New survey from American Express finds SBOs are focused on differentiating themselves from their competition amidst continued decline of overall business outlook
MARKHAM, ON, July 15, 2013 /CNW/ - In today's highly competitive business climate, creating a recognizable and trusted brand is an important concern for many small business owners (SBOs). Increasingly, SBOs recognize the importance branding has on business success, and as such, are focusing on providing an overall brand experience to their customers. The quarterly American Express Small Business Monitor reveals that the vast majority (93%) of SBOs cite having a unique brand that differentiates them from the competition is more important now than ever.
It's evident that business owners have seemingly prioritized branding strategies with 71 per cent saying brand experience is the most important part of their business' overall brand. SBOs are also placing a high value on branding as the majority (51%) report branding is critical to attracting new business.
"Having a powerful brand is vital in today's economy, it can be the difference between a business that blends in with the crowd or stands out from the competition," says Athena Varmazis, Vice President and General Manager, Small Business Services, American Express Canada. "It's refreshing to see business owners placing an emphasis on branding since it's their platform to tell their business' story with current and future customers."
SBOs display a willingness to go digital but stay true to traditional approaches
With consumers increasingly embracing social media and leveraging social platforms when making purchase decisions, almost three quarters (73%) of SBOs report that they need to constantly monitor their brand's perception. As such, SBOs have welcomed digital elements into their branding with over half (52%) of business owners utilizing a company website to build their brand.
Yet many still rely heavily on traditional approaches stemming from internal communications. A full 60 per cent of business owners rely on the actions of their employees to communicate their brand to their customers and almost half (45%) of these report it being effective. Furthermore, 32% of small business owners leverage events to help increase brand awareness.
SBOs desire a strong brand presence, yet have room for improvement
The demand for a strong, prominent business identity is at an all-time high with 84% of business owners stating that branding is important to the overall success of their business. While SBOs feel an increased need to stand out from the competition, 55 per cent aren't refining their brand annually and may be missing the opportunity to assess the evolving trends to ensure their business stacks up in the market.
Thirty-six percent of SBOs admit that they are interested in expanding their brand but don't know where to start. Despite this, a substantial 86 per cent of SBOs still choose not to capitalize on the resources third party experts offer with over one quarter (29%) of SBOs rely on themselves in the development of their business' brand.
"It is surprising to see that the majority of SBOs aren't investing in the necessary third party resources to help them develop and refine their brand, yet they are willing to invest in other areas, such as accounting, legal or payroll," says Varmazis. "Branding plays a significant role in the overall success of their business and shouldn't be taken lightly by business owners."
Overall business outlook continues to decline for SBOs
Results reveal that Canadian SBOs are wary about the outlook of their business and are therefore making more reserved and thoughtful decisions when it comes to business growth. The index portion of the Monitor reveals a decline in SBOs' optimism levels year over year. Although over half (55%) of SBOs remain hopeful about their future financial position, this has decreased by 15 per cent since this time last year.
While 39 per cent of SBOs report their business' current financial position is improving, this number is down 21% from April 2012. Coupled with only one-fifth (22%) of SBOs willing to take above average or significant risks for their business in the next six months, also declining over the past year (April '12 38%), it is evident that SBOs are more reserved about the decisions effecting their businesses.
"Optimism levels have declined below what they were a year ago, leaving SBOs mindful and cautious when it comes to decisions affecting their business," says Varmazis. "Now, more than ever, business owners are mitigating risks and are carefully planning for the future."
About the American Express Small Business Monitor
From May 13 and May 30 Rogers Connect Market Research conducted an online survey on behalf of American Express Small Business Services with a sample of 529 Canadian small business owners each employing between 2 and 100 people. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 4.3%, 19 times out of 20. In order to ensure the results are representative of the entire population of small business owners in Canada, the data have been statistically weighted for small business by region according to Statistics Canada. Respondents were located across Canada and came from a variety of industries, including health, social services, education, tech, sales and skilled trades. Due to rounding, some results may add to over 100 per cent.
About American Express Small Business Services
American Express Small Business Services (SBS) is dedicated exclusively to the success of small business owners and their companies. SBS supports business owners with exceptional service. We offer tailored products and services that deliver purchasing power, flexibility, cash flow management and rewards to help customers run their business. Specifically, business owners can leverage an enhanced set of products, tools, services and savings, including charge and credit cards, robust online account management capabilities and savings on business services from an expanded line-up of partners. To obtain more information about SBS, visit www.amexforbusiness.ca or www.facebook.com/AmefforBusiness.
SOURCE American Express