5 Branding Tips for Family-Owned Businesses
Family-owned businesses are the lifeblood of our country. It’s where the American dream comes true. Some have operated for generations under the premise of reputation and experience but aren’t intentional when it comes to making their customers feel like they’re part of the family. If you’re a family business, you’ll be held to higher standards by employees and customers alike, so it’s essential that everything you do leads with your family’s story and values. Everything from your branding, marketing, sales process, customer service, and everything in between needs to make the community feel as though they’re a part of it. Here are 5 tips for strengthening your family-owned business’s brand.
Lead with values.
A strong family roots their bond in a set of shared values. Even if it’s never formally stated, parents pass down core values and traditions to their children and the process repeats for generations. Some families may even display decor with statements such as “try it – you might like it” or “clean up your messes.” Although these are likely just decor, the concept remains. Many businesses, no matter their ownership structure, have values that they expect their employees to understand and follow on a daily basis; however, it’s even more essential that family companies lead with these values.
In general, the term “family-owned” automatically instills positive associations and makes a business appear more approachable, friendly, stable and trustworthy. Lean into this advantage with branding that lays out a set of values that are unique to your family’s style and structure. Be sure that management roots their actions in these values as well. Posting your values on the wall is a start, but they’ll mean more to employees and customers alike if they’re integrated into every element of your branding, and truly being lived.
Know your story.
The family story shouldn't be locked up in scrapbooks or only told when the retired CEO (grandpa) stops in to share his old war stories. If you haven't already, incorporate it into your brand strategy. Document the founding story, timeline, key milestones, etc. in a way that's attention grabbing and engaging. Work to refine the "long version" into a memorable "simplified version" that every team member can share. Your story should be one of the first things you share when prospecting for new business or onboarding a new employee. It should also appear on your website, social media channels and any marketing collateral to strengthen the connection between your brand and generations of shared values.
A strong family business will have a deep understanding of their story and use it as a branding tool to connect with others.
Connect with the community.
Family-owned businesses have a long-standing tradition of giving back to the communities that have supported them throughout the years. It’s one thing to write a check, but it’s another to actually get involved and roll up your sleeves. Consider hosting events, volunteering or becoming a sponsor, and don't be shy about sharing the fact that you contribute in ways that are aligned with your values. Social media channels are a great place to broadcast these efforts, so be sure to reply to comments and engage with the community.
As brand consultants, we also recommend that charitable contributions are aligned with the business segment itself to resonate deeply with customers. As an example, if your business is a contractor for the department of defense, we would recommend getting involved with veteran organizations. If you're in the tech space, it may be appropriate to engage with a local STEM program to show that you're working to advance your industry’s workforce. There are endless opportunities to connect with your community, and doing so will only help to strengthen how people perceive your family brand.
With any branding effort, but especially for family-owned businesses, consistency is king. You want customers and employees to feel confident that they know what to expect when they interact with your company. A strong brand guideline can help create a foundation for years of success. Be sure that your brand guide isn't just a document outlining logo usage, colors and typography, but rather a north star that keeps every effort moving the brand in an intentional direction. If you're unsure how a brand guide will help, check out our article where we uncover 7 times that a brand guidelines document saved the day.
Keep the name clean.
Work as a family unit to avoid negative attention since it’s someone’s actual name that will get dragged through the mud. When someone represents a family brand, it's crucial that they uphold the values and standards set by the generations that came before. Setting clear expectations during the interview process and while onboarding will create a quality standard that people will feel proud to join. Having a strong brand guide in place will make this easier for everyone.
While there are many ways to create a solid foundation and maintain quality standards for a brand, family companies are held to a higher level. It's your job to prove to generations past that their values are being followed and if that means taking the time to develop and document a formal brand strategy that will save you time and pay for itself, the best time to start is now. Contact Quill Creative Studio today to see how we've helped other family-owned companies incorporate their rich history in a way that's relevant and memorable in today's market.