Small businesses had a strong 2013, with more than 60% reporting increased revenues over the previous year, according to survey data released this week by Constant Contact. Owners expect the upswing to continue, with 81% of those surveyed optimistic that revenues will continue to rise in 2014.
"It's encouraging to see that small businesses expect their revenue growth to extend into 2014," said Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact.
The gains come despite the fact that the majority of small businesses had to make concessions to the economy, like reducing operating costs. The continued revenue increases aren't likely to result in more employment opportunities either; only 27% of the small businesses surveyed said they plan to hire staff in the next 12 months. Goodman pointed out that the "conservative hiring approach" could be viewed as a positive, however, since just 8% of small businesses reported layoffs in the last 12 months.
Marketing is a top priority for small businesses, with those surveyed reporting that two employees spend 20 hours a week on marketing activities. The vast majority, 82%, use multi-channel marketing programs, combining platforms like e-mail, mobile and social media to reach customers. Small business owners say the benefits of a multi-level approach include more customer engagement, more new customers, more website traffic, increased event attendance, more revenue and more referrals, according to the survey. Challenges of the approach include worries that customers aren't using all the channels, plus the effort and time commitment of releasing information on several platforms.
The survey data was compiled from questions asked in March to 1,305 participants in the Constant Contact Small Biz Council, a research panel of U.S. small businesses and nonprofits recruited from the company's customer base. The survey is part of an ongoing series about the state of small businesses and the ways they connect with and grow their audiences.