Kelly Borth, Chief Strategy Officer, GREENCREST
Dave Keller, President, Triad Marketing & Media
Jason Mlicki, Principal, Rattleback
Many family businesses have been there. Perhaps you’ve created a new product or service that could help meet a need for your clients or community. Or maybe you’re looking to reinvigorate the brand your family has crafted over generations.
You’ve done the hard work of bringing a unique offering to the market, but then comes the daunting task of informing the public and building excitement about what you’ve built. Today’s marketing landscape seems to be changing by the minute, and with so many options at your disposal to promote your family business, how will you know which methods are right for your business and how to use those tools to their fullest potential?
Merging Sales and Marketing in your Family Business
First, it’s important to note that your sales strategy and marketing strategy are two different strategies that must work together for a family business to be successful. The number of times that you must engage a prospective customer before getting a sale is increasing due to the myriad of messages consumers are bombarded with each day. Dave Keller of TriAd Marketing & Media recommends a 12-touch program that can help business owners break through the clutter. “By contacting prospective customers 12 different times through several different approaches, business owners will be able to build a relationship and eventually a sale with prospective clients,” says Keller. “The 12 contacts can be digital ads, letters, postcards, e-newsletters, social media, video or any other creative way you can get your brand in front of clients at multiple touchpoints.” Don’t stop at 5 or 6 touches as many people do – and make sure to create a marketing calendar while sticking to it.
How to define a Family Business Marketing Strategy
“The fact that most businesses have competition creates an imperative for businesses to market in order to create customers,” says Kelly Borth of GREENCREST. “It is the CEO’s job to define the company’s strategic position and research has proven that the three leading companies in any industry are more profitable and attribute 80% of the company’s success to strategic direction.”
Lack of a clear strategy comes at a high price – the cost being that companies essentially waste the money they spend on marketing, equating to lost opportunity cost. And, if there is no distinguishable advantage to choosing your company over a competitor, the only deciding factor will be price.
So, how do you start?
- Listen to your customers. Understand the game first and then determine your game plan and position on the field: Study the competition, trends, available market share, opportunities to grow business with existing customers, find an underserved area in the marketplace.
- Brand first, plan second. Find your company’s unique voice or position and build a marketing strategy around leveraging that uniqueness; once this is done, determine tactically how to reach the market.
- Fire your message to the marketplace. Strategic direction removes the guesswork, translating to less wasted marketing budget spend. A voice of differentiation will get heard and will open up selling opportunities. Knowing what it takes to lead the market with your differentiation and creating a game plan provides sharp focus that will help you hit your target more often than not.
Using Social Media to Keep up with the Family (and Family Business)
More family businesses than ever are using social media as a way to communicate, storytell and make business more efficient. In fact, 50 million businesses worldwide are using Facebook Pages to promote their business. And while Facebook is still the world’s most widely used social media site, there are several other sites that can be used to engage with consumers, including (but nowhere near limited to) Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube and emerging platforms like TikTok.
But before you begin registering your business for dozens of accounts, first ask yourself what you’re hoping to achieve by using social media, says Keller. “You should keep your business goals front-of-mind when considering how your brand will interact on a social network,” said Keller. “Every social media channel has a unique purpose, set of rules, features and user-base. Likewise, it is critical your business has a unique strategy for each of its active channels.”
For example, users tend to use Facebook to learn about upcoming promotions and events, read business reviews or share content. Visitors on LinkedIn may be more interested in making personal connections and reading about your company’s values and performance. Instagram, alternatively, is a highly visual platform, where your family business can engage clients with creative visual storytelling and attach the brand to relevant conversations by using hashtags.
By doing your research, and strategically positioning your brand on channels that help your family business reach key audience segments, you’ll make it much easier for the people interested in your product or service to find your brand.
Your Brand has a Voice – Use it Wisely
Once you’ve established your brand on a few platforms, it’s important to keep your pages fresh, organized, and responsive. Social media is not a “set it and forget it” exercise,” says Keller. “As you post new updates and start building a following, odds are your clients will begin interacting with your business’ social platforms by asking questions, leaving reviews, and starting new conversations with their own followers directly on your pages,” says Keller. “It’s important to treat each of these – positive and negative – as if they were a face-to-face conversation.”
“Every action taken on your page is public,” says Keller. “So the way you respond to both praise and criticism may tell someone who visits your page a lot more about your business’ values than anything you post proactively. And while it may be tempting to hide those negative comments, making things right with an unhappy customer may just turn them, and others in the conversation, into lifelong advocates.”
