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Among small businesses, marketing tactics such as email, websites, in-person interaction, and social media are viewed as most effective overall; however, among small B2B companies, nothing beats face-to-face interactions, according to a survey from Constant Contact.

Below, findings from Constant Contact's Spring 2012 Small Business Pulse Survey.

Asked which marketing activities they find to be effective for their organization, surveyed small business owners cite the following:

  • Email marketing: 83% 
  • Website marketing: 71%
  • In-person interactions: 68%
  • Social media marketing: 49%

Social media is less effective for small B2Bs than B2Cs (38% vs. 55%).

Among those tactics (above) viewed as effective overall, small business owners were also asked to cite the most effective marketing channel.

In-person interactions ranked high for all small businesses, but highest for B2Bs:

  • 59% of small B2Bs cite in-person interactions as their most effective tactic, followed by websites (20%) and email marketing (17%).
  • 40% of small B2Cs cite in-person interactions as their most effective tactic, followed by websites (33%) and email marketing (21%).

Top Social Marketing Tools

Among those businesses that cite social media among their most effective marketing tools, Facebook still rules the day, even for B2Bs:

  • Small B2Bs view Facebook as most effective (55%), followed by LinkedIn (25%) and Twitter (11%).
  • More small B2Cs view Facebook as most effective (83%) with Twitter (6%) and LinkedIn (3%) a distant second and third, respectively. 

Even so, 53% of small business owners cite social media as the marketing channel they need the most help with, the study found.

Business Growth in 2012

Most small businesses are off to a strong start in 2012:

  • 59% say revenues have increased over 2011 levels.
  • 30% say revenues have remained flat.
  • 11% say revenues have fallen.

Sleepless Over Finding New Customers

Despite some improvement in revenues, small businesses are still concerned about growth. Asked about what keeps them up at night:

  • 76% cite attracting new customers.
  • 49% cite connecting with, and better engaging with, existing customers.
  • 41% cite getting referrals from current customers.

Other key findings:

  • Budgets: Marketing spend is holding steady: 60% of small businesses report keeping their marketing budget the same as 2011, and only 29% have increased their spend. 
  • Rising costs remain a challenge: 45% of small businesses reporting their operating costs have increased. Moreover, fully 30% say inadequate cash flow is preventing them from growing their business.
  • Funding is hard to get: Among the 19% of small businesses that have sought funding this year, only 16% received some or all of the funding they needed. 
  • Still not hiring: 66% of small businesses are not planning to hire additional full-time employees in the next six months; nearly 20% say they need to hire more employees but cannot do so.

"While small business owners are reporting optimistic 2012 revenue projections, the fact that they aren’t hiring, and operating costs are rising, makes it clear it's a cautious optimism," said Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact. "For now, it appears small business owners are continuing to try to do more with less."

About the data: Findings are based on a survey of 1,000 small business owners in the Constant Contact Small Biz Council—a research panel of US small businesses and nonprofits recruited from the Constant Contact Customer database. The survey was conducted from April 24 to May 8, 2012.

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