It’s always a great shame when a long established business has to admit defeat and last week’s news about Cheltenham’s Premier Products is no exception. This family owned business survived almost a century of trading in cleaning and janitorial products but has, after years of troubled trading, been taken over, potentially putting some 50 local jobs at risk. Whilst this is sad in itself, it is even sadder to note that perhaps this needn’t have happened at all.
Family businesses are notorious for struggling to evolve at a pace to keep up with market developments. It seems to me that family businesses are sometimes too firmly focused on sales at the expense of marketing. If marketing is seen as a cost of sales rather than a driver of sales, then business evolution becomes difficult. Strong marketing identifies new markets, channels and opportunities leading to sustained growth and competitive advantage. This has become increasingly import in recent years with the advent of social and digital media, which can be a powerful tool in a business to business context adding real value and generating sales.
Creed Foodservice is also a leading Gloucestershire family owned business but, in contrast, has in recent years re-invented itself with investment in a strong executive board, bringing in outside expertise to ensure future growth. The appointment of a marketing manager and the close alignment of marketing with sales strategy is evidence of the maturity and ambition of the business. Creed also has a strong understanding of its role in the community, working very closely with a number of local charities and supporting regional media through its partnership with Gloucestershire Media. The results speak for themselves.
Heed the Warning
Other family owned businesses should heed the warning from Premier Products and ensure they have a robust strategy in place, not just for survival but for future success. That strategy must include investment in strong marketing and looking at the ‘bigger picture’.