According to Constant Contact’s “Small Businesses: Then and Now Survey”, 59% of small businesses believe it’s harder to run a business today than five years ago. That’s a sad, sad fact.
Running your own business used to be the American dream. It was your ticket to an independent lifestyle. A way out of the 9-5 madness. Or maybe that’s what we all hoped it would be.
The truth is, running your own business is tough, especially when you’ve grown large enough to have a couple of employees on the payroll. I’m a company of one. If I have a bad week, it’s not fun but at least I don’t have to consider laying off an employee.
When asked why things have taken a downturn:
- 55% said the economy has hit their business hard.
- 49% said it’s harder to keep pace with technology.
- 40% said there’s more direct competition.
Economic times are tough, no doubt. And competition! I don’t know how online niche stores compete with Amazon or how a local cafe competes with the fast food chain on the corner. But the answer that really intrigues me is the middle one. Nearly half of all respondents said it’s harder to keep pace with technology. Wow.
Let me take a moment to remind myself that I’m more technically savvy than most people my age.
For the family business that started out using a cigar box as a cash register switching to a touchscreen POS system and accepting digital payments can be a huge, terrifying change. Online biz owners may have a leg up on technology but now you have to think about mobile and cookies and shopping cart security.
And then there’s social media!
87% of small businesses use social media marketing now versus only 10% five years ago. That’s an incredible jump. 84% said that the use of online marketing was the biggest change they’ve faced in the last five year.
Look at that chart. Huge grown in all areas of online marketing but here’s the thing – even with all of these outlets, 35% said it was harder than ever to find new customers. Half say customers simply aren’t paying attention to marketing the way they used to. 45% blame it on increased competition.
Don’t count these small business folks out yet. Even though they’re not happy with where they are now, only 8% said they might have to close up shop in the next five years. 58% said they expect to be thriving by 2018. Many say that local support has been their saving grace. There’s a renewed interest in shopping small and close to home.
Others credit social media as a low-cost marketing tool.
“We’ve found that social media and email marketing has made it easier to run our business today, especially around the holidays,” said Mary Jennifer Russell, owner of Sugaree’s Bakery in New Albany, Mississippi, which has a storefront, as well as a growing online mail order and wholesale business. “We’ll post a special on Facebook or through email, and people start ordering immediately online, and also start coming into the store right away.”
This report comes from Constant Contact, an email marketing company, but I think that quote is genuine. Think about the time and money difference between an old-school coupon mailer and a coupon email blast to all of your current customers. Which one is more likely to bring people into your business right away when you’re having a bad week?
You can download the full report from Constant Contact right now. Click for the press release and drop to the bottom for the PDF link.