Last week I talked about the importance of focusing your business in one particular area, rather than trying to be all things to all people. So, if you shoot weddings, your website and all your promotional materials should be about weddings. If you’re a commercial director, focus on that (and ideally, on a particular style of work). But what happens if you want to make a change? For instance, many filmmakers (including yours truly) started in weddings then make a change to commercial work. Here’s a brief overview of how I made the switch. I'm not claiming these to be hard and fast rules. This is just how I did it. If you're considering a change, I hope you'll find it useful.
Changing Company Name
Ultimately, the name of your business will not affect the kind of product and/or service you provide. You could very well be called ACME Photo and Video and still be considered a top-notch provider of unique services. That being said, I still believe a name is important. It plays a huge role in making that first impression. It helps prospects remember you and brag about you. It helps them find you on the Internet. And it plays a role in setting you apart. For a significant part of the nearly ten years I've been in business, the name of my company was Cinematic Studios. But three years ago I realized it was time for another change: from Cinematic Studios to Dare Dreamer Media.
There were three reasons I made the switch:
- Too Many “Cinematics”. More and more companies were putting “cinematic” in their name. In fact, at the height of my use of that name, I was doing a lot of work for the pro photography world. So was another company by the name of Cinematic Bride. I'd frequently get comments from people saying they loved a video I had done, but it was actually a Cinematic Bride video. And vice versa. The market was getting flooded with cinematic this and cinematic that. It was hard to stand out.
- A New Direction. I was also taking my company into a new direction. I no longer wanted to have the term “studios” associated with my company. Studio suggested a specific media (either video and/or photography). I knew that even though filmmaking would be the primary medium in which I worked, what I was selling, or rather, what I AM selling my clients, are “ideas.” First and foremost, we are a company of ideas. I found that if you're known as just a video production company, you can often be thought of as just a “camera jockey.” That's not what we're about. I wanted a name that would express that.
- A Fresh Start. Lastly, I wanted a fresh start. It was right after we had made the cross-country trip from Silicon Valley to Atlanta. There were a lot of things I was looking to leave behind. There was also some pain, hurt and frustration tied up in the old name I wanted to put behind me. There's nothing like a new name to give a person a sense of a new lease on life.
Making the Change
Once you're ready to actually make the change, here are some things to do and/or keep in mind. Again, this is just based on my experience:
- Get the .com. Make sure you can get the .com URL of the name you want. While you're at it, get the .net and .org versions too. If you can't get the .com but you CAN get the .net, that's probably okay, so long as the .com is not used and/or owned by someone in a similar business.
- Notify everyone. Send a mass email to everyone (clients, friends, family, etc.) about the name change. Blog about it. Celebrate the change and provide a clear reason or explanation for it.
- Keep old site for a year. Assuming the name change comes with a new site as well, keep the old site up for six months to a year. Make it one page with an explanation of the change and a link to your new site. After a year, that's a good time to have the old site automatically forward to the new site.
- Train your clients. Once you start using the name, train your clients to use it too. If they send emails to your old email address, remind them to update their contact info with your new name and email address. Use your new name in your email signatures.
- Update everywhere. update all the relevant social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. To aid in communicating the change, if there’s room, write the former name as a “formerly.” For instance, for almost two years, my LinkedIn entry for Dare Dreamer Media said “Dare Dreamer Media (formerly Cinematic Studios).” I did the same thing in my email signature. It was only about a month ago that I removed the “formerly Cinematic Studios.” Don’t forget any old advertising sites or directories.
Redesigning Your Website
Your name change is a perfect opportunity to get rid of that old, tired website you’ve been meaning to update for years. There are no more excuses. When we changed our website to the current Dare Dreamer Media site, these were the key decisions we made:
- Hire a pro. In the past I had always used the DIY web program Dreamweaver to create and update our Cinematic Studios site. This time around I hired a pro web designer. I used Spilled Milk Designs to create our site. They were fast and have a great design sense and understanding about branding.
- Simple sells. I’m a huge fan of simplicity. It’s the aesthetic I go for in my films, my blog, and my site. I wanted something that would be easy to navigate and really highlight the work. Our home page has a huge featured video and short description. We have six main navigation buttons along the top: home, about, portfolio, case studios, buzz and contact.
- Be consistent. Your new site should be consistent with the rest of your branding. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to videographer conferences and have gotten business cards that look nothing like their websites. I loved how our web designer worked in the “movie slate slashes” from our logo into the web design. He also created a very cool page-loading graphic based on our logo where the upside A spins.
- Contact info. Make it easy for people to contact you. I’m always surprised when I come to a site that has no phone number, or only a contact form instead of an email address (use both). We designed our site to have our phone number and email accessible on every page. We also have all of our social media links on our contact page (e.g. blog, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn).
As I mentioned above, once the site is up and running, keep the old site 6 months to a year (I actually kept my old site up for about 18 months). I deleted all the old Cinematic Studios pages and just left up the home page. It said “Cinematic Studios is now Dare Dreamer Media” with a link to the new site. The purpose of this (as opposed to just having it forward automatically) is not cause confusion. You want old clients and referrals from old clients to know for sure they found the right company. If your old site redirects immediately, they may think you’re old business is closed (and this new business just bought your domain). Theoretically you could have the old site redirect immediately and put a message on your new site saying “Formerly [OLD NAME]”. I chose not to do that because 1) I didn’t want to take up more space, and 2) I didn’t want new clients thinking Dare Dreamer was a new company, or an old company with new management. As far as new clients were concerned, I’ve always been Dare Dreamer Media.
Lost Brand Equity
I know what you're thinking. “Ron, what about all the brand equity I've built up in my old name and logo?” I can understand that concern, but to be frank, your name and logo equity are not that valuable. That is not the same thing as saying your brand is not important. It is. It will have a significant impact on your prospective clients and will help you stand apart from the pack. But, the actual value in your specific name or logo is not so high that changing it will hurt sales. Even among Fortune 500 companies, name and logo changes happen without companies going under or losing customers.
Change is Good
Change is a good thing. It keeps life fresh and interesting. You don’t have to change, but if you do, and if you do it right, I’m confident you’ll find it rewarding and worth the trouble and investment.
Note: this is a shorter version of an article I wrote last year for EventDV magazine. You can read the full article here if you want more insight and details, including a discussion about logos.
(cover photo credit: snap from Ron Dawson)