Small Business Marketing Outlook for 2011 Is Looking Up

Small businesses are feeling optimistic about the economy— so much so that they’re increasing their 2011 marketing budgets. That’s the result of a new survey my company, GrowBiz Media, conducted with the help of Zoomerang, a leading provider of online survey and polling tools.

The Small Business Marketing Outlook for 2011 is Looking Up

The Small Business Marketing Practices Survey polled small business owners to find out about their marketing plans for next year. Entrepreneurs plan to increase their online and offline marketing budgets, with the biggest increases going towards e-mail, websites and social media marketing.

Alex Terry, Zoomerang’s General Manager, says the survey reflects business owners’ ability to adapt and use “different technologies to make the most effective and creative use of their budgets.” Social media, in particular, is in the spotlight: “This area of marketing is poised to see an incredible uptick in the next year,” Terry notes.

More than one-third of business owners responding to the survey already make social media part of their marketing mix. Of those who use social media tools, Facebook was the most popular, used by 80 percent. Next came LinkedIn (37 percent) and Twitter (27 percent).

Overall, 13 percent of business owners plan to increase their social media spending next year. Here’s where else they will be spending more:

  • Website                           + 17 percent
  • Direct mail                   + 15 percent
  • E-mail marketing   + 15 percent
  • Print ads                        + 10 percent
  • Online ads                    + 9 percent
  • SEO                                    + 4 percent

The bulk of small businesses’ spending increases is slated for their online marketing avenues. However, the one method most entrepreneurs say they rely on above all others is good old word-of-mouth. Eighty-six percent of business owners said word-of-mouth is important to their companies. Asked what specific kinds of word-of-mouth marketing matter to them, 70 percent cited in-person networking, 50 percent said customer referral rewards, and 34 mentioned cited social media.  Also significant: event marketing (21 percent) and public speaking (20 percent).

One fact that saddens, but doesn’t surprise me: Just 54 percent of businesses surveyed have a company website. I’m still amazed how many small business owners fail to take advantage of this crucial marketing tool. With word-of-mouth increasingly being spread online, entrepreneurs who rely on it will fall behind if they don’t have at least a basic business website.

Of those respondents who do have a business website, 80 percent use it to provide “general information,” 45 percent use it for customer service, and 30 percent use it for e-commerce. Just  13 percent blog on their site.

How does your business stack up against these numbers? What tools are you using—or planning to add to your arsenal in the coming year? Get more details from the Small Business Marketing Practices survey and see how you compare to similar companies at the Zoomerang website.

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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.