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Small business owners are planning to engage customers in new ways in 2010, according to an Ad-ology Research study: 28% say they will spend at least the same or more on online video, an increase of 75% over last year's plans; 25% say they will commit more resources to social media; and 21% say the same for mobile advertising.

Below, additional findings from Ad-ology's Small Business Marketing Forecast.

Business Outlook Improving

Well over half of small business owners (57%) say sales in 2009 were equal to or higher than sales in 2008, down from 60% who said the same last year. Looking ahead to 2010, 86% expect sales to be equal to or higher than 2009 figures, up from 83% last year.

Concerns about the economy have eased since last year: 22% say they are fearful about the economy, compared with 25% last year; 48% say they are concerned about the economy, compared with 58% last year; 17% say they are "cautiously optimistic."

Online Marketing

Nearly one-half of small businesses (46%) say they do not have an active company website. Of those with active sites, the primary functions are to inform customers about products/services, provide general information, and offer special promotions.

Email marketing and company websites remain the most popular online marketing methods for small business owners.

In 2010, many small businesses plan to spend the same or more on the following online activities:

  • 57% on email programs to current clients.
  • 57% developing a company website.
  • 55% on email programs to potential clients.


Plans for some newer online marketing methods show a notable increase over last year: 28% say they will spend more or about the same time or money on online video in 2010, an increase of 12 percentage points from last year, and 21% say the same for mobile advertising, up 10 points from the previous year.

Social Networking

Overall interest in using social media in 2010 is nearly the same as in 2009, as 58% agree that social media is a good way to both increase business and know what people are saying about a business. Some 46% say they wish they knew more about social media, and 27% think only young people use social media.

Small business leaders say Facebook and LinkedIn are more effective than other sites. Among those who say social media is "very or somewhat beneficial" to business:

  • 33% say Facebook is more effective than others.
  • 21% say LinkedIn is.
  • 19% say Twitter.
  • 17% say MySpace.
  • 15% say YouTube.

Among small business owners who use social networking, the top benefits cited include generating leads (50%), keeping up with the industry (45%), and monitoring online conversations (44%).


 
Asked about obstacles to using social media, 31% say their customers do not use social media and 29% say they do not have the time for it.


Looking for real data that can help you match social media tools and tactics to your marketing goals? The State of Social Media Marketing, an original research report from MarketingProfs, gives you the inside scoop on how more than 4,000 marketing pros are using social media to create winning campaigns, measure ROI, and reach audiences in new and exciting ways.


Advertising

Among small businesses, 36% say they spent at least $1,000 on advertising in the previous 12 months. Of those who did not spend that much, 44% cited lack of money and 43% cited the overall high cost of advertising.

Consistent with last year, ad rates have the biggest effect on what type media is bought (48%), followed by the ability to reach where the best prospects are located (39%) and "what we've always done" with 36%. "Ease of buying" ranked higher this year, up five percentage points, or 25% higher than last year, indicating marketers' continued frustrations with the ad-buying process.

Looking forward to 2010, 29% of marketers plan to spend more on advertising, up from 26% last year. Some 60% plan to spend about the same as in 2009, and only 10% plan to spend less than in 2009, compared with 15% who planned on spending less in 2009 than in 2008.

By media type, 27% of small business owners plan to target increased resources to local online advertising in 2010, while 20% plan to use more direct mail. Another 10% say they plan to allocate more resources to local newspaper advertising.

About the data: The Small Business Marketing Forecast study was conducted in November 2009 by Ad-ology Research and analyzes the attitudes and marketing plans of 1,100 owners of US businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

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