Small business will make a big comeback in 2012, suggests a new survey.
Forty percent of small business owners said they feel "optimistic" or "very optimistic" about their business prospects for the new year, according to polling firm Zoomerang and media-services firm GrowBiz Media, which conducted the survey of more than 1,000 small businesses.
The optimism is despite the fact that 61 percent of small business owners said they faced economic hardship in 2011, and fully half said they failed to meet their business goals for the year. By far the biggest challenge for small business owners was customer growth, with 44 percent citing it. Next was budget constraints (32 percent).
The survey came on the heels of a successful Small Business Saturday, the nationwide effort to lure shoppers to mom-and-pop shops after the frenzy over deals offered on Black Friday by department stores and large chain stores. (Even President Barack Obama took part, taking his daughters to independent bookstore Kramer Books in Washington D.C.'s Dupont Circle neighborhood.)
More than 103 million Americans took part in Small Business Saturday, which was launched in 2010. The figure was a 15 percent increase over pre-Thanksgiving projections.
Other findings from the Zoomerang/GrowBiz study: Sixty percent of small businesses plan to focus investments and staffing in the business development sector, an attempt to recover from the economic hardships of the past. (Small businesses also said they planned to fill social media positions.) Just 19 percent plan to expand their businesses.
The survey also found there's a split among small businesses when it comes to using social media, perhaps not a surprise when 25 percent of small business owners say they don't feel confident with social media tools. Forty percent of small business owners plan to use Facebook, Twitter et al in 2012, while another 40 percent say they don't. Twenty percent weren't sure.
Rieva Lesonsky, the CEO and founder of GrowBiz Media, said small businesses see the value of social media but still don't understand how to use it effectively.
"In order for small businesses to remain competitive, it's vital for them to be present on the channels that their customers access most often," Lesonsky said.
The top three reasons listed for using social media: affordability, access to customers and word-of-mouth referrals.
Nearly half of small businesses (45 percent) said they planned to plow money into marketing and communications in 2012. A third (33 percent) said they would use advertising/marketing and social media to attract new customers.