Jeez, I feel so lucky and warm inside from all of your responses to the nine question survey I put out there a few weeks ago. I had 35 really rich, engaged, fabulous responses. I think my favorite thing about this is that I didn’t offer anything in return for the time you all spent filling out this survey. I’m not surprised that you are a generous bunch, actually – it’s just so lovely to have such a clear demonstration of said generosity. Thank you all.

I’ve decided that I am going to share the results of this survey – in a somewhat freeform discussion style – because so much of it was interesting and, I believe useful, for all of us to know about our fellow small business owners (at least the ones who filled out this survey.)

For reference, here are the questions from the survey:

1. What is your business type? (therapy practice, NLP Practitioner, non-profit, counseling, massage practice)

2. How long have you been in this business?

3. Are you the owner (or a partner-owner) in this business?

4. How satisfied are you with the number of clients you have right now?

5. How happy are you with the type of clients (including the kinds of issues they are bringing to you) you are seeing in your practice right now?

6. If you were to name one real struggle you are having in your practice right now, what would it be? (e.g. finding more clients, attracting the right kind of clients, marketing overall, juggling all of the tasks of business ownership…)

7. How do you feel about marketing your practice?

8. What marketing avenues have you tried in your business?

9. Where do you go to get more information when you need help with building your practice or other business needs? (mark all that apply)

And now, for the survey results from the small business & private practice marketing survey…

The Sample (From Counselors & Therapists to Plumbers & Video Production)

Since I tend to work with and attract counselors, therapists, alternative health practitioners, artists and creative-types, many of the responses were from people in those types of businesses. That said, I heard from people in the insurance industry, publishing, bookkeeping, real estate, floral artistry, chefs, plumbing, video production, natural health & wellness, organizing… see what I mean about how cool this survey turned out to be? Love it.

Almost 90% of respondents owned the business they are working in and many (40%) have been working in their businesses for more than 10 years. The bulk of the remaining responders (34%) have been in their business between 1-4 years.

State of Small Business Affairs

Most of the respondents wish for more clients, though just under 26% are happy with their current number of clients. 51% are unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with current client numbers. That is a frustrating place to be, I know. But the good news is, 71% are at least reasonably happy with and genuinely enjoy working with the type of clients they currently have (and over 31% are very happy) – that’s fabulous!

For those who want to grow their client list, there is good news…

For the Love of Marketing Your Small Business

They enjoy marketing more than I expected! What a fun discovery. This surprised me a little because I often hear about how much small business owners don’t tend to like marketing – especially business owners who build businesses based on their passions. This simply wasn’t the case for this sample. 69% “don’t mind” marketing and 20% actually “love it”! 25% consider marketing their small business a “necessary evil” and only 2 people said they “avoid it”. Overall, that’s more marketing-love than you ever hear about on the business wire.

So, if it isn’t that everyone hates marketing (like we often hear about), then what is getting in the way of marketing their businesses they way they want or think they should? Can you guess? I’ll give you a hint: they are the two things that get in the way of most things in small business. Yep: money & time. Actually, let’s turn “time” into “time + overwhelm”. People are just overwhelmed with all of the tasks of small business ownership, pure & simple. (I know how they feel at times. I’m guessing you do, too – no?)Then, even when they do dream up a great idea, pulling together the funds to try something they are not sure will work can be a little freaky… and, well, overwhelming.  Other feelings & words mentioned about marketing were “fear”, “fun”, “love networking”, “I’m an introvert”, “time consuming” and “eeeeeeek” – plus more. It’s a complex world, the marketing endeavor.

When they do decide to… endeavor in to marketing, how do they do it? What marketing techniques do they engage? 85% use networking groups (this might be because I tend to use networking groups and I’m guessing some of my lovely friends from those groups made up a good bunch of the respondents in this survey – thanks y’all!) Of the respondents, 74% have a website and 57% advertise in local publications. 51% of people give away free consultations (see, I told you this is a generous bunch!) Then we have, in order of popularity: phone book listing, referrals, speaking, newsletter, blog, publish articles. (Boy, there’s a lot I’d like to say here about missed opportunities! Watch for future blog posts…)

The Pain & Suffering of Small Business & Private Practice Business, Revealed

Everyone says small business is hard. They often say it can be very rewarding (here, here!) but that it is difficult to get to that place of peace that let’s the “rewarding” part arrive. I wanted to know why… What is the expressed pain of small business…? What compelling desire do small business owners carry in their solar plexis (or whatever chakra carries their desires) every day as they go about their work?

Here’s what I learned: It’s primarily the juggling of so many tasks (10 people actually used the word “juggling”). That was the most common answer. Second to this was “finding more clients” or “growing the business”.  Of course, then there are the issues of employees, the economy, branding, pricing decisions, travelthe need to wear a zillion hats (regardless of whether those hats are well-suited for you!) like bookkeeper, marketer, service provider, networker, writer, speaker, and customer service department.

Yep – a good amount of “pain” in the mix, to be sure. But that doesn’t surprise any of you, I know. You have your own business pain (and pleasure – of course, the pleasure!)

The Antidote to Pain is Connection (Which is also the Road to Pleasure, isn’t it?)

The cool thing is, almost 75% of respondent’s have friends and colleagues they can go to for problem resolution. Such goodness. This is my favorite way, too. A close second place for dealing with issues is networking groups (which, in my experience, becomes a place full of friends and colleagues over time.) Third place is the Internet – and again, I wonder if a good part of the issue resolution here happens through connection with other people in online forums, on blogs, in Twitter or on Facebook… or any multitude of people-gathering places. In order of popularity from there is Mentor, Books, Publications and finally… the phone book (poor phone book, used to get so much more play before the Internet.)

So, that pretty much sums up the findings of the survey. I’m not pretending that this is a representative sample of the small business population, of course. Still, it’s some good and useful stuff. Tell me – does it reflect your own experience? Does your experience differ? If so, how? What would you add to this survey? What do you believe just didn’t show up here in the right was? I’d genuinely love your thoughts, feedback and ideas – whether they agree or disagree with all of this.

Thanks M. Kelley archaeology for the survey guy image.