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7/22/2010
02:19 PM
Michele Warren
Michele Warren
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Report: SMBs Hopeful, But Perplexed

Despite the economy, SMBs are optimistic about their businesses, according to a report released by the SMB Group this week. More than 50% of those surveyed forecast 10% more growth now than they did last year.

Despite the economy, SMBs are optimistic about their businesses, according to a report released by the SMB Group this week. More than 50% of those surveyed forecast 10% more growth now than they did last year.Small and midsize businesses also plan to ratchet up their investments in technology. The report, "2010 Small and Medium Businesses Routes to Market Study," says that SMBs have been pouring the most cash into online marketing, websites, and contact/customer management in the past 24 months. While those customer-facing areas will remain focal points, other technology categories are going to start stealing some of the limelight.

One up-and-comer will be business analytics, as SMBs across the board expressed frustration that they can't get "the business insights they need from existing data." Other technology areas that SMBs will be paying more attention to in the next year include infrastructure and collaboration.

While SMBs express optimism about the months ahead, they also face stumbling blocks, and chief among them is confusion over which technology solutions to implement and how. The confusion stems from three things: information overload, indistinct value propositions, and unclear return on investment.

To navigate the increasingly labyrinthine technology landscape, SMBs need reliable sources of information and advice. According to the report, the most popular ones right now are digital and social media. Among small-business respondents, 88% said they rely on search engines such as Google and Yahoo to stay apprised of technology trends and solutions that could benefit their companies. Sixty-one percent said they use LinkedIn or Twitter, and 68% mentioned blogs, while 59% cited Facebook as a valued information source. In the midsize-business arena, 78% said they rely on search engines; 63% said blogs; 61% cited Twitter; 52% cited Facebook; and 50% named LinkedIn.

And what about VARs as a trusted source of technological know-how? Don't worry; they still are. But midsize businesses are relying on solution providers more than small companies are, simply because the former have more complex needs and do more in-house vs. in the cloud, the report says. In fact, when it comes to evaluating technology solutions, VARs are the No. 1 or No. 2 source for midsize players in the areas of collaboration, accounting/ERP, websites, and infrastructure. Meanwhile, small businesses rely more on industry colleagues when assessing the potential value of new technology deployments.

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