Cloud Services, Mobile Marketing Top Priorities for SMBs in 2014

Mobile marketing is gaining traction, with 14 percent of SMBs surveyed saying adopting mobile marketing best practices is their top priority in 2014.

Small to midsize businesses (SMBs) see cloud and hosted services as key productivity and cost-savings drivers, with almost 88 percent of respondents saying they want to retire one or more legacy business technologies, and nearly 60 percent expect to save money by using cloud services in 2014, according to a survey by j2 Global.

Mobile marketing is gaining traction, with 14 percent of respondents saying that adopting mobile marketing best practices is their top priority in 2014, and 44 percent of those surveyed saying they will focus on tried-and-true practices when it comes to email marketing, with plans to leverage automation tools and run email campaigns to inspire sharing on social networks.

Only 11 percent cite spam filters or the new tabs in Gmail as concerns that will thwart their email marketing efforts.

More than a quarter (27 percent) of survey respondents will or would like to get rid of the office fax machine and invest in online faxing services in 2014, and 23 percent said they will or would like to retire the office landline and move toward mobile phones and virtual phone systems in the cloud.

Survey results also indicated small businesses are leveraging both the increasing ubiquity of social media and the visual nature of the Web to connect with customers and prospects.

Seventy percent of those surveyed have used or plan to use the Facebook mobile app for business development and marketing, while Twitter and YouTube are the second and third place mobile apps that SMBs have used or plan to adopt for business growth.

"The unrelenting trend toward the digital office continues for SMBs across every industry," Mike Pugh, vice president of marketing for j2 Global, said in a statement. "With the cost-savings and increased productivity entrepreneurs gain as they move more of their business functions to the cloud, we're not surprised this 2014 survey finds SMBs planning to further leverage social media, virtual phone services, email marketing, and online faxing. The overall message from the survey is that the cloud just makes smart business sense for the SMB."

Small-business owners are also looking to 2014 to improve the workplace environment, with 36 percent of respondents planning to offer a flexible work policy to attract and retain talent this year, and 27 percent said they will allow employees to dress casually at work.

When asked which government actions or policies will impact their business the most in 2014, 31 percent of survey responders cited the Affordable Care Act. Additional areas of focus include the tax policy (25 percent) and state and local business regulations (15 percent).