Small Businesses Have Big Plans, But Might Be Falling Short

small business growthIs your small business considering expanding into global markets?

The 2013 Small Business Game Plan, a survey conducted in December by Alibaba, Vendio and Auctiva, polled small businesses about their outlook and plans for the coming year and found that despite economic challenges, small business owners are taking action to grow their businesses in 2013.

At the same time, a significant majority are missing out on some key opportunities that could make or break their businesses in the coming years.

Four out of five small businesses surveyed are online-only businesses, with 92 percent having five or fewer employees. Although these companies are feeling the pinch of economic uncertainty, citing cost-cutting and streamlining as their number one goal for 2013, they aren’t letting a cash crunch slow down their plans for growth.

The top five ways small businesses plan to grow are:

1.      Create a new ecommerce website (49 percent)

2.      Import new products (30 percent)

3.      Export to additional countries (23 percent)

4.      Build a mobile website (14 percent)

5.      Build a new location (10 percent)

Their top three most important tasks for 2013 are:

1.      Cost reductions, streamlining (78 percent)

2.      Expand product offerings in different customer segments (75 percent)

3.      Develop new products (71 percent)

Where are small businesses planning to export?

More than half (52 percent) say the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are high on their lists. The U.K. was cited by 29 percent of the respondents. That’s a smart choice, since exporting to countries with similar cultures and languages simplifies the process of international trade immensely.

Although it’s exciting to see so many small businesses looking to global opportunities, market expansion and new product development, 59 percent of companies in the survey say they have no plans to conduct business globally this year.

What’s holding them back?

  • 39 percent of businesses say they don’t know the overseas suppliers to use.
  • 39 percent don’t trust overseas suppliers.
  • 37 percent say they lack expertise to do business globally.

Many of the companies also believe they are too small to do business overseas. In reality, however, I’ve known one-person companies that managed to successfully leverage overseas sales — so size is no excuse.

The report notes that small businesses are using their time more efficiently by automating daily tasks and then using the time they save to market their businesses with word-of-mouth and social media being their most effective marketing tactics.

One area where these online businesses are still falling short, however, is mobile marketing. More than 80 percent admit they haven’t yet optimized their websites for m-commerce or mobile use. Lack of time and expertise, along with a belief that creating a mobile-ready site is too expensive, were the top reasons for not being mobile ready.

With U.S. customers increasingly turning to mobile devices for shopping and browsing, failing to provide a mobile ready site could put you behind the eight ball in terms of future sales. If you’re not going global and you’re not going mobile, you’re cutting off two major avenues of potential growth.

How are you planning to expand your business this year?

Global Photo via Shutterstock


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

4 Reactions
  1. I have to agree with you on mobile marketing – perhaps, it’s not only the perception that it’s a costly option that’s stopping businesses to invest in it; there’s also the question of conversion. Like, people use mobile to browse but when it comes to ordering/buying things online, they use other tools instead. To answer your question – it’s still a work-in-progress.

  2. Great solid info, Rieva. Thanks for sharing. I think mobile marketing will def become more important to small business overtime, if nothing else to increase exposure.