How and why did you pick your company name? For sentimental reasons? Because you like the way it sounds? Or are you AAA Video Productions because you want to be listed first in the phone book?
What kind of mental image does your company name suggest? Does it match the image you want to convey to clients? Make sure your clients can spell your company name without pulling out a dictionary (because no one will take the time to do that). A clever name won't mean anything if the bride can't find it in a phone book or locate it in her Web browser. A successful company name is one that your client can recall and spell without having your business card handy.
Keep your name short and sweet! The more letters, the more chances a client has to get it wrong. Your company name has to fit on your marketing materials, too.
When I started my business in 1988, my company name was Movies by Malandruccolo. Once the Web came along, I realized no one would be able to spell my last name, and I couldn't possibly buy domain names for all the phonetic spellings. Besides, Movies by Malandruccolo didn't exactly conjure up images of weddings either—which is the market I wanted to go after. I considered An Elegant Video by Kris, which would have moved me up high in the alphabetical list, but people don't always remember the "A" or "The" in a business name.
If you're lucky enough to have a simple first and last name, use it to your advantage. Many photographers name their company after themselves but surprisingly, few videographers do. The few that come to mind quickly are Jenny Lehman Film & Video, The Graham Fenton Experience, and Robert Allen Videojournalist. Even Robert Allen dropped his last name, Ehrlich.
Are you a large company with many shooters, or do you want to project that image? Then you probably want to include "Studios" or "Productions" in your company name, as these words imply a larger company.
Can there be different spellings for your name? I have the domain names ElegantVideosByKris.com and ElegantVideosByChris.com because I don't want to take the time to say, "Kris with a K." Consider doing the same if there are multiple ways to spell your company name. Even a simple name such as "Smith" could have multiple spellings. Those in the Chicago area know the furniture store "Walter E. Smithe," and the store's ads always make a point of emphasizing the "e" in Smithe.
How does your company name appear on caller ID? My good friend and fellow columnist, David "DJ" Chandler-Gick, called me for the first time years ago. When I saw "Backyard Pro" on the caller ID I figured I was being solicited for lawn service, so I let the answering machine pick up. When I heard DJ start to leave a message, I grabbed the phone and we had a good chuckle, as DJ's company name at the time was Backyard Productions.
If business is good, then there probably is no need to change your name unless you are changing the focus or updating the image of your business (keep in mind that a new name for the same company won't save you from a bad reputation). Don't be afraid to have two business names either—e.g., one for the wedding side and one for the corporate side. You could even have two Web sites as well. If you don't have two phone lines, you will need to answer calls ambiguously. If finances are limited, be creative.
If you are just starting out or changing names, don't forget to do an Internet search of business names. You don't want to choose a name that's similar or identical to that of another company in your area. You may want to go for trademark protection on your name as well. You also want to make sure the domain name is available for your company name; otherwise, clients will never find you online. Consider buying your first and last name as a domain name too. You can research domain name availability at www.networksolutions.com.
For further information on the legalities of business names—including a list of legal and business books, forms, and software, as well as articles on trademarking names, copyrights, etc.—visit www.nolo.com. Other sites include www.uspto.com (the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office), www.trademark.com, www.nameprotect.com, www.thomasregister.com, and your state attorney general's Web site. Use several different search methods when checking for unregistered trademarks, as most lists are incomplete.
We didn't have any say about what our parents named us, but we do have control of what we name our businesses, so consider it carefully. Ask friends, colleagues, and even clients what they think of your business name and how easy it is to find you. Choosing a good business name is often the first step toward making your name in the business.
Kris Malandruccolo won a 2005 MarCom Creative Award for her EventDV column, The Reel Deal: FAQs for Wedding Videographers.