Small Biz Owners Increase Optimism

merchantcircle-mci-mar-2011.JPGSmall and local businesses have a higher level of economic optimism in Q1 2011 than Q1 2010, according to the Q1 2011 MerchantCircle Merchant Confidence Index (MCI) survey. The total Q1 2011 MCI score is 63.6, 5.1% higher than a year earlier.

Expectations for Sales Revenues Drive MCI Improvement

Looking at the individual factors comprising the MCI, the largest contributor to its growth is respondents’ expectations for sales revenue growth during the next three months, which increased year-over-year 4.8% to 17.6. The factor with the highest year-over-year growth rate is respondents’ rating of today’s economy compared to 12 months ago, which improved 11.8% to 15, making it the lowest-scoring of the four factors.

Almost 6 in 10 Small Biz Expect Rise in Sales Revenues

merchantcircle-expectations-mar-20111.JPGExamining some specific survey results, more than four in 10 (44%) small and local business owners 44% expect sales revenues to improve somewhat in the next three months. Another roughly 13% expect significant improvement, meaning a combined 57% of respondents anticipate some sort of rise in short-term sales revenues. With another 29% expecting sales revenues to roughly remain the same, only about 14% expect any kind of short-term decline.

Most Small Biz Expect Flat Headcount

merchant-circle-hiring-mar-2011.JPGA substantial 70% majority of small and local businesses expect their company’s headcount to remain relatively the same during the next three months. Twenty-one percent expect some level of increase, while 9% expect headcount to decline somewhat or significantly.

6 in 10 Anticipate Flat Mktg Expenditures

merchantcircle-expenditures-mar-2011.JPGAbout six in 10 (59%) small and local businesses anticipate their marketing expenditures to remain relatively the same during the next three months. Another 23% expect them to increase somewhat, while only 2% expect them to increase significantly.

On the negative side of small and local business marketing expenditures outlook, about 11% expect them to decline somewhat, and roughly 5% expect them to decline significantly.

7 in 10 Small Biz Use Facebook

merchantcircle-services-mar-2011.JPGWhen asked about their usage of a variety of online marketing tools and channels, 70% of respondents said they are currently using Facebook. This makes Facebook the most -used of any marketing tool covered by the survey, closely followed by Google (66%). LinkedIn comes in third with 58% currently using it.

Generally speaking, the lower the current usage rate of a tool, the higher its planned usage rate, suggesting small and local businesses are open to a wide variety of online marketing channels.

Formstack: Less than Half of Small Biz Have Sites

Less than half (45%) of small businesses have websites, according to data analyzed by online form builder Formstack. However, this figure, recorded by Discover Credit Cards in 2009, still represents roughly 36% growth from 33% in 2007.