Study: Small businesses focus on growth

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Growing revenue and retaining customers are the top priorities of small businesses, and they are using a mix of marketing tools to achieve these goals, according to a survey released last month by marketing services company Interland.

The study, "Interland Spring 2005 Business Barometer," was based on an online survey of 1,032 small-business leaders in the U.S. About one-third of the respondents represented b-to-b businesses.

When asked to identify their top three marketing priorities for the year, 86% of b-to-b small businesses cited revenue growth as their top priority, followed by customer retention (72%) and expense reduction (40%).

Small businesses are using a mix of off- and online tools to achieve these goals. The top marketing tools used by b-to-b small businesses are community relations (56%), Web sites (51%) and media relations/PR (32%). Direct mail was cited as a critical marketing tool by 27% of the b-to-b companies in the sample, and e-mail marketing by 25%.

One of the interesting findings from the survey is the differences in how small businesses in general and b-to-b small businesses in particular use e-mail.

Seventy-two percent of the overall sample said they use e-mail to communicate with existing customers, compared with 87% of b-to-b companies.

While 56% of total small-business respondents said they use e-mail to communicate with partners and business associates, 71% of the b-to-b companies said they use e-mail for this purpose.

Overall, 61% of the b-to-b companies in the sample said e-mail was critical to their businesses, compared with only 45% of total respondents.

"B-to-b marketers really understand the effectiveness of e-mail to maintain constant communications with their customers," said Denise Grey, VP-marketing, sales and business development at Interland.

In a separate study also released last month by Visa USA and the National Federation of Independent Business and based on 350 small-business respondents, 61% of small-business leaders polled said they were optimistic about prospects for their business in the next three months.

"The future for small businesses is bright," said Dave Costa, VP-Visa Commercial Solutions at Visa USA. "Small businesses are a powerful force in the U.S. economy."

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