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Digital Agenda For Family Firms

Latest research confirms that family firms are embracing the ‘digital revolution’ in a constantly changing digital landscape.

Innovation and the constant evolution of digital marketing and social media continues to have an impact on us all and for family firms it is clearly on the business agenda. The digital arena continues to change offering potential opportunities to those firms that embrace them whilst posing significant threats to those that fail to engage in an appropriate way too. Latest research from Family Business United (‘FBU’) has confirmed that 81% of respondents see digital and technological changes as an opportunity which is encouraging.

Family firms recognise that they have a narrative, a story to tell and that it can afford them competitive advantage and the digital arena provides lots of opportunities to capture their story, to embrace their history and heritage and to communicate who they are and their core values to the wider world.

As Paul Andrews, Founder of Family Business United explains, “Family heritage and history are important but cannot guarantee a future for any family business, but they can help to differentiate the business in the marketplace compared to their non-family competitors.”

The first stage in embracing the digital agenda is having a web presence and it is good to see that 97% of respondents to the recent survey do have a website, although they vary in content and may need to adapt in some ways to make the most of the platform to engage with stakeholders successfully. Furthermore, having a website is simply the first step as ‘content is king’ in the current world and all websites need to remain current with engaging content and be updated on a regular basis to continue to meet the needs of the business too.

When it comes to marketing and social media engagement family firms are responding to the digital agenda in some positive ways:

  • 76% of family firms use history and heritage in their brand identity
  • 80% include history and heritage on their website
  • 80% use their family status in their marketing strategy

Furthermore, family business owners that embrace digital in the way they promote the business believe that there are other benefits from family ownership such as:

  • 68% of family firms believe being a family business is useful in gaining new work
  • 70% believe it helps with recruitment and retention of staff
  • 75% believe history and heritage are important for the long-term success of the business

Each and every family firm is different and therefore will adapt a digital presence according to their own needs but there are some clear favourites when it comes to engagement. The most popular platforms for family firms currently are:

  1. Facebook – 85%
  2. LinkedIn – 82%
  3. Twitter – 81%
  4. Instagram – 61%
  5. YouTube – 44%

The continual evolution of methods of marketing and communications will need to be considered by all family businesses on an ongoing basis, evaluating what is working well, how and where customers are engaging and what needs to be done to maximise the opportunities available.

Things continue to change and what is working well today may have been superseded by new technologies or platforms in the future so continual review, assessment and adaptation of individual marketing and communications is essential for all family firms going forward. Certain trends and preferences are also affecting the type of content that is being produced and one thing that is likely to change is the growth in presence on YouTube as video continues to grow in use for marketing purposes.

As Paul concludes, “It might seem obvious but the family firms most likely to achieve their digital marketing objectives are those that understand their audience, know which platforms their customers use and target their digital strategies accordingly.”

These findings are taken from the FBU Family Business Survey 2019.

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