Family-Owned Business Successful at Branding & Customer Relations for Years

Photo credit Meghan Smithe (Photo and logo courtesy of Walter E. Smithe Furniture & Design)

Meghan Smithe is director of marketing for Walter E. Smithe Furniture & Design, a Chicago-area family-owned business founded by her great-grandfather in 1945. Smithe has been helping out at the company for as long as she can remember. Today, her official role spans marketing and sales, but as in many small family-owned businesses, she steps in wherever there’s a need, so Smithe ends up having a hand in decisions that impact all facets of the business.

After college, Smithe spent 11 years working outside the family business in the advertising industry in Chicago. She held various account management roles at FCB and Leo Burnett before moving into a sales management role within Microsoft's advertising group. These experiences taught her process and management, and Smithe notes that she does not think she would have the same perspective had she come to work for her family's furniture and design company straight out of college.

Tapping into her experience and expertise working for advertising agencies and her insights from running a small business, Ms. Smith shares some tips to help small business owners succeed in their business marketing goals:

  1. Although a brand shouldn't rely on its history as the main selling point, it's something to leverage where applicable as a means of conveying trustworthiness.
  2. Decide what you want your brand's reputation to be and dedicate the necessary resources to make it happen.
  3. Consider the marketplace and your competitors. What point of difference does your brand offer? Establish the business you're in and stand for it. From there, it will become clear where the brand can reasonably go.
  4. Identifying your target, really understanding who they are and what makes them tick, and evolving with them is crucial for any brand. A brand should never stay stagnant with its messaging or communication strategies, which means that what worked last year may not be right for this year.
  5. In order to ensure that consumers connect with your brand, strive to be focused with your message and consistent with how you deliver it.


This article was written by Michelle M. Guilbeau for Small Business Pulse