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How to choose a new name for your accountancy firm

Mar 8, 2019

How to choose a new name for your accountancy firmYou’ve admitted it.

The current name for your accounting firm is Someone Someone & Partners, or Your Surname & Co. Or it’s some strange combination of letters from former partners’ names.

It once meant something, but it doesn’t really anymore.

It sounds like a solicitors’ firm. Or some sort of professional services firm – not the fresh, positive, tech-focused, creative business you’re forming your accountancy firm into.

You’re a business owner first and an accountant second.

Your clients love you, you’re moving the legacy clients out slowly but surely, and things are changing.

And you’ve realised your old name doesn’t reflect the new you.

You’ve also noticed a real trend amongst accounting firms to use one-word names. Keeping it simple. Making it more like a business than an old-school, suit-wearing, charging-by-the-hour, Excel-using accountant that once used to be.

Maverick.

MAP.

Black Sheep.

There are firms who are using their name to express their niche:

The Fitness CPA

The Designer CPA

But even if you’re ready to consider a new name, the decision seems fraught with confusion. How do you get to a name that fits you and your clients? What’s involved in the brand change – stationery, signage, wall art, emails, website? And the biggest question of all…is it worth it??

You’re absolutely right to be considering the change. One of the marks of the entrepreneurial accountant is being open to change, willing to accept that what used to work may not anymore – and exploring the options for what will work better going forward.

Here’s the order we recommend to make sure you’re considering all the aspects of your decision. This way, if you do make the change, you’re going all in, and reaping the benefits of your beautiful new name which now reflects who your firm truly is.

Explore: Is it time for a name change?

If your name is old, outdated, not representative of the firm today (or all three), you’re going to need to make some kind of brand change.

That may be a change of name…but it might not.

Remember, there is a difference between actually changing the legal name of your firm, and simplifying your branding.

You could keep the name, but use one word or just the letters. An example of this is The Accountancy Office, who refreshed their logo to be simply “AO”. We discussed where the brand was going and this was seen as a middle-ground opportunity that recognises further changes may be coming.

A brand is something that will continue to change and develop. Although you may make some changes now, you’ll also look at further adaptations as your accounting business continues to change.

This gives you relief as you explore brand change options. Accepting that change is needed does not mean you’re necessarily changing everything straight away. You’ll do it at your own pace, at the speed fitting to your business personality and that of your clients.

To book a brand explorer workshop so you can get expert advice on this decision, start by watching this video from Karen and Col.

Explore: What are your options for a new firm name?

Not everyone needs to leap straight into a name change, a new logo, a completely redesigned website.

Part of the brand explorer process includes researching and discussing potential firm names.

You may or may not come to the final name-change decision instantly, but your goal is to have made a decision of some kind. WILL we change our name? WHO is our target market and how do we appeal to them? WHAT kinds of name options are available?

Brainstorming comes first. You’re not throwing out the word “creative” because that’s your new accounting firm name: you’re adding it to the list because it’s one of many words that reflect who you are, and who your target audience is.

The point of brainstorming is to look for patterns. What words keep coming up? Are there concepts you want to explore further? Which ones go together and why?

Some of the methods we use to explore name options include:

  • Words that reflect your firm & its culture
  • Words that reflect your target audience and what they care about
  • Names you’ve thought of already
  • Suggestions from the team
  • Latin, Greek, Spanish, or some other language words that reflect those words

A great example of using another language to help you find a word (or create your own) is the name Bench. On their About Us page it explains “In renaissance Italy, where modern banking practices emerged, banking would be conducted in open air markets from the banca. Banca is Italian for “Bench”, and the root word for bank. So there you have it: Bench.”

Another example is the firm Delante Accountants in Australia. One of the themes we discovered in our branding workshop was that of driving, moving forward, upward acceleration. Karen and David first found the Spanish word “Volante” (literally ‘flying’ or ‘steering wheel’), and were excited to use it…but then discovered that the official company name couldn’t be used because JK Rowling (of all people!) owned a company with that name already. So we explored further and found the Spanish word “delante” which translates to “ahead, in front”. The brand then flowed out from that meaning, with an upward arrow, mountain, high summit concept and visuals.

As you’re exploring words that define your firm, we encourage you to move beyond words like modern, friendly, proactive, tech focused, supportive, helpful, professional.

You can start there, but we’ll push you to explore what those words actually mean. Every accountant says they’re professional. What do YOU mean by it? Being friendly is something we’d hope you are already…but how does that come about in your firm? What does this result in for your clients?

To run a team session yourself on words that reflect your firm, take this exercise.

