Family Businesses: Relationship Marketing At Its Finest

by Brenda Tomlinson
McDaniels Marketing

When it comes to building relationships, family-owned businesses are a step ahead.

Relationship marketing has become a common phrase in the industry, which—if you think about it—is rather funny. After all, building relationships in marketing and sales isn’t a new concept. And if you believe the Wikipedia definition, which says “it recognizes the long-term value of customer relationships and extends communication beyond intrusive advertising and sales promotional messages,” it’s really something that family businesses have been doing for centuries.

Defining a Family Business
Although family-owned businesses are far from new, they have only begun to get the recognition they deserve for their unique benefits. Today, about 90 percent of the companies in North America and a majority of businesses located around the world are family-owned. Many tend to think these businesses are all “mom and pop shops” that don’t have the influence of a large corporation, but statistics indicate this is far from the truth. In fact, family businesses are currently credited with over 50 percent of the gross domestic product, while 35 percent of Fortune 500 companies are family-owned! Surprised? According to the Encyclopedia for Small Business at referenceforbusiness.com, some of the more recognizable companies that are still managed by family members include Benetton, Beretta, Estee Lauder, Tootsie Roll Industries, Gucci, Carnival Cruise Lines, Harley-Davidson, U-Haul, Forbes Inc., and Ford Motor Co.

So what constitutes a family business? According to Entrepreneur.com, a family business is one “that is actively owned and/or managed by more than one member of the same family.” From family farms to large corporations and everything in between, family businesses are responsible for 60 percent of the nation’s employment and 78 percent of the new jobs created.

Unique Benefits
Family businesses have been recognized for their strong commitment to quality and its relation to the family name, as well as the shared traditions and values that are passed down from generation to generation. For many, relationships start the business as friendships spill over into the sale of products and/or services. So, too, friendships often develop from business relationships. There’s a simple interdependence. It’s not marketing in the traditional sense; it’s just good business.

Children raised in family businesses grow up learning that the same values and traditions that have helped make the business succeed are worth maintaining—and building relationships is a key part of what makes a business strong. Family businesses, too, are often perceived as more friendly and caring, trustworthy and loyal, with a better product or service as a result. When combined, these translate into a distinct competitive advantage and “relationship marketing” at its finest.

Randy McDaniels, president and owner of McDaniels Marketing, says he finds working within a family business very rewarding. “One of the more critical benefits of working for a family business is stability. Every family member who has worked at the agency has been a piece of the foundation; many have served decades to provide the stability we needed to reach 45 years as a firm. Although it’s just me and my oldest sister Claudia now, I have enjoyed growing up in the business and take great pride in what my father, mother, sisters and I have accomplished.”

Seeking the Same Standard of Service
Even more interesting is the fact that many of these family-owned businesses tend to seek the services of other family-owned businesses. Although this is intentional on the part of some, others find themselves naturally gravitating toward the same service they value in their own business.

Preston-Hanley Funeral Homes & Crematory, LLC, has served area families for over 75 years. According to Neale “Buster” Hanley II, “It’s more about relationships than anything. We like working with other family businesses because many live and work in the same community; the dollars we spend are reinvested in this community. For us, it’s important that our money doesn’t go into large, corporate coffers— we want our funds to go toward helping local efforts.” He went on to say that family businesses tend to serve one another, and the relationship is mutually beneficial.

Bill Hughes, president of Innoquest, Inc., a design/engineering/ manufacturing firm, says that he finds working with other family businesses comforting because he can often work directly with an owner. “The art of a successful business is providing solutions. Those who solve problems efficiently will excel. When I am working with another family-owned business, I find I am working with someone who understands and is able to make the decisions necessary to fix my problems on the spot. If a fellow business owner tells me he will do something, I see it as a word that I can ‘take to the bank.’”

For Ray Dennison Chevrolet, which has been in business for over 38 years, there’s a common bond. “We enjoy working with other family businesses throughout the community because we share a lot in common,” Brian Dennison said. “Working in a family environment is such a great experience. We love building relationships and being dedicated to our customers. It all starts with a shared commitment to treat customers right and make them our highest priority. It’s different when your name is on the sign. You take pride in having a good relationship and make sure you are always doing things the right way, every day.”

These family businesses all work together for a common cause, united in their efforts to take care of their customers and ensure the business succeeds. There’s pride in doing their best. For them, that’s the foundation of the relationship…and the basis for selling their products and services. By dedicating themselves to quality, shared traditions and values, customer service, compassion, loyalty, trustworthiness and long-term friendships, family businesses like these have been demonstrating relationship marketing in its truest form for years. iBi

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