Its fun to come up with a creative name for your photography business … until you discover someone else thought of it before you. Nothing can be more confusing to your customer than finding two businesses with similar or the same names.

Your name tells your customers who you are. Its an extension of your brand, and sets the stage for the type of business you run and operate.

In years past, it was easier to brand yourself based on your geographical location. As long as no one was using your name in your competitive location, it was easier to forgive companies hundreds or thousands of miles away for using it too. And in some cases, you may never have even known it existed.

But all that’s changed thanks to the Internet. If you can’t get your company’s domain name because it belongs to someone else, do you really want to send traffic to them as you are building your business?

To help protect your brand, here are five basic steps to help you strengthen your business.

1. Choose your name wisely

The more creative you are when developing your name and branding, the greater the odds you’ll have no competition. And if its distinctive, it will stand out from your competitors and become a unique brand that can be recognizable in its own right. Think about your future. Are you planning on selling your business down the road? If so, choose a name that’s exciting and adds value. Think Search.com versus Google. One is worth billions; one not so much. Think big and go with something catch and unique.

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2. Use it

The more you use your name, the more recognizable it becomes, the stronger it is. Part of your protection comes from using it and proving how you’ve used it in the business world. When you place it on brochures, business cards, products and online, you are staking your claim in your brand. It gives you rights above those that may use it after you.

3. Register it

If you plan on growing your business and being around for years to come, its important that you gain as much protection as possible. Here in the US, register it with the US Patent and Trademark Office for complete protection across the states. And once you are registered, its recognized throughout the world. Registration allows you to use the ® symbol and provides substantial benefits and savings if you ever have to go to court to stop infringement.

4. Distinguish it

As you are creating your trademark, make it as distinguishable as possible. Customers learn to recognize brands on a variety of things, including look, feel, color, taglines, and even sounds such as a recognizable jingle. The more you add to your brand, the more you will give your customers something to talk

about.

5. Watch out for others

Once you have everything in place with your trademark, monitor its usage. One of the easiest ways online is to use Google Alerts. Google Alerts will alert you whenever anyone uses your name, tagline or anything else associated with your brand. If you notice an infringement, contact an attorney to help you cease your competition from using it immediately.

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