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How Running a Small Business Has Changed [Infographic]

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Some 59% of decision-makers at small businesses say it's harder to run a business today than it was five years ago, and more than half cite the economy as a major challenge, according to a recent survey by Constant Contact.

However, though only 17% said the economy is better today than it was five years ago, 72% percent expect 2013 revenues to outperform 2012 revenues.

The Small Businesses: Then and Now Survey, which polled 917 decision-makers on how operating today differs from five years ago, also found that marketing, payroll, and the importance of being local have changed significantly for small businesses.

Below, key findings from the study.

The Biggest Changes

When asked what the biggest changes are in how they do business today versus how they did business five years ago... · 

  • 84% said using, or using more, online marketing tools.
  • 59% said general economic uncertainty.
  • 27% said using, or using more, automated business solutions (payroll, inventory, etc.).

Although email marketing has been an important tool over the last five years for the small businesses surveyed (64% used email marketing five years ago; 98% use it today), their use of social media marketing has exploded, with 87% of small businesses today using social media marketing versus 10% five years ago.

What's Harder and What's Easier?

Of the 59% of survey respondents who said it’s harder to run a business today than five years ago...

  • 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.

Only 12% said it's easier today to run a business than it was five years ago, and of that group of small businesses, 89% cited online marketing tools that make it easier and less expensive to market their business.

Local Matters

The survey also showed an uptick in the importance of the supporting local businesses with customers.

When asked whether they think being locally owned and operated is a major reason customers support their business today, 51% of respondents said yes, up from the 42% who thought so five years ago.

For more findings from the survey, check out the following infographic:

About the Research: The Small Businesses: Then and Now Survey was administered in May of 2013 to 917 small business participants in the Constant Contact Small Biz Council—a research panel of US small businesses and nonprofits recruited from the Constant Contact customer base.

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Ayaz Nanji is an independent digital strategist and a co-founder of ICW Content, a marketing agency specializing in content creation for brands and businesses. He is also a research writer for MarketingProfs. He has worked for Google/YouTube, the Travel Channel, AOL, and the New York Times.

LinkedIn: Ayaz Nanji

Twitter: @ayaznanji

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  • by Gracious store Wed Jun 19, 2013 via web

    Running small business now is much hard than ever before

  • by Pam Neely Fri Jun 21, 2013 via web

    Look at that jump for video hosting sites in marketing tools used! 6% to 38% - a 633% increase. And mobile took at 10x gain from five years ago.

    I so want to believe the increases in email marketing use, but this survey was done by an email marketing firm. I agree 110% that email is more important than ever (you own your email list; you don't own your Facebook page), but too many small business managers turn up their nose when I suggest an email program. They say their customers don't read email. The managers saying that are running everything from a law firm to a hip used clothing store... they think email is dead.

  • by joe Tue Jul 9, 2013 via web

    This is very interesting. Expert Circle created and inforgraphic similar to this. I enjoyed that one as well.

  • by Amber Wed Jul 24, 2013 via web

    These days, small businesses are adopting to social media and email marketing. They now understand how beneficial these mediums are. Just because you are a small firm does not mean you cannot compete with others.

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