84% of small business owners believe unique branding is vital to their success, but only 14% will work with a third party to develop it

The demand for a strong, prominent business identity is at an all-time high with 84 per cent of small business owners (SBOs) stating that branding is important to the overall success of their business, according to the quarterly American Express Small Business Monitor survey.

The study of 529 Canadian SBOs found that the vast majority (93 per cent) of them cite having a unique brand that differentiates them from the competition as more important now than ever.

It's also evident that business owners have prioritised branding strategies with 71 per cent saying brand experience is the most important part of their business' overall brand and 51 per cent reporting that 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."

However, 55 per cent aren't refining their brand annually and are consequently missing the opportunity to assess the evolving trends and remain competitive.

The reason for this could stem from the 36 per cent of SBOs who admitted that they are interested in expanding their brand, but simply don't know where to start, while a full 86 per cent of SBOs still choose not to capitalise on the resources third party experts offer.

"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."

The American Express study also found that with consumers increasingly embracing social media and leveraging social platforms when making purchase decisions, almost three quarters (73per cent) of SBOs say that they need to constantly monitor their brand's perception.

The study took place between May 13 and May 30 and was conducted by Rogers Connect Market Research via an online survey on behalf of American Express Small Business Services.

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