Depending on how challenging this decision becomes, you may need a deeper brand strategy session – what we call “Brand Mapping” – which goes into a deeper level of strategy, research, and decision. We also start to look at all the elements of your marketing which will need to be addressed once you do change the firm name.

Map it out: Are you ready for a name change?

If by this point you’ve explored the word options and are beginning to get excited about some of them – or at least recognising the potential coming your way – the next stage is to move to “brand mapping”.

These brand sessions are more strategic, deeper level, more focused on research.

At this point, you want to do the strategy required to prepare the way for your upcoming brand decision.

What will your new name be? How will the new name be used? Where will the brand be used, and the logo? What will your style and tone of voice be? What elements are required in order to deliver on your new brand? What domain name will you use, and social media channels?

At PF, we create a ‘brand mapping’ document which maps out all the changes required, timings, potential domain names and URLs, and suggestions for the way ahead. That way once you’ve made your final decision you are ready to take design action!

Some of the items you’ll need to map out are:

  • A list of existing marketing materials (business cards, signage, wall art)
  • The order in which these need to be changed (you don’t necessarily have to do it all at one fell swoop – it can be done in stages)
  • New marketing materials to create (swag, clothing, slide deck, social cover images)
  • Domain name options (come up with the name first – don’t worry about what the URL will be and if it’s available – you can always hack your way into a website address that will work)
  • Social media handles (same as above)
  • Website changes (visuals, imagery, team photos and bio, wording, messaging, video, content, resources)
  • Style and tone of voice
  • Description and sharing of values
  • Imagery and design standards
  • Trademarking & legal issues (are you allowed to use this name? Any conflicts or potential conflicts? For this you’ll need a trademark/IP lawyer – it’s well worth the initial investment. Don’t move to the next stage without it)

The more prep you do, the easier the next phase is.

Design: Creating the visuals that represent your new name

This is what most people think of as a “branding project”. The design work. The new logo.

The fun part!

As with every other aspect of branding, this can still include a lot of tough decisions.

You’re going to feel like this is the biggest, most momentous decision you’ve ever made.

You’re going to look at a potential logo design and be swayed with uncertainty because you’re not sure you’re “feeling it”.

At this point, there are a few core branding principles we’ve learned in working with accountancy firms on brand, and they are:

  • Your brand is NOT for you. It’s for your clients. The most dangerous decision you can make as an accountant, when it comes to your brand, is to pick something based on what you like. Colours, fonts, style that appeal to you personally. It’s all very well liking something… but you’re not targeting accountants like yourself. You’re targeting people who want to work with an amazing accountant (you) and therefore your visual brand is to represent that to them.
  • Keep it simple. Your logo will reflect the simplest, most core element that will work for your brand. All the other cool extras can be integrated in later. For example, if you had a company name that had to do with sharks, what you don’t want is a logo with a full shark and teeth and water and waves… you want an understated concept that can be used as the core. You can still use images of sharks (or whatever relates to your brand) in your marketing materials – website, social, custom graphics. But the core brand concept needs to be as simple as possible.
  • “More options” does not mean “better options”. It’s tempting to think the best way to choose your new logo is to have lots of options to choose from. We go the other way at PF and believe the best branding process delivers only one concept. It sounds crazy, I know. But the “3 versions” and “5 versions” (and even 47 versions – yep, we’ve tried that!) don’t work. When you get three options (or more), that means you don’t have clarity yet as to what brand message you need to get across. The best designers work on a brand concept until there’s one amazing, simple, crystal clear brand which is crafted for your clients and which will deliver what you say you want. The lowest-quality designers, the freelancers, the 99designs contests – those are the ones who will give you three or five or twelve options for YOU to choose from. When you approach branding strategically, you’re seeking to discover the concept you requested, which your clients want and need.
  • You may not love it at first, and that’s okay. Brand is far more than “ooh that makes me feel good right now” when looking at one logo option. It has to do with feelings, marketing materials, visuals, messaging, tone of voice, standpoint, values…. it goes far deeper than a logo. You want to (and will) be completely invested in your brand – including your logo. But as with many things and people you’ve come to love, it’s not always at first sight.

Changing your firm name can be the best decision you ever made. When you go into a name change with full attention to the big picture, a strategic approach to the entirety of your branding, and a clear map of the way ahead, the impact is extremely powerful on potential clients.

They’ll see not only a nice looking logo, but imagery and messaging and people and marketing materials that work seamlessly together.

That shows authority. That shows expertise. That gives them confidence you are the accountant they want to talk to. And it does so very quickly, thereby shortening the buyer cycle.

So they buy faster.

Doesn’t that sound about right?