Over the past six months UK small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have grown on average by six per cent despite the broader UK economy struggling, according to the latest SMB Index from HP.
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HP's survey of 1,000 SMBs, with between 1 and 50 employees shows that, compared to that of the previous six months, growth for UK SMBs has slowed slightly but optimism is still strong, with SMBs expecting to grow by up to 13 per cent over the next year. Optimism in the economy is also strong, with 66 per cent of SMBs optimistic about the year ahead. SMBs in Financial Services have grown the most (13 per cent), followed by Manufacturing (10 per cent). SMBs in Retail (4 per cent) and Professional Services (1 per cent) have seen the least growth.
Nearly half of UK SMBs (48 per cent) are turning to social media to help grow their business and reach new audiences, with 56 per cent of sole traders recognising its value the most. However, although SMBs are finding social media beneficial for networking purposes (83 per cent), and as a mechanism for advertising (57 per cent), many SMBs are underestimating its true potential for business growth and lead generation.
Only 34 per cent of SMBs are using online business forums to share insights or as a tool to seek advice. Having identified 'expert advice' (65 per cent) as the number one influence on their own purchasing decisions, along with peer recommendations (42 per cent), it is surprising that very few SMBs recognise the importance of adding value to their own customers or prospective customers via online communities, which could positively effect lead generation and growth.
"The internet is an important tool for business growth, and it is savvy SMBs who understand its potential beyond e-commerce," explains Katie Ledger, professional branding expert. "Whether by responding to requests for advice in business forums, making recommendations or blogging or Tweeting great ideas, SMBs can build credibility and trust in their brand and gain potential customers. All it takes is a bit of time and effort."
"Since setting up my strategic marketing consultancy just over two years ago, I've built my entire business through networking. In that time I've generated over GBP500k in business through conversations that initiated on online community platforms," explains Bryony Thomas, Founder of Clear Thought Consulting. "Whether you're a sole trader, freelancer, a small business stretching a modest marketing budget, or a sales person in a larger SMBs, time spent on online communities can definitely be a profitable investment."
When asked how they are changing their relationship with technology, only 18 per cent of SMBs said that they were contemplating using tablet devices for business use. The main reason for not considering them was related to cost (55 per cent), as opposed to the lack of security features (6 per cent) which was the least considered factor in preventing the take-up of tablet devices in the workplace.
"Whether it is social media, collaborative working capabilities or the need for heightened processing power, we're constantly seeing how technology can transform the way businesses operate," explains Gavin Parrish, UK & Ireland Commercial Category manager at HP. "We want to help SMBs make the right decisions for the business and support them during the tough economic times."
To obtain a free copy of the HP SMB Index report, please visit: http://www.hp.com/uk/bablog. You can also follow us on Twitter at @HPBizAnswers or on LinkedIn at -
About the SMB Research
The following research was conducted by Vanson Bourne between December 2010 and January 2011. The 1,000 decision-makers were divided into four categories: sole traders; 2-10 employees; 10-25 employees; and 26-50 employees.
HP creates new possibilities for technology to have a meaningful impact on people, businesses, governments and society. The world's largest technology company, HP brings together a portfolio that spans printing, personal computing, software, services and IT infrastructure to solve customer problems. More information about HP (NYSE: HPQ) is available at http://www.hp.com.
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