Women entrepreneurs faced a lot of challenges this year, but in spite of their concerns over the economy, health insurance and marketing matters, they’re overwhelmingly optimistic about their own companies’ prospects for the coming year. At least that’s what the 2014 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report states.
The report  was commissioned by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and Web.com (Disclosure: Web.com is a client of my company). Below is some of what the annual survey of more than 600 women business owners found. How does your attitude measure up?
First, the good news: A whopping 89 percent of women business owners are optimistic about their businesses’ prospects for 2014. What’s more, 92 percent are bullish on women entrepreneurs in general, predicting that more women will start their own businesses this year.
Now, the bad news: What’s keeping women business owners up at night? The economy leads the list, cited as a worry by 90 percent of respondents. Eighty percent are worried about business taxes, 71 percent about the cost and accessibility of health insurance, 61 percent about access to capital, and 51 percent about fuel and energy costs. All of these worries were cited by a larger percentage of entrepreneurs than in the prior survey in 2013.
The survey also asked about issues closer to home. When asked to list their concerns about their own business in the next six months, 90 percent say they are worried about gaining new customers, while 81 percent are concerned about retaining current customers.
How Are Women Business Owners Tackling These Challenges?
The majority are focusing on improving and investing in customer service (69 percent) and marketing (62 percent), while about half (48 percent) are enhancing their products or services. Just 26 percent plan to hire new employees.
Online marketing is a big focus this year, with more women entrepreneurs investing in mobile marketing, social media marketing and website/online marketing. But the focus on online marketing also points up a major weakness that could keep women business owners from success. Although 85 percent of respondents say social media is important for building customer relationships, just 67 percent actually use social media to market their companies and connect with customers.
That means nearly one-third are missing out on a major marketing tool. Social media is not only a significant source of potential new business, it’s also a way to create customer loyalty, provide customer service, tap into what your customers want and much, much more.
Even among women business owners who are using social media marketing, most aren’t doing all they can.
What Are Women Business Owners Doing Wrong?
They Lack Confidence to Get Started
Only 54 percent of women business owners say they’re confident in their ability to build a social media presence for their business.
If you don’t feel like you can handle social media yourself, enlist someone to do it for you or at least get you started. An employee who’s familiar with social media can help you or, if you don’t have someone you can trust, an organization like SCORE or the SBDC (Disclosure: Both are clients of my company) can help you learn the ropes and show you tools you can use to streamline the process.
They’re Not Posting Enough
Only one-fourth of women business owners post on social media at least once a day, while 23 percent admit they rarely post at all. The only thing worse than not being on social media at all is being on it, but not using it.
What do you think when you see a business Facebook page that hasn’t been updated for months or a Twitter account that’s never tweeted? I think those companies have gone out of business or can’t handle the amount of business they do have—and potential customers probably feel the same.
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