The biggest change in how small businesses go about their work this year as opposed to 5 years ago is through their use – or increased use – of online marketing tools,according to results from a survey sponsored by Constant Contact. Indeed, compared to 5 years ago, the adoption of various online marketing tools has soared: 98% of survey respondents now use email marketing (up from 64% saying they used them 5 years ago), while 87% use social media marketing (up from just 10% 5 years ago). And while finding new customers remains the chief concern for small businesses today, among those who are finding this task easier, a leading 53% say that’s due to more affordable online marketing tools.
It’s not all rosy for small businesses, though. 59% of respondents said that it’s harder to run a business today than it was 5 years ago, with the leading reasons being the economy affecting their business (55%), it being harder to keep pace with technology (49%), and more direct competitors (40%).
Local business owners may have a leg-up on the competition, though: 51% feel that being locally owned and operated is a major reason why their customers support their business today.
Despite their challenges – which include a belief that customers expect more from them today – small businesses are keeping an optimistic outlook. In 5 years, 55% see their business as thriving, with more customers and/or more employees. Another 26% see their business as holding steady, with only 8% taking the pessimistic view of the business potentially being closed.
About the Data: The Constant Contact-sponsored survey was administered in May of 2013 to 917 small business participants in the Constant Contact Small Biz Council – a research panel of US small businesses recruited from the Constant Contact customer base. The survey was fielded to those panel members who have been in a decision-making role in a small business for at least five years, and they were asked their opinions on how operating a small business today differs than five years ago. Results include responses from respondents across a range of business-to-business and business-to-consumer industries.