Family Ties Online: How to Build the Right Image for Your Family Business, Part 4

This is the fourth and final article in the series on image-building.

Success in a family business is built upon a successful effort to develop, build and communicate your family business image. In the last three articles, we have walked through the components of image-building and shared the elements needed to achieve a successful image, the cornerstone of family business success.

We explored:

Why do you need an image? // A discussion of the necessity for every family business to have a clearly defined image that can be readily communicated to prospective customers, the benefits of a strong image and the role it plays in the sales and marketing process.

What is your image? // An examination of the process by which you can identify your current family business image, and the ways in which you can begin to redefine that image, if necessary, so that it supports your marketing strategy.

How do you create your family business image? // And then we discussed a step‑by‑step process that allows you to create an image for your family business after evaluating your competition; looking at the needs and expectations of your customers; examining how your family business is perceived; identifying target customer groups; and defining your position in the market as a family business together with points of differentiation and your competitive strategy.

Why Have An Image?

We may not realize that, from the time we get up each morning, most of us devote a certain amount of time to marketing ourselves and our family business by creating an image that is acceptable and appealing to others as well as ourselves. For our jobs, we dress and act in a manner that presents an image that is appropriate. As an integral component of that, we are also marketing our business, its products and services.

In addition to the more obvious appearance of clothing and grooming and your physical business facility, image includes the intangibles as well. You want your employees to project an image of competence and trustworthiness. You want to come across as experienced, trustworthy, knowledgeable and successful. You want to communicate your commitment to client service. All these intangibles are part of the overall image projected to clients, customers, prospects, suppliers and the community. Your family business image correctly presents you and your business.

What Is Your Image?

If you have difficulty defining the current image of your family business, you may be experiencing one of several common problems:

  • You may feel that defining an image is something only big companies need to do.
  • You may avoid determining your image now or may have avoided it in the past because you aren’t sure where to start or what your image should be.
  • You know what your business’s image is, but have a hard time expressing it.

Let’s look at each of these problems.

Image is only for big companies // Just because you don’t have a big advertising budget and a staffed marketing department doesn’t mean you shouldn’t define your image and make an effort to communicate it. In fact, for a smaller business, it is even more important to determine how your business image will differentiate you from your competition.

You don’t know where to start // Many people are intimidated by the process of determining an image for their family business. They think it must take a marketing genius to craft the perfect image that will appeal to as many consumers as possible. Rather than risk making a mistake, they choose to let the image form itself by default. This is the worst thing you can do because then you are not in control of your own family business image. Instead, your image is being determined by rumor, word‑of‑mouth and a variety of other variables that you can’t control.

You know your image, but can’t express it // If you can’t express your image, then you may as well not have one because the people who need to hear about it—your employees, suppliers, customers and prospective clients—are being kept in the dark. An image doesn’t do your business any good if it is not clearly understood by your employees, your customers, your suppliers and anyone who is interested in doing business with you.

There is also another problem that affects family business images.

Attempting to Be Something You’re Not

Often a family business owner has clearly defined how he or she would like to be perceived, but it is an unrealistic or inappropriate image, one that is geared to meeting your emotional needs, not those of your customers. For instance, a locally owned jewelry store may want to become the low‑priced leader in the market. If it is competing against national retailers, it is fighting a losing battle. Not only will the store lose money and market share, but it will also lose the chance of developing a loyal customer base.

Your image is composed of tangibles and intangibles. It is a key factor in achieving sales. But your family business image also contributes to more than just making sales. It is the cornerstone of developing a meaningful, lasting relationship with your clients, your employees, your suppliers and your community.

The principal purposes of your family business image are:

  1. To attract customers
  2. To build the client’s confidence in your business
  3. To serve as the cornerstone of an ongoing relationship with customers by creating a specific set of expectations
  4. To affirm your style of doing business
  5. To reinforce your employees’ commitment to the success of your business

You begin to build your business image by answering the question:


Invite employees and suppliers to answer the question as well. Then invite a few of your best clients to answer the same question.

Compare the responses. Are they the same? If not, do you understand why they are different? You can then decide whether you wish to do something to bring their perceptions into harmony and reflect your perception for your family business.

Determining, building and controlling the image that is most appropriate to your business are some of the most important steps you can take. Now, take a few moments to write down what you believe to be your current business image. (Either write it in a descriptive sentence or list the key components of your image as bullet points.)

How do you know that is your business’s image? And more importantly, are you satisfied with your answer?

©2014 ShermanTitens