It's harder to run a small business today than it was five years ago, according to most respondents in a new survey from Constant Contact, Inc. However, an overwhelming majority of small business owners have high hopes for 2013.

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Hundreds of owners admitted operations are a bigger struggle these days. The weak economy was offered as the number one reason, followed by keeping pace with technology.

"The ways that you connect to new customers, the ways you keep customers coming back, are dramatically different," said Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact.

Social media marketing and email marketing have exploded over recent years. They may be inexpensive approaches to adopt, but without proper training, small business owners can waste a lot of time getting to know the new tools.

Competition, which comes from multiple places, was another main factor cited by owners who say running a business is harder today.

"It definitely comes from the guy down the street, but it also comes from online comparison shopping," Goodman said, noting that small businesses can't afford to not be mobile and online.

More than 70 percent of respondents said customers expect more value, and 52 percent said customers expect more discounts, making it harder for them to turn a profit.

Despite their struggles today, small business owners expressed optimism for the future. More than 70 percent expect 2013 revenue to outperform last year. When asked where they see their business five years from now, 58 percent of respondents said 'thriving.'

"It takes courage to be a small business," Goodman said. "We're seeing that they're continuing to remain optimistic, even though the battle's been long."