Recently I was interviewed on an episode of the Marketing Made Simple podcast to answer the question: will StoryBrand work for family business?

As a member of a family-owned business, I know first-hand the unique challenges family-owned businesses face when marketing their products or services. When my friends at StoryBrand asked for insight, I jumped at the chance to talk about how family-owned businesses can benefit from a clear, compelling message!

If you’re a reader, not a podcast listener, here are the takeaways from the show:

  • Years ago I heard Donald Miller, the author of Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Listen, say, “No one cares about your grandfather’s story.”

    That statement was a wakeup call for me. I was really telling my father-in-law’s story and that is how I was leading most of our conversations. The business was doing well, yet we knew we needed to make a shift and get back to the heart of the message. What are we doing as a business? What problem are we solving for our customers?

    It started a journey for us of transitioning all of our messaging. Instead of leading with the story of my father-in-law, we positioned the customer as the hero of the story.

  • Our product is very niche. We sell directly to schools primarily. We have a safety coat hook that replaces those terrible protruding metal coat hooks that stick out at the walls right at eye level. They are so dangerous for kids. So, we have a great solution for that. It’s a flat profile coat hook!
  • The change of messaging was supported by my father-in-law. I believe I was the one who wanted to tell his story more than he did. He always had the customer in mind from the beginning.

    I romanticized the idea that we started that he started this business in the family’s garage, and it had grown to what had had become. I was proud.

    I think it’s one of the most common problems. Many second generation and third generation family-owned businesses, the further away we are from the origin year, the closer we become to wanting to share the story of the founder.

    We love this story because it’s our story. We want to know entrepreneur success stories. When I started talking about how we were going to communicate differently, it was more of a sigh of relief for our founder and a confirmation that we’re on the right track.

    When family businesses sit down and they start asking the question, who is our customer and what are their problems? I think that it is music to the ears of the founder. It continues the good reputation that they’ve already established.

    If a company is transitioning from first generation to second generation, they’ve done something right. We’re doing second generation to third generation; they’re really doing something right. The product itself resonates with customers that continues the longevity of the business.

    When you make the customer the focus your entire team brings an immense amount of unity to everyone in the business.

  • Some family members have not lived one day of their life without the business being a part of everything that they do. The brand can not be separated from their life and it’s hard for them to talk about what they do clearly so that’s why the StoryBrand works so well for a family-owned business.

    I would encourage you to sit down and walk through the framework as a family, because it’s going to bring unity to who you serve. It also gives everyone in the family a mission beyond the drama of just trying to work together. I think a lot of the focus on family business is how do we make this work as a family when we share the dinner table at Thanksgiving but really, the question is: how do we focus on our customer together? When everyone does that, it’s amazing how unifying it can be for a family.

  • There is a time and there is a place to tell the founder’s story. When you talk about how many years you’ve been in business from a position of authority, you put the founder is the proper place and it strengthens the message. If you lead with authority, you’ll never be able to have that conversation.
  • So the truth is: no one cares about your grandfather’s founder story until they know the products are going to change their life.

  • Many multi-generational family businesses try to expand their product line or their customer base. There is a time and a place for that, but in our experience and what I’ve experienced with a lot of my clients and family and businesses, they are not read to expand. They we need to focus on the one the one problem that you solve for the one customer before we can start expanding. We did that in our business. Our product is useful for every public place and has been in a variety of public places but 90-95% of our customers are schools. When we tried to talk broadly, we weren’t talking to our customer and we were missing out on sales.
  • When we rewrote our messaging using the StoryBrand framework, one of the main changes that we made was deciding to talk to schools. There will be a day that we may expand and start talking to more of an audience. But right now, we have a very successful company and hooks in schools around the world but we we’ve barely tapped the market. I find that’s the case a lot of times with other family business. I ask family-owned businesses first: what is your main product and what customer is buying that main product? Let’s make that great first before we start expanding into any other areas. Clarity comes from speaking to your ideal audience. The focus is worth it, we grew 417% and online revenue!

If you are a leader in a family-owned business and you’ve struggled to speak clearly about your company, a messaging playbook is your next step to increasing revenue. The process will bring tremendous focus to the company as you prepare for the next generation of leaders.