smb-tech-trendsSmall business owners are optimistic that their 2013 revenues will outpace last year’s but it’s no easy feat. A survey of 917 small business owners conducted in May by Constant Contact found that 59 percent believe it is harder to run a business today than five years ago, with more than half (55 percent) citing the challenges of today’s economy. In spite of that, 72 percent expect their revenue this year will outperform 2012 revenue.

It’s not only the economy that makes running a  small business harder today than five years ago, other factors cited by participants in the Constant Contact “Small Business: Then and Now Survey” include keeping pace with technology at 49 percent and more direct competition at 40 percent.

Shop small trend makes a difference

Offsetting challenges facing small business owners these days is growing consumer enthusiasm to shop small. Among survey participants, over half (51 percent) think that being locally owned and operated is a major factor among their customers. That figure is up from 42 percent who thought being a small business was a major reason for customer support five years ago.Main Street

The volume of customers also has increased over the past five years for 55 percent of small businesses and 49 percent also report customers spend more money than they did; but it doesn’t necessarily mean greater profits. Customers have higher expectations than they did five years ago, said 63 percent. They also want more value (71 percent) and more discounts (52 percent).

Changing tools of the trade

It’s not only the changes in the economy that are impacting today’s small businesses. The use or greater use of online marketing tools is a big change in the way companies do business for 84 percent of respondents as is the use or increase in the use of automated business solutions for such operations as payroll and inventory by 27 percent.

Not surprising the use of social media has exploded over the last five years. Five years ago, 10 percent of small businesses used social media; today 87 percent do. Even email marketing is more widely used, though it was a major marketing tool five years back. The use of email marketing by small business has grown from 64 percent to nearly all – 98 percent.

Overall the survey found that top concerns have remained the same over the five years:

  • finding new customers: 75 percent today versus 78 percent five years ago
  • retaining existing customers: 58 percent today versus 49 percent five years ago
  • having enough time to do everything: 65 percent today versus 61 percent five years ago

Do you think it’s harder to run your small business today than five years ago? If so, how is it more challenging?