By Rieva Lesonsky

small business marketingAre small business owners finally feeling optimistic about the economy? I believe so, based on the results of a new survey conducted by online survey and polling tool provider Zoomerang for my company, GrowBiz Media.

We surveyed entrepreneurs about their marketing plans for 2011. Those polled for the Small Business Marketing Practices survey reported plans to spend more on marketing overall in 2011. In particular, they’ll focus on e-mail, websites and social media marketing.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of where small businesses are planning to spend their marketing budgets:

  • Website  + 17 percent
  • Direct mail  + 15 percent
  • Email marketing  + 15 percent
  • Social media  + 13 percent
  • Print ads  + 10 percent
  • Online ads  + 9 percent

As you can see, online marketing methods dominated their focus. But small businesses’ number-one marketing tool isn’t limited to online. When asked what marketing methods were important to their companies, 86 percent named word-of-mouth. Asked which specific types of word-of-mouth marketing were important to them, 70 percent named in-person networking; 50 percent said “customer referral rewards,” 34 percent named social media, 21 percent cited event marketing and 20 percent cited public speaking.

What about social media? Currently, slightly more than one-third of respondents use social media for their businesses–but Alex Terry, Zoomerang’s General Manager, predicts, “This area of marketing is poised to see an incredible uptick in the next year.” Among business owners who do use social media, Facebook was the dominant social media channel (used by 80 percent), followed by LinkedIn (37 percent) and Twitter (27 percent).

Now the bad news: Only a little more than half (54 percent) of businesses in our survey have business websites.  Since small businesses understand the value of word-of-mouth—and since word-of-mouth is increasingly being spread online—it’s pretty clear that every business needs a website. It’s OK if it’s basic (80 percent of entrepreneurs with a website say they use their site to provide “general information,” but you do need to have one.

Want to see more from the Small Business Marketing Practices survey and find out how your business compares to other small businesses? Check out the full report at the Zoomerang website.