Monday, May 10

Increasing Confidence: Three Surveys See Optimism

After months of economic uncertainty, most people have had enough. And while there is much more that needs to be done to grow out of the recession, the majority of companies are optimistic about sales in the near future. This is especially promising for advertising agencies and public relations firms with experience marketing to affluent and/or young consumers.

American CEOs Express Rising Optimism For Business.

According to the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO), more than two-thirds of U.S. respondents expect sales increases by more than 10 percent over the next 12 months. Not surprisingly, small companies are among the most optimistic. Construction remains the least optimistic in the United States.

"The YPO survey shows a continuing trend of improving results and rising CEO confidence in the United States and globally," said Dave Maney, co-founder and chairman of Headwaters MB and former YPO international board member. "CEOs are more bullish about the prospect for higher sales."

Financial Advisors And Retirement Planners See Improvement.

USA Tax & Insurance Services conducted a survey with its affiliates and found 52 percent of financial advisors and retirement planners are cautiously optimistic about the business climate outlook over the next 12-18 months. Thirty-three percent are highly optimistic.

Part of the optimism is related to increasing client activity in the financial services industry. Joseph R. Karsner IV, president of USA Tax, attributes the increased client activity to consumers who are seeking out financial services in this confusing economic climate. People want to move forward, but are unsure how.

Workers' Confidence Increases In Personal Employment.

The SFN Group Employee Confidence Index, which measures measures workers' confidence in their personal employment situation and optimism in the economic environment, increased in April. According to Roy Krause, president and CEO of SFN Group, Inc., the confidence index has reached its highest level since November 2007. Highlights include:

• 31 percent of U.S. workers believe the economy is getting stronger, up 7 percentage points from March.
• 60 percent of workers surveyed believe there are fewer jobs available, down 3 points from March.
• 68 percent of workers report increased confidence in the future of their current employers.
• 72 percent said that they are unlikely to lose their jobs in the next year, decreasing one point.

What These Collective Surveys Mean For Marketers And Everybody.

Almost every survey suggests sales are slowly increasing as companies have found a new core of confident consumers, which predominately consist of younger workers (ages 18-34) and those who already earn more than $75,000 (generally affluent consumers and/or management). Middle and low income and older workers are slightly more optimistic than they were, but considerably less optimistic than younger employees and top wage earners.

Trends in optimism will likely increase over the long term, provided the optimistic core (young and/or affluent) are not derailed by over regulation or increased taxes. As a result, marketers working for companies that target either of those consumer groups will continue to see gains, helping spur the economy to inch forward. Companies that rely on lower to middle income consumers or older consumers will grow at a much slower pace if they can demonstrate a competitive value proposition.

The real hold up on the economy is jobs. While most companies predict increased sales, relatively few are planning to increase employees until the full impact of health care, new employment costs, and increasing federal debt are clearly understood. In essence, the uptick is the economy seems to have more to do with companies settling into a smaller consumer base.

If there is good news for people in communication-related agencies and firms from this data, it seems likely that growth companies will eventually rely on outsourcing until they determine the feasibility of adding more employees. Expect companies with long-term vision to be among the strongest competitors. Many of those companies grew last year, disregarding recessionary pressures.

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