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Recession Deflates Small Business Marketing Initiatives

The recession hasn’t only impacted bottom lines, it’s also dampened small businesses’ enthusiasm for creative marketing. That’s the finding of new research from the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Only 37 percent of small businesses recently surveyed say they are highly successful at coming up with new ideas to grow their business, compared to 47 percent last year.

Companies that do report finding new marketing techniques credit the Internet as a key component.

"Creative thinking and the determination to push the limits on innovation are the hallmark characteristics of entrepreneurs," said Tim Kelly, CEO of Network Solutions, which co-sponsored the research. "Having a strong presence on the Web gives business owners a great launch pad to showcase their innovative spirit and build brand awareness for the products and services they offer."

Web sites remain the main marketing priority for small businesses. Still, only 67 percent of small businesses have or are likely to have a web site in two years. Of those small businesses that use social media, 30 percent are likely to increase their investment in their website because of social media , the survey found, while 60 percent do not plan to change their website investment in the next year.

Social media usage by small business has shifted from lead generation to increased brand awareness according to the survey. While six months ago small businesses were focused on attracting leads with social media, they now look to social media simply to build awareness of their organization. They are also more likely to use social media to stay in touch with their current customers with 62 percent reporting now reporting doing so versus 46 percent six months ago.

"Small business owners who hit roadblocks on marketing and innovation should turn to social media," said Janet Wagner, director of the Center for Excellence in Service at the Smith School. "Tools such as Twitter and Facebook have made it faster, cheaper, and easier for even the smallest business to communicate with its customers and get ideas for new products and services. Technology-savvy small business owners who leverage the Internet will be in a strong position to compete going forward."

Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.