How much cash does your business invest in marketing?  No, not marketing to your customer base.  I mean how much do you spend on marketing to your employees and to your family. If your answer is anywhere from “Where did you buy that tobacco?”  to “Nothing.”, then you need not be surprised if your employees and your family members are somewhat less than engaged in your succession dream.

You market because you want people engaged.  You want them to buy your products or services.  You market internally because you want your employees producing goods or delivering services that have value and make money.  And, if you have a family business, you market to family members (usually your children) because more than likely you think it would be nice if one of them wanted  to go after succession success and continue the business through the generation coming after you. 

We call this internal marketing.  And, it is important if you want people to understand why you need their involvement in keeping the business alive and thriving.  Successful internal marketing to family members (spouse, significant other, and children) means you must take some and all of the following steps:

  1. Make the business relevant to them (inspiration);
  2. Provide credible facts and details that put the business in a new or different light (information);
  3. Get them involved in real work within the business (perspiration); and,
  4. Celebrate learning mistakes, successes, and accomplishments (recreation).

Now you may have some other steps that you believe are equally critical; but these seem to be the four that come up most often in our interviews with families that have experienced succession success.  And, order matters.

Relevance is the critical emotional flame that makes the dry gunpowder of facts and details go “BOOM”!  When people have no reason to get excited, when they have no burning desire to make a personal commitment to the business, they either get away from it or they become a slave to it.  In either case, the odds of succession go down significantly.

You know you have to give your customers a compelling reason to buy your products and services over those of the competition.  You also have to give your family members a compelling reason for wanting to continue your business.  If you do not, they will choose other opportunities.

Now that may not be all bad.  In fact, you might be doing them a favor by making sure they do not become involved in the family business out of a sense of obligation or duty to Mom and/or Dad.  The real tragedy would be in having them choose other opportunities because the one you could present them was never marketed in a way that gave them some sense of relevant inspiration, credible information, honorable perspiration, and enjoyable recreation. 

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