Social Media Marketing, SEO Top Small-Business Investment Priorities

Sixty-seven percent of SMBs surveyed plan to create or improve their Web presence, including SEO and SEM, an increase of 7 percent from the prior year.

While opinions vary on the pace of the economic recovery, 55 percent of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) surveyed reported their business had either already recovered from the recession or expected to recover within the next six months. Those numbers are even more encouraging for businesses with 20 to 99 employees, as 62 percent reported recovery now or within six months, according to a recent Valpak survey conducted by Research Now, a market research firm.

Survey results indicated business is picking up on Main Street, and in response, businesses are thinking about what tactics to use to grow their sales-advertising, promotions, staffing and more. An overwhelming number of businesses said they planned to increase their business marketing/advertising activities to grow. When it comes to advertising, every dollar counts for SMBs, and budgets are limited with an average spend of around $17,000 annually.

According to survey results, 67 percent plan to create or improve their Web presence, including search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM), an increase of 7 percent from prior year. Additionally, 57 percent plan to use social media marketing (an increase of 7 percent from the prior year). Fifty-four percent plan to increase direct mail and email marketing, 45 percent plan to implement a customer-loyalty program and 36 percent plan to increase the use of deals, discounts and specials.

"What's particularly interesting is the way our clients are adopting a multimedia approach to marketing their businesses-combining the best of direct mail, online, deals, mobile and social to create custom, measurable campaigns that fit their business and their target consumers," said Michael Vivio, president of Valpak. "Business owners are savvier than ever, but they are busy and want help creating personalized programs that provide solutions to their individual business needs-and that's what we have been doing for more than 40 years."

In a recent survey by Schedulicity, a specialist in online appointment scheduling for small, appointment-dependent businesses, 91 percent indicated they expect their business to perform better than it did in 2011, while only 2 percent predict negative business results. Survey results also indicated small-business owners understand the importance of implementing cost-effective marketing tools to help achieve their business goals in 2012. Social media, SEO and email marketing were ranked equally important, notably over tools, such as direct mail, coupons/daily deals and traditional print advertising.

More than 47 percent expect much better results, and 44 percent rated their expectations as somewhat better than last year. For comparative purposes, participants were asked to assess their 2011 business results. Just more than half (51 percent) rated last year's business performance as better or much better than expected, while 34 percent reported earnings were on point with expectations and just 12 percent reported worse-than-expected business performance in 2011.