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Helping Family Businesses Embrace Digital Marketing


Owner-managed businesses have formed the backbone of the Gulf economy for decades. To continue growing and diversifying in the current economic landscape, adapting some traditional business practises including marketing is essential.

For many family operations, leadership is often passed from generation to generation in a system that allows for stability. For these companies to continue to thrive both domestically and internationally marketing professionals must find ways to present the business case for new technologies and changing marketing strategies.

Family Businesses Are Indispensable to the Gulf Economy

The UAE, Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Arab world are seen as hubs for family-run businesses. In the UAE alone, these firms employ 80% of the nation's workforce and contribute to 60% of its GDP. Across the entire GCC region, family-owned businesses constitute 80% of non-oil and gas GDP and account for more than 90% of the private sector.

In the GCC, family-run businesses have provided crucial support to local economies and boosted employment rates. Some companies have been in existence for over 100 years. Historically, these family-run businesses have not shied away from entrepreneurialism. Most of them had small beginnings in one sector and developed their positioning over the years until they captured diverse markets and grew into powerful conglomerates.

This ability to adapt and diversify has been a key feature of many of the most powerful family-led businesses in the region. The aptitude for commercial innovation must now be channelled towards embracing the digital economic transformation taking place across the GCC.

Bringing Family Businesses On the Digital Journey

Family-run businesses create a sense of stability and continuity that can be their greatest strength. But to attract new customers and support business growth, it’s important to allow their leadership to understand the value of adapting marketing practises and internal processes so that they’re in alignment with the digital age.

As the family leaders continue to guide their companies, marketing professionals will play a vital role in understanding how these Gulf family businesses operate and what these firms need to do in order to grow both domestically and globally. External expertise that can provide insight on adapting to new markets and emerging technologies is one way to facilitate a shift in the traditional mindset.

Marketers must connect with the existing family businesses and work closely with them to modernise outdated marketing strategies. Here are some ways to achieve this:

Involve the next generation of family leadership. The younger generation is not only in line to take over but is also better positioned to take the business into a new era of digital marketing. Collaborating with the old crop and new guard is essential to building long-term strategies that’ll help the business operate at an optimal level.


Gain in-depth insight into the respective businesses. To implement a successful marketing strategy, marketers must have an intimate understanding of family-led businesses and their specific challenges. Insights into aspects like company culture, current processes, their effectiveness, and so on will be helpful to introducing more impactful action plans.


Reinforce everything with meaningful data. Data provides a way to quantify the impact of marketing strategies and what works best for different businesses. Supporting new tactics with meaningful data during discussions helps to show the business leaders how certain initiatives will improve their bottom line in both the short and long-term.


Create a digital transformation plan. There’s no point in applying superficial marketing strategies to a company that lacks the necessary infrastructure to support them. Working with management teams places marketers in a better position to develop a definite timeline for change, as well as key milestones along the way.

These strategies offer a solid starting point for leaders looking to keep family-run businesses up-to-date with the digital age. As technology continues to impact markets across the GCC, family businesses must successfully make the transition to avoid falling behind the competition. Marketing professionals who can bring the family businesses on the journey will play a key role in helping them adjust and excel as the business landscape changes.

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