If all entrepreneurs have one thing in common, it’s optimism — and at the end of last year, that trait was near an all-time high among U.S. small business owners.

ONTRAPORT’s State of Entrepreneurship survey results reflect the same: Of the nearly 1,000 respondents in various stages of business, nearly everyone expects their annual revenue to grow in 2018. However, even while optimism reigns outwardly, the survey reveals that a feeling of overwhelm clearly takes over internally.

No matter which stage of business they’re in, entrepreneurs expressed a struggle to manage all the different technologies needed to run their businesses and to understand how to attract and retain customers. These challenges unveil two major needs in the entrepreneurial community:

  • All-in-one platforms to manage marketing, sales and business functions efficiently
  • Marketing and automation education on essential functions such as lead generation, sales funnels and copywriting to reach a niche audience

“Once entrepreneurs overcome the challenges of having too many incompatible software tools and insufficient marketing knowledge, their opportunity for growth expands exponentially,” said ONTRAPORT Founder and CEO Landon Ray. “It’s clear that this needs to be the focus among software providers and educators who serve entrepreneurs.”

OVERCOMING TECHNOLOGY OVERWHELM

Entrepreneurs who’ve been in business for over two years have typically amassed multiple systems to run their email marketing, landing pages, CRM and payments — and with them, many headaches trying to manage it all.

When asked to describe their biggest challenge, “getting a bunch of different software to play nice with each other,” “incompatible software tools,” “constant changes in technology” and “keeping track of all my tools” were some of the responses of those in this stage of business.

“Just like I experienced with my previous startups, the need for streamlining all the software you need to market and run the business becomes very apparent, very fast,” said Landon. “All-in-one systems like ONTRAPORT will become increasingly necessary and popular as the entrepreneurial community grows in the coming years. There simply is no other way to effectively grow a business.”

While all-in-one systems for large enterprises have been around for decades, a growing need for systems that are designed for entrepreneurs is apparent. These systems must be intuitive enough for a small business owner without technical know-how to use — and quickly, as getting up and running and on the market fast is crucial in the startup environment.

Along with the need for having all their software in one place comes the need for having all their customer data in one place. Business owners at this stage may have a steady stream of leads and customers, but they have no way of seeing which marketing campaigns are most effective, how many leads are in the pipeline, or multiple other insights that would support decision-making and budget forecasting.

“Tracking from initial contact through purchase” and “really struggling how to tie everything together so I can have all of my data in one place” are just two examples of survey respondents who recognize this issue.

“Having insight into your customers and your business is mission-critical,” Landon said. “It not only supports your ability to grow your business, but it enables you to give your customers compelling, relevant experiences and deliver on your promises.”

OVERCOMING MARKETING MYSTERIES

Another all-encompassing survey result prevailed, regardless of the stage of the business: Entrepreneurs are seeking more education on how to market their businesses.

While learning how to generate leads and convert them into customers were the most common areas in which entrepreneurs were seeking education, the answers varied widely. Copywriting, marketing automation, funnels, lead nurturing, Facebook and Google advertising, video and webinars were among the open response answers. Several respondents even wrote “everything” and “all of it” as far as the areas in marketing they need to learn.

“Entrepreneurs are usually experts in whatever it is they’re selling — but often not in doing the actual selling,” Landon said. “It’s clear that education on marketing and automation strategies will go a long way in supporting entrepreneurs in realizing their vision.”

With that in mind, ONTRAPORT continues to expand ONTRAPORT Education, an online learning platform for entrepreneurs to develop their skills in marketing, leadership, operations and business software.

The growth in subscription-based video learning sites, like LinkedIn-owned Lynda.com and SkillShare, reiterate the growing desire for education, especially for self-sufficient yet motivated entrepreneurs veering into unknown territory.

A POSITIVE OUTLOOK

Entrepreneurs are not strangers to overcoming obstacles — it’s a natural part of starting and running any business. That’s where their unending optimism comes into play, pushing them to dismantle fears and remain steadfast in their goals.

The results of the ONTRAPORT survey reflect that positive outlook, despite the challenges of technology and marketing overwhelm that were expressed.

Check out the infographic below for details on entrepreneurs’ expectations for growth, where they spend their marketing dollars, and which software tools they invest in.

Business Types

The majority of entrepreneurs surveyed have a niche skill that they offer as a consultant or coach, whether it’s for professional services, such as graphic design or financial advising, or personal services, such as life coaching or fitness instruction.

Growth Expectations

EMAIL LIST SIZE

The majority of respondents’ current email list size is under 500, but only a quarter expect it to stay that way this year. In fact, the biggest jump in list size expectations comes in the 10,000-100,000 range; twice as many people expect their list to be within that range this year compared to last year.

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES

Half either have zero or one employee currently, but most expect to add a few this year.

AVERAGE EXPECTED NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES IN A YEAR

Areas of Spending

Among those who are investing in online advertising, Facebook is by far the most popular outlet.

OVERALL DOLLARS SPENT MONTHLY ON YOUR BUSINESS

Tools for Success

Among those who use marketing software, the majority of respondents use ONTRAPORT to manage their email marketing, automation, landing page and ecommerce functions. Of those who don’t use ONTRAPORT, Mailchimp was the most common email marketing tool. WordPress is the most commonly used for landing pages, and the spectrum of tools for ecommerce varied widely — reflecting the saturation of the market that contributes to the overwhelm of running a business online.

CURRENT TOOLS



About Angela Fornelli

Angela Fornelli is a writer and editor with over a decade of experience covering the healthcare, aviation, and technology industries. A Chicago native, she currently serves as ONTRAPORT's managing editor and has a Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Illinois.