Small Businesses Predict Growth Despite Economy, Survey Says Credit: Dreamstime.com

In spite of concerns about the business climate in the U.S., small-business owners are optimistic about their own growth, a new survey says. And they intend to support that growth by staying the course with their marketing activities.

Infogroup, a marketing intelligence service, asked a national representative sample of small businesses with 100 or fewer employees what they thought about the current environment, their prospects for growth in the future, and the marketing techniques most important to powering their growth.

More than half (56 percent) of respondents said their growth was flat or had declined. Looking ahead, they remained skeptical about the overall business climate ; only 40 percent expect it to improve over the next 12 months. But surprisingly, they are more optimistic about their own business prospects. Sixty-one percent of respondents expect their sales and revenue to grow in the next 12 months, with 37 percent predicting growth of 5 percent or more.

That optimism about their personal prospects is reflected in marketing budgets for the next 12 months. While slightly more than half (57 percent) expect their marketing budgets to remain flat, nearly one-third (31 percent) expect to increase their budgets.

By a large margin, respondents ranked their website as the most important marketing technique, with 60 percent saying it is very or extremely important. Email marketing also made a strong showing, with half of small businesses listing it as very important or somewhat important.

In the realm of social media marketing , respondents said Facebook is the most important tool for small businesses, with 20 percent rating it as extremely or very important and 24 percent saying it's somewhat important. The importance of Twitter's 140-character bursts ranked much lower, with only 24 percent assigning it a somewhat or higher level of importance.

Small businesses also said that word-of-mouth and referrals are essential to getting their name out there and driving business.

Traditional print marketing and search advertising were rated as somewhat important by most of the businesses surveyed, but local coupon sites were less popular as a marketing technique, with only about 26 percent of survey respondents rating them as somewhat important or higher.

"It’s heartening that small businesses are feeling positive about their own growth and prospects," said Clare Hart, Infogroup's president and CEO.  "The survey shows that they are committed to using marketing to grow their business. At Infogroup, we have found that small businesses are leveraging technology to save time and to do more, faster."