Is It Worth Branding Your SME as 'Family-Run'?

Is It Worth Branding Your SME as 'Family-Run'?

Energy PR's Louise Findlay-Wilson considers the impact of marketing a business as being 'family run', including consumer and employee perceptions, and the influence it can have on sales

By Louise Findlay-Wilson

According to the Institute for Family Businesses there are over 4.7 million family firms in the UK. They account for more than two-thirds of the business community, making them a very important part of the UK economy.

In today’s impersonal, online age where we increasingly buy from organisations we barely know, many of whom have no high street presence, you could be forgiven for thinking that the notion of a family business is no longer relevant. This however, could not be further from the truth. Only 13% of consumers say that no one cares whether a business is a family firm or not, and just 4% feel they are an outdated notion.

These are just some of the findings in our Family Business Brand Report. For the study we surveyed 534 people to get a sense of what consumers feel when they hear a company is a family business. Does it drive their decision to buy, or impact on their customer expectations? The report provides valuable insights for SMEs who are considering marketing their business as family-run. 

Consumer preconceptions

Overall, it seems that the word ‘family’, in the business world, carries clear and positive connotations. Furthermore, any perceived negatives appear to be neutralised by other benefits:

Does it impact sales?

So, do these preconceptions matter? Our research suggests they do. There’s little to be lost and much to be gained from firms marketing themselves as family enterprises.

In saying this, firms should pause for thought before actively marketing their firm as a family business. This is because the sector a company operates in, and its size can affect how helpful the ‘family business’ tag is.

The employer brand

We also explored the impact of the ‘family’ tag on the employer brand. We found that a company which promotes itself as a family business is more likely to attract talent across all age ranges, but it needs to take care that perceptions around nepotism, poorer pay and job security are corrected.

Responsibilities & risks

So, if using the phrase ‘family business’ in a company’s marketing generally helps boost its sales and attracts talent, should every family-run business go down this route? Our research suggests marketing a business’ family connection is not something to be entered into lightly; it can’t simply be a marketing strapline. To be meaningful it needs to be evident in the way a company behaves, its values, approach to service and so forth. In short, people expect family businesses to live up to certain standards.

There are many ways to describe a company as being a ‘family business’ and plenty to be gained by doing so. How this is done, and played out across the marketing mix, however, must depend on the business in question’s sector, age, size and strategic needs. As well as this, family businesses must articulate what it means to be one and behave accordingly.

About the Author

Louise Findlay-Wilson is the founder of Energy PR. During her 30-year career she has handled campaigns for brands such as HSBC, Asda, the BBC and St Paul’s Cathedral along with SMEs and family businesses. Louise is a regular media commentator and speaks about PR at events all over the UK.