Is Running A Small Business Tougher Than 5 Years Ago?

A survey conducted in the US by email marketing company Constant Contact suggests that 59% of small business owners believe it's harder to run a business today than it was five years ago. 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 and remains an important tool (64% used email marketing five years ago; 98% use it today), the big change has been the use of social media marketing with 87% of small businesses surveyed today using social media marketing versus 10% five years ago. Why? Because social media amplifies word of mouth referrals.

What’s Harder, What's Easier and What Hasn’t Changed?

Some concerns of small business owners have remained the same over the last five years. Compared to five years ago:

  • 75 percent said their top concern today is finding new customers (compared to 78 percent five years ago);
  • 65 percent said having enough time to do everything needed to run their business (61 percent in 2008); and
  • 58 percent said retaining existing customers (49 percent in 2008).

Of the 59% of survey respondents who said it’s harder to run a business today compared to five years ago, 55% said the economy has hit their business hard, 49% said it’s become harder to keep pace with technology and 40% said there’s more direct competition. Only 12% said it's easier to run a business today than it was five years ago. Of that group of small business owners, 89% cited online marketing tools as the reason it has become easier (and less expensive to market their business).


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