UK small businesses feel lackluster about the pace of an economic turnaround, though an increasing number are turning to Web 2.0 strategies as a remedy
A report by Amplify Research found the majority of small and midsize businesses in the UK expect the economic recession to last until the spring of 2010.
When asked, with the benefit of hindsight what SMB owners would do differently if they saw the recession looming again, the majority, 43 percent, said they would have put a much greater emphasis on sales and marketing; while nearly a third (31 percent) said they would have cut staff quicker and deeper.
Fifty-five percent of SMB owners say their business’ success is inextricably linked to the health of the wider economy. However, a quarter of the sample (26 percent) said they expect their businesses to be hit after the wider economy begins its recovery. Nearly half of the sample (45 percent) have already made some redundancies in the first half of the year: a third of respondents shed up to 10 percent of their work force and 12 percent let more than 10 percent of their staff go.
Despite respondents admitting they aren’t marketing their own services as well as they would like, 43 percent are now investing in improving their Websites, 57 percent are slashing costs to increase sales and more than a third (38 percent) are doing more sophisticated business development work including establishing new partnerships and joint ventures. “It is hugely reassuring to learn that more small firms are investing in improving their Websites. As the home market struggles to recover it is important that businesses appeal to international patronage,” said the Federation of Small Businesses’ spokesman Stephen Alambritis. “The global economy has meant the death of distance in commercial transactions and what better way to take advantage of this phenomenon than to invest in online collaboration.”
On social Mmedia, 29 percent of respondents are already seeing it as a good business-to-business networking tool (services such as LinkedIn and increasingly Twitter and Facebook). More than a quarter (26 percent) only saw social media as valuable for those selling consumer products directly to them. Nearly a fifth (19 percent) simply said that they did not know how to use it positively in their businesses and 17 percent went further to say that it was a “big waste of time for SMB owners.” Ten percent said they thought it was something led by “kids with too much time on their hands.”
David Holt, director of contact management at Amplify, said although many of SMB owners’ experiences in the downturn are unique, there are some common threads, and firms that have read the market well are thriving despite the economic gloom. “Success is also coming from getting closer to customers and seeking more feedback, more regularly on what they want. A small number of SMBs are capitalising on some of the major shifts that are happening in the way businesses and individuals buy even the most specialist goods and services,” he explained. “There is no doubt that some online collaboration and social media strategies integrated with corporate Websites and e-mail can really help keep SMBs in front of their prospects and keep the lifeline of new business flowing in through tougher economic times.”