It’s been a long few years for small business owners, many of whom have struggled to survive the recent financial crisis, market upheavals and the current sluggish economy. During these difficult times, small business owners succeeded by cutting costs, reducing their labor force and streamlining their processes and overall business. But what are small business strategies for 2012?

Pepperdine University’s Private Capital Markets Project, in partnership with Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp., released its latest 2012 Economic Forecast report on January 17th that measures the outlook of small business owners. Among the questions asked was what strategies for growth most business owners will likely adopt in 2012.

According to the research, 44% of business owners plan to focus on increasing their revenues through sales of existing products or services while 33% plan to increase sales of new products and services. However, only 22% of business owners said they would cut expenses, suggesting that many business owners are already working at a minimum capacity.

So how can you, as a business owner, increase revenues either by selling existing products or services or by introducing a new product? Here are some strategies, you may want to consider:

  • Conduct market research: During tough economic times, consumers tend to change their spending habits, so it’s vital to see how they feel about your products or services. Learn what keeps your customers coming back and what areas of your business they would like to see improved. If you are a brick and mortar business such as a dry cleaner, offering your customers a discount if they participate in a brief survey is a simple way of generating customer feedback. By performing market research, you may discover new untapped markets you can enter, marketing channels that may be more effective, or new products or services your customers are seeking. Check out to find some tips on conducting market research.
  • Improve marketing collateral: When competition is fierce, it’s vital to set your business apart from competitors. Your marketing collateral should distinctively and accurately present your value proposition as well as reinforce your branding and messaging. If it doesn’t, you are likely to lose credibility or present an image that doesn’t reflect your business in the strongest manner possible. Take a look at this article to learn more about improving your marketing collateral and what mistakes to avoid.
  • Cross-sell products and services: Cross-selling products or services that complement each other can be a great way to add value to existing offerings as a way of increasing revenues. Cross-selling may also be an effective manner to introduce a new product to your existing customer base. Use your market research to find out which products or services can be sold together and consider bundling those services. However, be aware of pushing products or services that may not meet your customers’ needs as this could result in resentment and overall dissatisfaction with their purchasing experience. has some great tips on how to create (and avoid pitfalls) a successful cross-selling strategy.
  • Increase presence on social media sites: If you don’t already have a social media presence, now is a good time to create one. Setting up a Facebook page or Twitter account is free, and with a little time and focus you can start getting Facebook “friends” and Twitter followers at no charge. If you are willing to spend a little money, marketing costs on social media sites tend to be inexpensive and both targeted and trackable. For some great tips on how to market your business online using social media tools, check out our Small Business Saturday blog series where top experts provide useful tips to small business owners.

The four methods outlined above are just some strategies that can help you grow your revenue and prosper in 2012. Check back soon to learn more about the Private Capital Markets Project and its results!

[CC photo via  Leo Reynolds)