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.

How Are You Incorporating Design Into Your Biz In 2010?

If you could improve on the visual communications of your company today, what area of your business would you most like to see improvements in?

From what I’ve observed so far this year, many clients and prospects of mine are ‘hitting the ground running’. If this is a trend (and I hope it is) among the majority of both large and small businesses alike, individuals are beginning to realize now – more than ever, is the time to strengthen their brand in the eye of their customer base.

Many businesses out there are making strides with great success – but there’s always room for improvement. Maybe they streamlined their business practices by trimming some of the fat; Maybe they’ve taken an entirely new approach to their day-to-day operations. For those out there that are stuck on what could be done to make improvements this year, exploring the many ways visual communications can positively influence business is certainly worth some consideration.

Over the next few weeks, I’m conducting another poll which raises the question: If you could improve on the visual communications of your company today, what area of your business would you most like to see improvements in? I know there are many things I’d like to do this new year myself, so I’m wondering what others out there plan to do this year to improve on their visual communications (if anything at all). If the poll doesn’t urge you to contact a creative professional about how you can start making some improvements, then my hope is to at the very least make you pause for a moment and consider how incorporating design into your current strategy just might be that missing piece of the puzzle.

Thanks in advance for participating and I’ll look forward to sharing some findings in a future post. For some findings from other polls I’ve conducted, check out the ‘Design Polls’ part of my blog.

Recent Poll Results: Small Businesses and Graphic Design

Before proceeding with the premiere issue of the Scott Creative newsletter, I needed to know that my audience could see the value in it. I fully understand that graphic design questions and concerns probably aren’t at the top of the heap of business concerns that professionals are dealing with right now – but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be addressed at some point.

So, why not segue into solving a few of these problems with a friendly newsletter? The goal of this newsletter is to serve as an entry point into learning more about the role that graphic design plays in our professional lives and just how large of a role it plays in business.

Graphic design is a concern of small businesses [and] individuals who come from these businesses are interested in learning how it applies to their business.

If you participated in the poll that I posted earlier this month on my LinkedIn profile page, thank you for doing so: the information I gathered from it was extremely helpful in determining the sort of content that will end up in future newsletters. The poll asked a single question: “Are you interested in receiving an eNewsletter covering graphic design trends and design-related questions for your business?” Here are some of my findings from the poll results:

  • Three quarters of poll participants replied “yes”, they were interested in receiving the newsletter.
  • The age of poll participants varied widely. Three quarters of votes came from participants 25-54 years old. The oldest age group represented (55+) showed the most opposition to receiving the newsletter.
  • Nearly 70% of poll participants came from small businesses.

What other observations will I be taking away from this poll? It pointed out many things that I’ve spoken about with many people over the last year: that graphic design is a concern of small businesses, and that individuals who come from these businesses are interested in learning how it applies to their business.

If you own your own business or are coming from a small business, then this recent poll demonstrates the value this newsletter will have for you or your business. Of course I also hope that if/when you’re really interested in the influence graphic design can have on your business, you’ll get in touch with me. Also, if you’re interested in receiving this monthly newsletter, please let me know!