In today’s fast-paced digital world, scaling a small, family-run business can be a struggle.
Family businesses have the same concerns as any company, reports PwC, including strategic planning, operation efficiency, compliance, marketing and sales.
But family businesses also face a host of unique challenges.
Strategic success is measured not just in fiscal years, but also in generations.
Long-term stewardship means honoring a business’s roots while fostering a culture of innovation and staying at the forefront of digital marketing trends to reach new customers.
That’s a pretty tall order for any company leader. But in order to stay competitive, it’s an absolute must for today’s family businesses.
How to Innovate Marketing at a Family Business: One Family’s Story
Blake Hobson, the co-owner of Image Industries USA, knows firsthand the challenges of integrating new digital marketing strategies into a family business.
Blake’s father Stephan Hobson founded the company in 1976. At the time, Stephan was working for the industry leader in stud welding equipment.
Drawing on his years of expertise in the design and manufacturing of stud welding equipment, Stephan believed he could deliver a superior product than the other industry players at the time.
That’s exactly what he did. Image became the first U.S. manufacturer to introduce digital stud welding equipment for quick, easy stud welding with greater productivity.
While Image is a leader in equipment innovation, Blake says the company sometimes lagged behind in marketing.
“One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced since taking over as co-owner is how to continue to grow our business while protecting our extremely high level of customer satisfaction and deliver innovative new products,” says Blake. “This means the right mix of price, stock, delivery, and flexibility to meet the needs of the customer. It also means looking for innovative ways to target new customers.”
Blake Hobson’s latest solution? A holistic approach that integrates digital inbound marketing with micro-targeting.
“Successful marketing requires a holistic approach,” says Blake. “All too often, I’ve seen companies in our industry mistake marketing for advertising, catalog distribution, or web sales. Successful marketing is a well-planned, coordinated symphony using the available tools that include a mix of inbound and outbound medium. On the digital side, this means content marketing, social media marketing, and email marketing, for starters.”
Marketers have been segmenting customers for years. Micro-targeting takes this segmentation one step further.
Digital micro-targeting, also known as nanotargeting, is all about understanding a highly specific target audience and then delivering the right message at the right moment to the right person within this audience.
“As data becomes more available and lower cost, microtargeting is a huge trend to watch,” says Blake. “We see it today but the future will intensify it. Using personal data, computer algorithms will design individual marketing campaigns for each customer.”
So how did Blake successfully integrate this cutting-edge marketing tactic to his family business? Blake says it all comes down to a company culture that supports innovation.
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“We admire any entrepreneur who starts with nothing and builds something,” says Blake. “That’s our family’s story, and we know just how much harder, more time consuming, more frustrating it can be than most people expect. That’s why we’ve intentionally built a company culture that fosters innovation. Sometimes we have more good ideas than we have time to implement them.”
What Your Family Business Can Learn from Image Industries USA
Just because something has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean that’s the only way.
At Image Industries USA, Blake says that his company prioritizes thoughtful experimentation and a willingness to embrace change.
See the Bigger Picture
Blake understands that there is no be-all, end-all marketing solution. Every tactic plays a role in a holistic marketing strategy.
There’s a place for cutting-edge micro-targeting and a place for traditional catalog sales.
Enjoy the Process
The biggest advice Blake gives to family-run businesses? Step back and enjoy the experience.
“Working on new products, solving a customer’s “unsolvable” problems or managing growth is stressful,” says Blake. “It’s important to take a step back and enjoy the journey, rather than worrying about the completion of a specific project. Otherwise, you’ll find that once a project is complete, you’re already knee-deep in another one. Relax and enjoy the process.”
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Family business’s that thrive for generations stay true to a core set of values (superior products and customer service) while fostering a culture of curiosity, innovation and creativity.
Don’t be afraid to experiment.