Pandemic Punching Bags: SMBs Were Hit Hard Last Year, But They're Coming Back

Small businesses were pounded last year, but they’re starting to recover, judging by Growing Pains Key Findings, a study prepared by Kickstand Communications for CallRail. 

Of those polled, 56% say their business was hurt by COVID-19. And those firms suffered a “painful” average drop of 38% in revenue, compared to 2020. 

Most agree that their salvation was in marketing. For 81% of the survivors, their marketing strategy was key to their success of in 2020. And 71% say it was critical to their survival. 

Moreover, 77% plan to invest more time and energy into a marketing strategy over the next year. And 43% will put more money into it. 

Those that had a marketing strategy in place were 20% less likely to say they were negatively affected by the pandemic. But companies without such a strategy were 25% more likely to say they have not completely recovered.  



Of the entire sample surveyed, only 6% admit they do no marketing at all. Indeed, 50% of those unfortunates have no plans to develop a strategy, and 44% say they are just too pressed for time to focus on one.  

The same percentage admits they lack the budget and the staff to handle it. And 69% of the non-marketers were overwhelmed by trying to figure out the most effective avenues for marketing their business. 

Overall, 36% of those who engage in marketing have a strategy in place for the next three months, and 45% have had one for six months. And 16% of overachieving business owners have mapped out the next year or longer. 

What does all this marketing consist of? 

Of the respondents, 43% use email marketing to drive leads. The top channel, social media, is used by 57%. And 35% have a blog. 

In addition, 29% create campaign-specific landing pages and 28% gather reviews and testimonials. Another engage in SEO or local search optimization.  

Outside help is expensive, so 49% of those who engage in marketing do it on their own. In fact, 35% of the marketers admit they don’t have the budget to hire an agency, and 37% have not felt they could get an accurate picture of the ROI of hiring an outside shop. 

But they’re trying, and 45% say it’s highly likely they will hire an agency in the future, while 39% say it is somewhat likely. Only 16% refuse to consider it. A mere 7% who do their own marketing have had a negative experience with an outside agency. 

The SMBs who dumped their agency cite these problems: 

  • The agency was capable of providing additional assistance beyond lead generation — 48%
  • The agency was not a strategic business partner — 46% 
  • The program did not feel customized to their brand — 43%

Meanwhile, 65% agreed it would be less expensive to hire internally. And 36% have done so.  

But 67% of the SMBs that did hire internal wish they had hired an agency instead. And SMB owners who hired internally for marketing were 65% less likely than those who hired an agency to say they grew their business last year

On the positive side, for what it’s worth, 19% of small business owners who hire a an agency are likely to do email marketing. 

Kickstand Communications for CallRail surveyed 600 small business owners.


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