Turn Your Business Name Into A Brand


Many small businesses are named after their principals or owners. ‘Bob’s Real Estate’ is one example of millions – it’s a tradition that goes back centuries. But in this era of mass marketing, franchises and chains of retail outlets, what chance does Bob’s Real Estate have of getting noticed against its better known rivals? Not a very good one, and there’s a reason for this.

Bob’s larger competitors, firms like Century 21 and L.J. Hooker have leveraged their position over the years through advertising and promotions and turned their names into brands with connotations of strength and national, or even global, reach.

But even if the owners of Bob’s Real Estate don’t aspire to being known worldwide, it’s possible for the firm’s name to become a brand in its own trading area.

Let’s say that Bob’s Real Estate is located in Midville and handles mostly sales of houses. Their goal is to grow their business by expanding the geographic area they service and by acquiring more clients in the rental property market. To do this they feel they need to become better known. They’ve established themselves in the local suburbs but want to widen their client base to the entire metropolitan region.

The first choice they have to make is whether to stay Bob’s Real Estate or adopt an entirely new name. Since they’ve been in business for several years they decide to stay with their name but add something to it that will help them stand out from other real estate agents in their area. They finally agree on renaming themselves Bob’s Citywide Real Estate. This has the dual benefits of retaining the familiarity of the firm’s established name along with announcing the scope of their expanded territory.

If, in time, the firm becomes successful and establishes branch offices throughout the metropolitan area, it may be decided to simplify the name to Citywide Real Estate. If you’re going to make any kind of a shift to a name that includes reference to locality or expertise though, be sure it’s not going to be too restrictive if the business focus changes.

The next question is; how should the business name be represented? Should it be words only, words with a logo, or a logo only? This is a good time to call in a professional graphic designer to help in making the choice of typography and colour, if any. Smaller professional services firms are generally best to stay with a well designed words-only representation of their name, but even then some professional advice is useful.

The name should be used consistently wherever it appears. Establish guidelines for all possible uses that describe, in detail, just how it is to be used. For example, when the name is used on a sign it might be specified that it appear in white on a pale green background, in two lines, with letters no more than 30% of the height of the sign. To be effective as a brand the name’s usage must be as consistent as it is well presented.

Once the firm has an attractive representation of its name it’s time to put it on everything in the business; every item of stationery, the sign at the front of the building, any advertising or promotional work, Christmas cards and the website. Extend this to include the way your telephone is answered: “Good morning, Bob’s Citywide Real Estate; this is ...” ,is how the new greeting should go.

Launch the new brand in the firm’s trading area. Tell all the firm’s existing customers about the new name and the reasons behind it. Send a press release to local newspapers across the region telling of your intention to service the area and showing your logo; it may not make the front page but it might wind up in print. A photograph of the owners standing alongside the new sign at the front of the building would help its chances.

This is also a good opportunity to prospect for new business. Bob could purchase or create a mailing list of all the major rental property owners in the metropolitan area that aren’t clients of his and send them a letter telling them about the new name and the reasons behind it so as to position himself as a specialist in this market. If he’s smart, he’ll follow up with a phone call a week or two later.

By this time Bob’s Real Estate is well on its way to becoming recognised as Bob’s Citywide Real Estate. Even if a prospective client has never heard of the former name, this new one tells them a lot more about the firm and its activities. The name of the firm has transitioned from being a business name to being a brand.

Until next week,
Mike Reddy