Good thing the small business forecast is nothing like the weather. While it’s been pretty fog-locked since June (at least here in Southern California), many small businesses have a brighter outlook, according to a recent survey by j2 Global. Of the 2,500 business that participated in the survey, all were customers of eVoice®, eFax®, and/ or Campaigner®.

final_info_web_ress_02Midway through 2013, 88% of small business are optimistic about their future growth.

  • Contrasted against last year (76%) and the doomsday predictions that were floating around earlier in this year, including the effects of sequestration, payroll tax, and The Affordable Care Act, the new optimism is quite impressive.
  • That’s not to sweep the sequester, payroll tax hike, and the ACA under the rug, because they certainly did impact many small businesses; rather, it’s a testament to the strength and ingenuity of small businesses: they powered through the changes, forming new revenue streams and trimming fat.

Marketing is on the move.

  • Email marketing was rated as the preferred method of marketing, with SEO coming in second. Interestingly enough, social media took a hit: 33% of respondents listed it as their bottom two priorities. A survey by Custora can help explain this trend: Customer acquisition from email marketing has quadrupled in the past four years, and customer lifetime value is much greater than social media.
  • Marketing can be tricky for small businesses. Besides being quite time consuming to build an audience, social media tends to move at breakneck speed. Market research to determine what social channels your customers are using is necessary, otherwise you’ll spread your resources too thin trying to get content on each platform. Hence, many small business owners may choose to stick with the tried and true methods.

Small businesses embrace mobile technology, in fact, 53 percent see themselves working entirely from an iPad® or tablet  next year. 

  •  Cloud and mobile solutions are allowing more small businesses to work hard and play hard while traveling for work. More than one in three small business owners say they’re most productive while commuting to and from work. That is especially great to hear considering traffic is often inevitable during the rush hour home (we’re assuming it’s all being done hands-free, of while on public transportation, of course).
  • Even at home and away from the office, downtime is the new best work time. TV and music provide background noise that is great for responding to emails. Almost half of the female respondents said they are productive while relaxing at home. 

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Additionally, 63% are taking vacations, but 39% project that they’ll work while they lounge.

  • Optimism may be responsible for the projected increase in vacation time. That number will probably increase over the years as it become feasible to operate businesses with only a tablet.
  • While it’s important to disconnect and get some perspective, we also understand that your business is your passion and livelihood, so leaving it be, even for just a few days, can be hard. What you want to make sure you’re not doing is stressing out because you think something might go wrong. If you’re going to call it a vacation, leave those thoughts and tablets at home and enjoy it, even if you do end up doing a little work on the side.

It appears the dreary outlook at the beginning of the year is giving way to increased optimism among small business owners as the year progresses. Increased vacation time is a sure sign,  even if they are working during them.

How is your small business? Are you a part of this trend? Bucking it? Let us know in the comments!

[CC photos by Greg Lilly and  Zak Mensah]