10 pitfalls when changing your firm name

Many accounting practices these days are changing their names, as when Habif, Arogeti & Wynne recently rebranded as Aprio. Names are a sensitive topic, especially to partners who have earned their name on the letterhead. But there has been a trend in the past decade of accounting firms changing their names to bring them greater distinction and recognition in the marketplace—not to mention an easier pronunciation. If your firm is considering a name change, the consulting and branding agency Ingenuity Marketing Group, LLC, of St. Paul, Minn., recommends you avoid these top pitfalls.

What's in a name?
What's in a Name?
Many accounting practices these days are changing their names, as when Habif, Arogeti & Wynne recently rebranded as Aprio. Names are a sensitive topic, especially to partners who have earned their name on the letterhead. But there has been a trend in the past decade of accounting firms changing their names to bring them greater distinction and recognition in the marketplace—not to mention easy pronunciation. If your firm is considering a name change, the consulting and branding agency Ingenuity Marketing Group, LLC, of St. Paul, Minn., cites these top pitfalls to avoid.
1. Alphabet Soup
1. Alphabet Soup
In the interests of satisfying every existing (or former) partner, some firms decide to use a combination of initials as the new name. But these names are often more difficult to remember and harder to find in organic searches.
Focus group
2. Missing Client Input
Don’t miss this opportunity to invite your best clients into the conversation. Focus groups and third-party interviews will enhance those relationships by helping them see that you are invested in the future.
Short term vs. long term
3. Short-term vs. Long-term
It’s great for the new name to honor your firm’s tradition and history, but balance that goal against the future focus you'll want to have on younger professionals and clients.
Alabama State House
4. State Law Limitations
Check with your state’s board of accountancy regarding CPA firm name changes. There may be limitations on which names you can legally use to avoid public misperceptions.
Domain name search
5. Domain Searches
Are you going to change your website’s URL address and social user names to match the new name? Make sure a related domain name is actually available.
WTF sign thumbs down
6. Unintended Inferences
In this age of texting, abbreviation is dangerous. Read your proposed names out loud to avoid any mispronunciations or double meanings.
Business cards
7. No Testing
Use your top choices in a mock ad or business card to help the team understand how the names will look with real fonts and colors.
Decision makers
8. Too Many Decision Makers
Even in a strategic naming process with research to back it up, there will be some people in the firm who won’t like the name. Limit the final decisions to a naming committee and the leadership team. It will help you move forward.
Communications strategy
9. No Communications Strategy
Change is hard. Emphasize the positive. Have a PR plan internally for team members and externally for clients and the community. Many people are seeing your new name for the first time. They need clear messaging to avoid assumptions or rumors about the change.
Branded shirts, mugs, caps, etc.
10. Unexpected Costs
Will you need a new building sign? What about your trade show banners? Anything with your name on it may need replacing. Budget for the big stuff early. Small stuff like coffee mugs and t-shirts can be handled later.