australian-SMEs-outlook
"53 per cent of small business owners are feeling confident about the year ahead.. this confidence driven by having a solid customer base, good profitability and a strong pipeline of new business."

Running a business can be challenging. Keeping customers happy, staying ahead of the competition and finding new customers can be tough.

View the Sensis Business Index September 2014 here.

The good news is confidence among small- and medium-sized businesses has bounced back strongly, according to the latest Sensis Business Index. Overall confidence levels rose 16 percentage points in the last quarter, although they are still below the post-election peak recorded in November 2013.

This confidence is driven by having a solid customer base, good profitability and a strong pipeline of new business. 

The SBI, based on the views of 1,000 small and medium businesses, revealed 53 per cent of small business owners are feeling confident about the year ahead, up from 47 per cent in June. This confidence is driven by having a solid customer base, good profitability and a strong pipeline of new business.

Small businesses are also expecting economic conditions to improve. The index found small businesses are anticipating an increase in sales, employment, wages, prices, profitability and capital expenditure.

Confidence in the finance and insurance sector, the wholesale trade, and health and community services sectors are all above average. The manufacturing sector continued its trend of having the lowest confidence levels. It has shown the lowest levels for a number of quarters, along with the transport and storage sector, where confidence is also well below average.

Encouragingly, only a quarter of business owners reported being worried about their prospects. The lack of work or sales was the most pressing problem, with a strong sense people aren’t spending and increasing concern about competition. The economic climate, bureaucracy and cash flow were among the other challenges we heard.

The question the report raises for small business owners is how to generate sales and beat the competition. There are a few straightforward things they can do to improve marketing and attract new business.

Firstly, make sure you know exactly who your customers are, what’s important to them, and where they search for information before they buy. While it is clear we are in the digital age, many customers use traditional print media and directories or a combination of print and digital to find what they’re looking for.

With more and more people searching and shopping online, it’s increasingly important your business can be easily found from whatever device people are using. This starts with having a website that works for you, with useful content, not too much clutter and easy ways to interact with your customers.

It’s also important to think about where you appear in online searches, otherwise known as search engine optimisation. Focusing on quality content on your website and online listings, including images and video is the best place to start. You can earn significant amounts of new business by making it onto the first page for searches for businesses in your area.

Finally, with more and more people using reviews, discounts and offers online before deciding to make a purchase, social media has become a crucial part of the marketing mix.

With the research showing growing confidence among small business and expectations of an improving economy, a few simple improvements to your marketing could really make the difference for your business.

John Allan is Chief Executive Officer of Sensis

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