In 2011, Small Business Owners Still Rely on Print

In Spring 2011, over 500 small business owners lent their insight to the FedEx Office Fourth Annual Signs of the Times small business survey. Besides gauging the optimism of these small business owners, the findings support the notion many businesses – particularly those owned by individuals age 18-35 – continue to rely largely on print as a means of marketing and advertising to their customers and prospects. Here are some key findings from the survey:

More than half of small business owners (53%) are turning towards more traditional channels like newsletters and direct mail.

While many small business owners continue to turn to social media sites such as Facebook to engage with existing and potential customers online, more than half of small business owners (53%) are turning towards more traditional channels like newsletters and direct mail. This reliance on more traditional communications channels shows a significant increase from 2010 (44%). Plans to create/improve a company’s online presence (website, banner advertising, SEO) and plans to utilize social media and networking sites (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) have also shown a considerable increase.

Younger owners (ages 18-35) are more likely to use traditional marketing/advertising channels.

Additional findings confirm that many forms of traditional printed media continue to be a popular choice for many small businesses. Business cards, yellow pages ads and brochures remain highly used print advertising/marketing tools. Interestingly, younger business owners (ages 18-35) are shown to be the highest users of these more traditional marketing/advertising channels. Lesser used marketing/advertising tools that made the list include Newspaper ads, Out-of-store signs/banners/posters and coupons.

Over one-third (35%) of respondents plan to split their resources evenly between online marketing and print advertising.

The way in which these small business plan to distribute their resources for marketing and advertising makes a great case for print as a communications medium that isn’t going away anytime soon. While less than a third (29%) of respondents plan to focus their resources almost solely on traditional forms of advertising and marketing, over a third (35%) of respondents plan to split their resources evenly between online marketing and print advertising. The remainder of respondents (36%) plan to focus their resources primarily online. Four in 10 (42%) of small businesses say that their web-based marketing and advertising is supplemented by print material.

91% of small business owners believe that the quality of a company’s marketing/advertising materials reflects the quality of a company’s products and services.

Other interesting findings can be seen in the correlation between small business owners’ belief that the quality of a company’s marketing/adverting materials and the quality of its products and services. While a staggering majority of the respondents (91%) believe that the quality of a company’s marketing/advertising materials reflects the quality of its products and services, nearly one-quarter (23%) say that their own marketing/advertising materials do not reflect the quality of their products and services.

Surprisingly, nearly 40% of these small business owners stated that they are not concerned about the quality of their marketing/advertising materials. This number raises a lot of questions: Have these business owners evaluated the potency of these materials and have deemed effective? Do they simply see the need to have something in print and are just satisfied with them as is? Or, do they simply not care about the effectiveness of these materials? Unfortunately, the study doesn’t shed any light on the possible reasons.

Findings show that younger small business owners put even more emphasis on the connection between marketing materials and the perceived quality of products and services. 71% of these younger business owners indicate that these materials offer a strong reflection of quality, and 80% of them have concerns with the quality of their own materials.

Read or download the Fourth Annual Signs of the Times Report here.

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