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What’s In A Name?

William Shakespeare

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”– even if you called it a daisy, “that swirly pink thing on the plant over there,” ros, rosa, roos or, in Indonesian, “bunga mawar.” However, if you were searching online for a dozen roses, it would really help if you knew you to call roses by name. Likewise, if you wanted to sell roses, it would really help if you advertised them by name.

Since you’re not promoting rose bouquets, but a service-oriented business, it helps to have a name. Since many of our customers are single-practitioner offices, many use their given name as their business name, but this may still lead to complications. For many of us, we get a name, we stick to it, and maybe we add some titles to it afterwards. But sometimes there are complexities and subtleties to consider.

To make sure that you’re presenting a consistent image, both to clients and to search engines, you must be consistent about your personal brand; your name!

My uncle Bob’s full name is Robert. And yes, most of us still know Bob is short for Robert, but if you’re looking for “Bob Collins” under “R” for “Robert,” you might have some issues. Likewise, it may take some people a second to realize who Richard Cheney is, even if they remember Jack Kennedy and can guess who I mean when I refer to Bill Shakespeare. But, when I had a roommate I called “Jim,” I’d forgotten his birth certificate said James when his aunt called looking for Jimmy. Your best practice is to be consistent. You can be William, Will, Willy, Bill, or call yourself Billiam, but choose one for everything you have your name on. This is especially important to consider with common names. If your business card lists you as “James Jameson,” your website as “Jim Jameson,” and you answer the phone with “This is Jimbo,” you run some risk of confusion, especially when someone is looking things up alphabetically.


For the most part, titles in business promotion do not refer to Mr./Miss./Mrs./Ms., but to “Dr.” or other professional titles. Usually you don’t need to add Mr./Miss./Mrs./Ms. unless your name is considered gender neutral to most people in your area and you wish to avoid confusion. If you have multiple titles, you may or may not wish to list them all. Whatever you chose to list yourself as, it’s best to be consistent for all business promotion.

Name changes

If you anticipate changing your name, for whatever reason, consider starting to promote your new name ahead of time. For instance, if you’re just signing up for online promotion, and know your wedding and connected name change is next month, it will be better in the long run to either hold off for the month or simply start using your new name for this context. Once people see your name a certain way, they tend to repeat it that way. It’s much easier to be consistent with the one term you’d prefer.

In most cases, you’ve been using your old name for a while, and people know you by it. It’s everywhere: in print, online, etc. One solution is to simply include all relevant names in initial references. For instance, if Jane Doe marries John Smith, and takes his last name, she might have text on her website such as:

Jane Doe Smith does such and such. Mrs. Smith also does this and that.


Jane Smith (formerly Jane Doe) does such and such.

The specifics of how you do this depend on the name change, of course, and can be done a number of ways. The general idea is to allow anyone looking for Jane Smith to easily see that Jane Doe who they found is indeed the Jane Smith they’re looking for.

Your name vs. Business Name

Most of our customers have small, often one-person, businesses. When a man named “Dr. John Johnson” has “Dr. John Johnson” (or “Dr. John Johnson, LLC”) as the business name, drjohnjohnson.com, this is easy enough to work with. If however, Dr. John is the owner and sole employee of “Cityville Services, Inc,” he needs to consider which name is used to promote his practice. Either one is usually fine in terms of business promotion, but the goal is to make it easy for his clients to connect the business he runs with the business he promotes.

Regarding business names, one of the biggest mistakes made by small businesses is the false assumption that people (or search engines, directory listings, or whatever) can and will connect different names. If John above refers to his business as “Cityville Services, Inc.” on his website, but takes out ads for Cityville Service Co., he’s functionally advertising a different business. This is especially worth noting if you have “Inc.,” “Corp.,” or “LLC” etc in your name. In terms of promotion, whatever you decided your business name is, you will do yourself a disservice if you are not consistent with exact repetition of the business name.

In summary, my advice to you is to stop and think a bit about what your “brand name” is. Of all the ways you can refer to yourself, which works best when you think of yourself as a company? Pick that one. If you’ve already picked a name, stick with it, check on it, make sure it’s what you are referred to online and in business situations. It’s one of many situations where just a few extra minutes can mean big long-term payoff.

Rich M – CoachingWebsites Listings
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