What’s in a name? Well likely far more than most businesses realize. Your business name is how people will identify with your goods and services, so you want to have one identity that is all your own. Simple enough really, at least in concept, but making a mistake at the selection stage will prove costly.
Back in the day, not so many years ago actually, attorneys would recommend that businesses conduct a trademark search before selecting a name. Then as the Internet became more a part of our business and personal lives you had to make sure that you could obtain an appropriate domain name to host your website. Now we are at the point where merely selecting a good name that gives you the opportunity for a good domain name is not enough. You really need to make sure that you can control not only the domain name associated with the business name you choose, but also the Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn account names associated with your business name. Depending upon your business you may also need to consider other social media platforms, such as Instagram, for example. The point is you want to have one consistent name across all avenues you will use to reach consumers.
Many businesses, and likely at least some of your competitors remain clueless when it comes to the Internet and social media. Still other businesses are just slowly catching on. That means if you haven’t taken appropriate steps to obtain and protect your business name it still isn’t too late, but the window of opportunity may close faster than you think.
It would seem virtually impossible to operate in the modern world without a website for your business, and soon it will be equally incomprehensible not to be using social media platforms in one way or another. The power of social media is only growing, and smart businesses are trying to position themselves to take advantage of the phenomenon. If you are serious about your business endeavors you too need to get in the social media game, and if you don’t already have a website for goodness sake get moving!
So what is a business, or entrepreneur, to do?
If you are an existing business you likely don’t have many choices if you are already established. What you will want to do is get the best domain name that most closely matches your business name as possible. You will likewise want to acquire your business name, or as close a match as possible, in social media circles like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. If this is proving difficult to accomplish you might want to consider either changing your business name, or starting to operate using a trade name, which you can subsequently trademark. An example to consider would be what pharmaceutical companies do. They have a corporate name that is protected via trademark, with a matching website. Then every drug they sell also has a unique name, with a matching website and appropriate trademark protection. This type of brand building not only helps consumers identify your products, but when weaved together with an appropriate Internet and social media strategy it will allow consumers to find you more quickly when they search for you on the Internet. This can pay real dividends in free search engine rankings.
Ideally when consumers search for you or your products you will appear at the top of the rankings, having a branding and social media strategy that also focuses on product brands as well as your business name can help ensure you appear at the top of free search rankings. It can also help make sure you and your company and product appear multiple times on the first page of search engine rankings.
If you are a new business, a young business or just in the process of forming your business, you should be spending time trying to come up with a unique name that gives you the ability to secure trademark protection for the name, gives you the ability to acquire the DOT COM domain name, and which gives you the ability to secure appropriate matching usernames in various social media outlets. You might also want to try and capture your business name @gmail.com and @yahoo.com for starters. If nothing else this will prevent others from confusing consumers and allow you to start to create that singular brand identity that traces back to you and your products and services.
As you move down this path to pick the appropriate name that gives you access to an appropriate Internet presence you should consider a trademark search, which can allow you to see if anyone else is using that name or a derivation of that name. Trademark searches can run anywhere from $99 to about $600 depending on the depth, whether you want only federal databases checked, whether you want State databases checked, whether telephone books are reviewed, etc. Even a top-flight trademark search that lets you assure you have a unique name is cheaper than starting down a path only to have to restart once you find someone else is using the name or something that is too close for comfort. Think of the costs of new business cards, new letterhead, new signs, modified advertising and the confusion caused. It is always better to search and get it right from the beginning.
If you haven’t already, you should absolutely consider filing a United States trademark application to protect your business name, perhaps your logo if you have one and a slogan if you use it in advertising. The nice thing about trademark protection is that you can start by getting some trademark protection and then add to it over time, expanding your footprint. In this regard trademarks are extremely different than patents. With patents you need to seek them or likely lose all ability to obtain one. Trademarks can be obtained little by little, so there is no excuse to not obtain a trademark given the relatively low cost for the exceptionally powerful rights you will obtain. For more information please see Selecting the Right Trademark for your Business.
The moral of the story is this: an Internet presence and social media footprint are no long options for doing business. Succeeding in business is already difficult, there is no need to make it any more difficult than it already is. Effective use of Internet strategies to promote your business and identify yourself to consumers is an absolutely essential part of any branding and marketing campaign. After all, your competitors are doing it, so why shouldn’t you?