When you think of the phrase “family business,” what values come to mind? For American consumers, those values tend to be trust, relationships, and quality.
Numerous polls suggest that the vast majority of consumers would prefer to purchase goods and services from small, family-owned companies as opposed to corporate giants. Much of this has to do with perception: Consumers perceive of family businesses as more honest. We associate the term with companies built from the ground up, owned and operated by multigenerational families that know all their customers by name and reinvest their profits into their local communities.
But the success of family businesses is also due to strategic marketing campaigns. Visit the website for SC Johnson & Son—the manufacturer of various brand-name household products, including Drano, Windex, and Ziploc—and you’ll find the following phrase in bold letters at the top of the page: “A family company since 1886.”
Family business marketing—a variant of relationship marketing—announces to consumers, in both subtle and explicit ways, that this company is trustworthy. Mark Hastings, Director General at the Institute for Family Business in the U.K., suggests that clearly communicating a family identity gives businesses an edge and an advantage in the market. “Consumers want to connect with brands they believe are aligned with their own beliefs.”
So, where do you begin? How do you communicate your family identity clearly and consistently?
1. The name says it all. Brand names are one of the greatest influencers of purchase habits for consumers. Shoppers don’t have time to compare pricing every time they shop; they rely on their instincts and go directly to the brands they trust. By including your identity in your company name—a la Kohler, Tyson Foods, Wegmans, and Fry’s Electronics—then that name serves as a constant reminder: We’re family-run.
2. Don’t bury your story. Many family-owned small businesses worry that advertising their identity weakens the brand; in fact, the opposite is true. Crafting the story of your business and publishing your rich history on your website allows customers to know and appreciate the people behind the products.
3. Sometimes you have to scrap tradition. Just because your company was founded in 1906… doesn’t mean that you should run your business as if it’s 1906. Being open to change—embracing new trends, new marketing strategies, new social media platforms, and new customer demographics—is the key to evolving gracefully and sustaining your business.
4. Bring in a professional. When you’re surrounded by family, it’s especially difficult to view your company objectively or to accurately assess your marketing strategies. Bringing on a third-party marketing team allows for new ideas, a fresh voice, and innovative solutions to revamp and expand your marketing efforts.
There’s no doubt that family-controlled businesses can be successful; after all, major corporations like Wal-Mart, Ford, and Campbell Soup are all built on family names. Whether your own family business marketing strategies are successful—and whether your business survives for future generations—really comes down to the clarity of your communication.
About Brand Poets
Founded by Tana M. Llinas, Brand Poets is a collective of strategists, visual storytellers, and digital artisans crafting smart, poignant campaigns that command attention. www.brandpoets.com