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Small Business and the Presidential Election, the Economy, and Marketing

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US small business owners favor Governor Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama as the presidential candidate better equipped to lead the US in an economic recovery, according to the MerchantCircle Confidence Index, which polled local business owners about their confidence in the US economy, expected business revenues, and marketing activities.

Among the small business owners surveyed, more than one-half (51.9%) say Mitt Romney is better equipped to lead the US in an economic recovery, 28.4% say Barack Obama is better equipped to do so, and 18.7% say neither candidate is qualified to lead the US in an economic recovery.

"American small businesses are still struggling to recover from the recession," said Payam Zamani, CEO of Reply.com. "As a result, small business owners have turned to free social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter as marketing vehicles...[and] have slowed their investment in paid-marketing services such as daily deals, though there are still many opportunities for growth within certain segments of service offerings."

Below, additional findings from MerchantCircle.com, a division of Reply!


US Economy

Economic concerns are still weighing heavily on small businesses:

  • Nearly 60% say they believe the US economy was stronger four years ago than it is today.
  • Expectations for the future are mixed: 37% expect the economy to be healthier in one year from now, whereas 36% say it will be worse and 28% expect the economy to remain the same.
  • Roughly 23% plan to increase headcount in the next six months, 50% plan to maintain headcount, and 8% plan to reduce headcount, down from the 13% who planned to do so in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Social Platforms, Paid Services

Asked which free social media platforms they use to promote their businesses, 68.7% of small business owners cite Facebook, 49.2% cite Google+, and 32.8% cite Twitter.

Small businesses have been slow to adopt paid-marketing services: Only 6.6% are tapping into paid promotions via Facebook, and only 1.3% are doing so via Twitter.

Even so, among those not using social media ad services, 20.2% say it's very likely they'll explore such services over the next 3-6 months.

Daily Deals

Similarly, only 11.3% of small business owners have run a daily deal in the previous six months (that's the same percentage as in 4Q11).

Moreover, only 11.0% of small business owners say it's likely they'll run a daily deal in the next 3-6 months.

Online Review Sites

Roughly one-half (49.4%) of small business owners say they use online reviews sites to promote their business.

Among those 49.4%, Yelp is the most popular (36.6%), followed by Angie's List (20.0%):

Though some 46% of small business owners view online reviews as helpful to their business, only 9.1% are using paid online review services, and about 90% have no plans to start doing so.

Mobile

Mobile marketing is heating up in the small business community:

  • 8.3% now purchase mobile ads, and 14.6% plan to do so in the next 3-6 months.
  • 29.9% have a mobile website or an active mobile app, and 16.3% say they're very likely to explore building such a website or app for their business in the next 3-6 months.

About the data: This eighth Merchant Confidence Index survey was fielded online, September 17-30, 2012, among 4,434 local business owners in the US. Respondents were recruited via a random sample of MerchantCircle's member base of 1.4 million local business owners. Reply.com is not affiliated with any political party; the survey results do not represent the views of the company.


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