be XYZ and steps should be taken from the outset to protect it. Firstly, make sure that all printed and electronic materials somehow squeeze in that little TM, as follows: XYZ™ And at the bottom of every first brochure, press release or web page place a statement, XYZ is a trademark of XYZ Inc.
- Complete registration of your new domain name through a good top-level domain registrar (such as GoDaddy.com) and separately find a web hosting provider(*). Point all other similar and related domain names to your primary domain name. Establish a plan to convert your existing website, leaving behind a long time link that says “Our new name is…. Please find us at ……”. While a domain name registration alone does not give you a lot of legal rights, it does establish date/time of usage and potentially takes the name out of circulation.
- Register your domain with all search engines and revisit all search engine optimization techniques as soon as the new site(s) is live. [See www.FodenPress.com to download a copy of Brighter SEO, with all the latest techniques. ]
- Have your marketing department create a definitive re-launch plan. At a minimum send a postcard to everyone in your corporate databases. If you are not in stealth mode, this is a great chance to generate some press and publicity, and to start the web links to your new site.
- Consider an event or ceremony – at a minimum for internal employees a sign unveiling will do wonders for acceptance from those who were not involved in the process. New business cards, coffee cups, T-shirts or whatever will also go a long way to creating a comfortable feeling with the new name.
- Come up with a standard email signature block for all employees to use. Email creates hundreds of brand touch points a day…so make sure they use the new name and slogan right. Employees are valuable brand missionaries for the company, so they need to carry your name, logo and slogan at all times on their cards.
- For 90 days from public announcement day, train all phone operators to correctly answer the phone in a manner like “Thanks for calling ABC, formerly XYZ”. Yes it may be long winded, but it is only for a period, then you simply use the new name. Experience has shown that most of your common contacts will have heard of you in this time frame, and will know the correct pronunciation of your new name. Support personnel in particular are major employee brand points.
- Do good and don’t look back. Whatever new name you pick, you will see and hear things about it for a long time. This is only natural. You have a great new name. But a name is only the shorthand for your brand and can only do so much. A brand is a promise of an experience. Go out and earn it.
(*) It is strongly recommended that you do not register your domain name through your web hosting company – so they can never hold your website hostage and you can move to another hosting service (or even bring it in-house) at any time.
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