Small Businesses Connecting with Customers on Multiple Fronts

Small business owners who say their number one concern is attracting new customers seem to be making the right moves to address that concern--at least when it comes to using multiple channels to reach out to and connect with customers and prospects--according to Constant Contact's Spring 2011 Attitudes and Outlooks Survey.

The survey, which compiled data from 1,572 organizations (a majority of which employ less than 25 people), shows that 80% of respondents are most concerned about getting new people in the door, while 52% are worried about getting current customers to refer new business. That makes sense for growing businesses that need to keep customer counts moving upward in order to expand on the bottom line. Growing revenue is also particularly important to this group of survey responders, as nearly half of them say they do not have adequate cash flow to run their businesses effectively, and only a quarter have even tried to secure outside funding in the past year. That means the money has to come from new and repeat customers.

Thankfully, these small business owners are not standing by idly. They're using more channels then ever to drive repeat business and find new prospects. Nearly 75% of survey takers report using social media marketing and 80% of those folks have increased usage over the past year. The most popular social media platform by far is Facebook, with 95% usage and 82% effectiveness, followed by Twitter at 60% usage and 47% effectiveness, and LinkedIn at 58% usage and 47% effectiveness.

Interestingly, small business owners are finding video to be an effective means of connecting with customers and prospects. While only 45% of those using social media are also using video, three-quarters of those posting videos say they consider it to be an effective tactic.

Small businesses also realize that there is no "silver bullet" when it comes to marketing. While these businesses may be leaning on social media more, they're still using email marketing (91%), direct mail (68%), print advertising (77%), and events (53%) as avenues to build relationships with their customers.

It's nice to see that even small business with limited resources are not putting all their eggs in one basket when it comes to finding new customers and driving repeat business. Today's world of engagement marketing is about giving your customers multiple ways to connect with your business and letting them choose how they want to interact with your company. This doesn't mean you have to be on every social network or spam your customers with unrelenting email, but you do have to be open to new channels in order to help spur customer growth and repeat business.

One other positive nugget to come out of the Attitudes and Outlooks Survey: 82% of respondents believe their business' revenue will increase over the next 12 months, while 13% think it will remain flat. Only 5% think revenue will decrease in the next year. Let's hope the majority is correct in their assumption and it will be a good year for all of us.

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