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How I Changed My Branding with One Word

image of sign for Bonnie Nicholls, San Diego Freelance Writer

Apparently one word can make a big difference in your branding. I learned that the hard way.

Last year, when I relaunched my business under a new name, Hear Ye! Communications, I heard from a business coach I’d recently hired that it was a mistake. “Communications is too vague,” she said. “You’re a writer. Writing should be part of your business name.”

I disagreed, because, well, it was a hassle. I had a new domain name, a new website, a DBA, a city business license, an employer identification number (EIN) with the IRS, business cards, and my bank account, all under my new name. That takes a lot of time to set up, and heck if I was going to go through that again. Plus, I am more than a writer. At times I’m an editor, if that’s what my clients want. And I’ve even worked as a consultant on web projects. That’s not just writing.

So I soldiered on with that name, setting myself up as a vendor through the City of San Diego and the federal government, too.

But here’s the thing. That word, “communications,” was vague. As I attended networking events, with Hear Ye! Communications on my name tag, it wasn’t obvious to people who I met what I did. Was it marketing? Was it PR? Was it content strategy? Not until I told them that I was a writer did it make sense.

Then I attended an event that made it oh so clear that my business coach knew what she was talking about. The conference was for women entrepreneurs, and it was organized by SCORE, a nonprofit supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration that offers free advice to small-business owners.  I decided to spring for a table to showcase my services. I printed out fliers and writing samples. I put my logo in a Plexiglas stand. I was READY!

When I got to the event, I discovered that all the other business owners who had purchased tables had brought lots of swag to give away – pens, calendars, key chains. Not only that, but their actual businesses had tangible items, from books they had written to tea samples.

OK, I suppose could have bought pens, too. But what really did me in, in my opinion, was my name. It’s somewhat likely that people in my industry can figure out what I do, but those ladies at the SCORE event who run small businesses — such as dry cleaning home delivery services, smoothie franchises, photography studios – had no idea. When they came to my table, they asked me, “What do you do?”

Is that such a bad question, you might ask? Hey, it allows you to deliver your elevator speech. But really, when it comes to branding your service, especially if you’re a new business, you want customers to see your name and understand what service you offer, so if they have a need, they might inquire, rather than passing by your table and thinking, “What does she do? Hmm, that would take an effort to find out. I think I’ll pass.”

If I had made one change to my name, so that it was Hear Ye! Writing, those ladies might have asked me, “What kind of writing do you do?” Or more people might have approached me if they were looking for a writer, or knew someone who was looking.

So with that experience behind me, I started the painful process of changing my DBA to Hear Ye! Writing, which means I had to change my domain name, my website, my print collateral, my bank account, my business license, blah blah blah. The worst is over. I’m just cleaning up a few odds and ends.

Now, it’s clear from my business name that I am a writer. And I’m happy to answer the next question, “What kind of writing do you do?”

Bonnie Nicholls on Linkedin
Bonnie Nicholls
Bonnie Nicholls is a freelance writer specializing in thought leadership content: case studies, articles, white papers/ebooks and blog posts. She supports industries such as Agile/Scrum, defense and leadership training.