In what can be taken as a sign of optimism in a particularly gloomy economic climate, 70 percent of small businesses anticipate moderate to significant growth in 2009, according to the Small Business Attitudes & Outlook Survey conducted by e-mail marketing and online survey firm Constant Contact. The survey respondents’ optimistic outlook on growth was further highlighted by the fact that of those businesses that expect to grow moderately or significantly in 2009, 47 percent expect to hire additional employees.
Additionally, of the 15 percent of respondents that sought and secured additional financing in the past 12 months, 69 percent received funding from banks in what is perceived to be a historically tight lending market. In response, the survey found small businesses are cutting back, but are focusing predominantly on overall operating costs (49 percent) and travel and entertainment (37 percent) rather than headcount reductions.
According to survey results, more than 70 percent of small business respondents felt the biggest challenge in running their businesses was marketing effectively with limited resources. Respondents identified marketing (62 percent) and sales and new business development (50 percent) as the areas in which they need the most help. Twenty-nine percent of survey respondents indicated they have reduced their spending on marketing, but are taking advantage of less expensive online marketing methods including e-mail marketing. Seventy-four percent of surveyed businesses said they regularly conduct outbound communications; of which 97 percent use e-mail marketing and 68 percent use a Website.
Gail Goodman, CEO and chairman of Constant Contact, said the results of the survey reveal the optimism and perseverance that often marks small business owners, as well as their adaptability to difficult economic conditions.
“These companies show us all what it takes to succeed in any economic climate,” Goodman said. “We are grateful to our partners in the survey, which has given us an encouraging glimpse into the minds and attitudes of today’s small businesses.”
Survey results also suggested small businesses are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to online social media sites such as MySpace and Twitter. Although small businesses that have been in business for 10 or more years find it more difficult to keep up with new technologies (28 percent), newer companies (those who have been in business for one to five years) are more likely to use social media tools such as blogs, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Mature businesses are also more likely to rely on traditional marketing methods such as direct mail. Survey results indicated, however, that social media tools have begun to penetrate small business’ communications strategies; however, few small businesses use these tools regularly, though many indicate an interest in doing so.
Constant Contact conducted the survey in collaboration with the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), SCORE and the Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC), organizations dedicated to the success of small businesses. The survey was conducted through a targeted online distribution to U.S. small business owners. Results from more than 3,000 respondents were recorded and was conducted from April 30, 2009, through June 12, 2009.