In our most recent National study, marketers indicate that they are starting to see signs of life in the economy and in their companies.

31% of market executives surveyed expect headcounts to increase in 2011, 43% think that the economy has hit bottom, and 44% expect to see their spending increase somewhat or significantly in 2011.

While these numbers aren’t overwhelmingly positive, they are a significant improvement from late-2009.

In the latter months of 2009, the same survey was presented to marketers – and the results were far less optimistic.

At that time, only 14% expected to see headcount increase in the coming year. 35% believed the economy had hit bottom.

And most dramatic of all the comparative statistics, only 16% believed that they would see increases in spending in 2010. That compares with 44% of marketers expecting increases in 2011.

In our view, this is good news. Things aren’t completely turned around but they are getting better. At RSW/US we are seeing more meeting opportunities surface for our clients, more clients closing business, and more of our client’s clients starting to increase spend.

What this all means for agencies is that they need to walk a fine line as they move throughout this coming year. While they clearly need to dial up their prospecting in anticipation increasing marketing activity – which 77% of agency principals in this survey say they plan on doing in 2011 – agencies certainly don’t want to get too far ahead of themselves by bringing on too much staff to support their efforts or their expected gains.