There are several tools your family business can use to manage the influx of page interaction. While each channel has its own way of organizing comments and messages, social media monitoring platforms like Hootsuite, Mention, Keyhole or BrandWatch can help you stay on top of all of your business’ digital mentions.
Some family businesses will also want a presence on industry-specific websites designed for users to leave reviews. First, Google My Business is a must for any family business to help customers find important details like your location, hours and contact information. It’s also a place where people can find additional business reviews and learn more about what your business offers. It’s important to research other sites where users may be posting about businesses in your industry, and monitor what employees may be saying about your company on sites like Indeed and Glassdoor, so you can properly identify and address potential issues.
Websites: The New Front Door to your Family Business
You know first impressions can make or break your family business. But what if you’re leaving a poor impression well before even meeting a potential client. That’s the reality in today’s digital world, where someone is far more likely to view your website and social media profiles before making a purchase decision.
Keller says family business owners should ask themselves these 5 questions when viewing their various online “front doors.”
- ● How are potential buyers learning about your website?
- ● Who is most likely to visit your website, and what are their characteristics?
- ● What information are potential customers looking for when they visit your website?
- ● What are the most important things you want to share about your brand on your website?
- ● Which website features are must have vs. nice to have?
First, users must be able to find your website if they are to learn more about your family business. Making sure you include relevant links on all of your online profiles and individual posts so navigation is as simple as a click. Once your site starts building traffic, you’ll want to know some basic information about who is visiting and how they are using your pages. Installing Google Analytics to your website is an essential platform for any website to be successful. Google Analytics is a free tool that can be added to your website by copying a small bit of code into your website management platform, like WordPress or Squarespace. Once installed, you’ll be able to monitor traffic patterns and visitor behavior, like insights into which of your pages are most popular, how long users spend on each page, and what devices people use to access your website.
With this knowledge, you can begin to make informed decisions that will maximize how hard your website works for your business.
Keller stresses that above all when developing your website, you want to create content that engages the user. If users are not engaged or cannot access the information they need easily they will move on to another site that is more appealing and easier to navigate. Keller adds that many companies like to say people are their primary assets but only show their products on their website. Be sure to include staff and client testimonials as part of your website and video communications.
Finally, Keller advises to make your site as easy to use and navigate as possible, so visitors to your site stay longer and come back often. “It should be easy to figure out who you are, what you do and what you’re selling from the first look at your website,” says Keller. “Be sure to place any elements you want your visitors to interact with on your site in an obvious and well-organized place.”
Don’t Forget to Engage Your Employees
A 2019 Gallup poll shows that highly engaged workforces return their companies 21% greater profitability, a 41% reduction in absenteeism, and 59% less turnover. According to Jason Mlicki of Mlicki, reducing the number of disengaged employees should be a goal of every family business because employees play a crucial role in marketing and promoting that business. By using an inexpensive online tool such as Survey Monkey, owners can survey employees to better understand how they feel about the business and whether or not they understand the company’s brand promise.
Using this information, owners can and should address gaps between their vision for the company and their employee’s perceptions of that vision. One simple tactic Mlicki mentions to engage employees is to create a work environment that incorporates your brand into your office space by displaying brand graphics and videos — something that can be done with minimal expense. In a new virtual era where more employees may be working from home, make sure you’re using your digital tools to show appreciation and share your team’s successes, whether it’s through a heartfelt e-mail message, involving them in a new video campaign, or sharing their stories to the public on social media.
The goal is to move your employees into the “actively engaged” category so they are good ambassadors of your business.
Lean into the “Family” in Family Business
Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer reinforces a trend that traditional institutions like business, government and media are experiencing a trust crisis. Percent of Americans trusting business fell four points to an average of about 50% from 2019 to 2020. However, now is an ideal time to leverage the fact that you are a family-owned business. The survey also shows that 67% of people trust family-owned businesses, the highest score among all business categories (privately owned, public, and state owned).
Today presents a great opportunity for family businesses to capitalize on their status and values as a family business, as well as their place in the community.
About the Conway Center
The Conway Center for Family Business is Central Ohio’s resource for educational programs, resources and networking opportunities to support the growth and success of family-owned businesses. The Center celebrates the successes of family-owned businesses at its annual awards program and offers peer group opportunities for next-generation leaders, family business leaders, and women family business owners. The organization includes more than 200 family-owned businesses from Central Ohio that employ more than 35,000 individuals.
Learn more about Conway Center for Family Business membership.