Small Businesses More Confident About Long-Term Success: Report

A survey indicates that nearly one quarter of owners feel that their marketing materials do not reflect the quality of their products and services.

Small businesses have a positive long-term outlook and an eye on growth and investment, according to the results of the fourth annual FedEx Office "Signs of the Times" national small business survey released by FedEx Office, an operating company of FedEx Corp. The survey found that optimism is on the rise, with 63 percent of owners declaring confidence in their businesses' long-term success.

By comparison, slightly more than half (54 percent) of respondents in 2010 were confident in the long-term success of their business. With the rising confidence level, decision makers are considering greater investments in their business to support 2011 growth plans, including expanding product and service offerings (44 percent) and hiring additional full-time and part-time staff (26 percent). Marketing and advertising efforts also continue to be a major consideration for budget increases, with more small business owners considering investment in these areas than last year-55 percent versus 42 percent.

"Small businesses are a vital economic driver, and their outlook for 2011 is an indication that the health of this business segment is getting stronger," said Randy Scarborough, vice president of marketing for FedEx Office. "We are encouraged by the commitment that we're seeing among small business owners to assertively and strategically invest in their company's offerings and image in order to grow."

The 2011 survey also indicated that nearly one quarter (23 percent) of owners feel that their marketing materials do not reflect the quality of their products and services. Moreover, nearly half of respondents believe they do not spend the right amount on marketing and advertising materials, with 24 percent saying they spend too little because of budget cuts and 23 percent indicating they spend too much but cannot find a better deal due to lack of time or knowledge.

This latest Signs of the Times survey also analyzed changes in small businesses' use of traditional marketing tactics versus expanding online options. Fifty percent of respondents indicated that they have experimented with social media to market their business. In addition, 52 percent plan to improve their company's online presence, and 45 percent said they will utilize social media and networking Websites to grow their business. In contrast, 53 percent will utilize traditional marketing and advertising materials, and 35 percent will distribute their efforts equally between Web and printed channels.

Age emerged as one of the most differentiating characteristics in this evolving marketing trend. Not only were younger owners (ages 18-34) significantly more likely to consider a budget increase for marketing and advertising this year (72 percent compared with 55 percent of the overall sample), they also showed a stronger preference for Web-based marketing tools.

"While this evolution certainly reflects the growing importance of the Internet in our daily lives, it may come at a cost," said Scarborough. "In the past decade, businesses looking to reach their core customers flocked to the Internet to break free of the traditional marketing clutter. Yet today it seems that Web marketing may be just as overcrowded, and small businesses may struggle to find their voice. Creative and engaging printed materials can help small businesses better stand out from the crowd and highlight their primary capabilities."