We can all agree that 2020 was a year like no other.
For many companies, it was a trial by fire. Some rose to the top and saw record-breaking profits. Others went under and never recovered.
What made some businesses in the same industry succeed while others failed?
And of those that survived and even thrived under unprecedented conditions, how are business owners faring today – in a “new normal” market?
Are they feeling confident about weathering new challenges and their future?
To find out the current state of marketing in this rocky “new normal” period, CallRail surveyed 600 small business owners in the United States in summer of 2021, obtaining a powerfully insightful look at how marketing agencies can fulfill new needs and goals of small businesses in a post-pandemic era.
- 80% of businesses say they’re back to fully working, with most citing a full recovery from the pandemic.
- 94% of small to medium-sized businesses are looking for marketing agencies to improve their post-COVID efforts.
- 96% are open to increasing their marketing budget and paying agencies more for their services.
CallRail’s data demonstrates a unique opportunity for marketing agencies and small businesses to partner with each other and plan long-term strategies designed to weather future challenges. Read the full report for a deeper look.
The Future Outlook of Marketing for Small Businesses
The business owners who participated in the CallRail survey all had less than 200 employees. 56% of the respondents revealed that COVID-19 had negatively impacted their business, while 11% saw growth and 33% felt no impact from the pandemic.
The future is looking brighter – 80% claim that their business has fully recovered from the pandemic, and 71% feel confident that their business is currently positioned for long-term growth and success.
What do most of these businesses have in common?
If you guessed a marketing strategy, you’re correct.
Only 3% of the businesses surveyed do not currently have a growth strategy in place. The other 97% have a strategy through the next six months at a minimum.
Respondents listed the following marketing strategies as part of their core approach:
- Social media marketing: 57%
- Official business website: 49%
- Email marketing: 43%
- Blog: 35%
- Newsletter: 32%
- Campaign-specific landing pages: 29%
- Reviews and testimonials: 28%
- Referral program: 26%
- Customer relationship management (CRM) technology: 20%
- Paid search or pay-per-click (PPC): 17%
- SEO or local search optimization: 15%
- No marketing at all (largely due to budget cuts, time constraints, and relying exclusively on word-of-mouth advertising): 6%
- Other: 1%
5 Ways a Strategic Partnership with a Marketing Agency Can Help Small Businesses Grow
Most businesses are finally trending in the right direction after more than a year of lockdowns, mask mandates, restrictions, and consumer hesitancy.
Consumer optimism has been steady, and there are welcome signs of discretionary spend recovery.
But, despite the positive outlook, the marketplace is still rocky and vulnerable. Nobody knows exactly what the future holds, especially with the continued risk of new case surges and more contagious variants on the rise.
Businesses aren’t out of the woods yet.
This is where marketing agencies have a unique opportunity to become a valuable strategic partner and help small businesses navigate these uncertain times and changes.
Here are five reasons a small business owner should consider partnering with a marketing agency:
1. Free Up Valuable Time & Resources for the Business
The CallRail survey revealed that the two greatest roadblocks for business owners to create a marketing plan were time and budget:
- 44% of respondents said they were too pressed for time, overwhelmed with running the business, and had no budget to hire anyone.
- 74% said they would rather spend their time on primary business responsibilities than on marketing.
Many entrepreneurs operate with a DIY mindset and try to juggle too many tasks on their own.
A marketing agency brings more experience to the table while also freeing up an owner’s invaluable time for other important tasks that may have fallen by the wayside.
2. Monitor Trends & Make Experience-Based Recommendations
COVID-19 took the market by storm. Most businesses didn’t know what to expect, and then they found themselves floundering to navigate the new market.
While a professional marketing agency would still face those same challenges, they have the added benefit of years, even decades of marketing experience to help them make strategic decisions.
81% of small business owners said that having a marketing strategy was critical to the success of their business during the COVID-19 pandemic. A strategy grounded in long-term experience can mean the difference between survival and demise.
If businesses aren’t focusing on smart marketing, they’re missing out on revenue.
3. Reduce Extra Payroll Costs While Gaining More Resources
67% of survey respondents said they wish they’d hired a marketing agency rather than hiring internally.
A common misconception is that hiring in-house is cheaper and solves an immediate need. But that isn’t usually factoring in the added costs for recruiting, onboarding, training, and then retaining the employee with extra expenses such as health insurance, retirement plan matches, vacation and sick days, payroll taxes, life insurance, disability coverage, tuition reimbursement, and more.
When it’s all said and done, hiring a new employee usually totals 1.25 to 1.4 times the base salary range, plus the time invested in training the new person and familiarizing them with the business.
And if the employee ends up leaving? There goes a huge investment.
Even if an outside marketing agency seems more expensive based on their hourly rate, it’s often a more cost-effective solution than hiring in-house, not to mention the added benefits of having an expert team on call with many additional resources and manpower available.
4. Modernize the Marketing Strategy
We live in a fast-paced market. New apps, trends, SEO updates, and best practices are constantly coming and going.
Are small business owners able to stay on top of it all and maintain efficient conversion rates?
A modern marketing strategy utilizes inbound marketing techniques, such as high-performing web content, in addition to the more traditional outbound marketing methods, such as commercials and PPC ads.
Today’s marketing strategies cover a broad range from keyword research, to graphic design, to omnichannel campaigns, to social media, to call volume, to email, and everything in between, all leading up to data measurement and analysis.
To be successful, the person in charge of the marketing efforts needs to be up to date with the most recent marketing techniques. What worked last year or even last month might not be effective today.
5. See Long-Term Results
71% of CallRail’s survey respondents felt that their business was currently positioned for long-term growth and success. But 25% did not feel fully confident about the future of their business. And 4% admitted that if their business continued on its current trajectory, it would eventually fail.
Building and maintaining a business requires a long-game strategy in addition to the flexibility needed to overcome short-term problems.
Marketing agencies bring the outside, objective expertise needed into a business strategy. They look at the big picture and study the market niche to see what competitors are doing and what direction the industry is trending in order to make informed decisions.
They also provide vital analytical data so small businesses can better understand and target their audience, see which marketing campaigns resonated, and strategize future campaigns based on past performances.
The Right Tools & Resources: Small Business Marketing with CallRail
As small businesses move forward into the recovering post-pandemic marketing landscape, many business owners are taking a closer look at their marketing strategies. 94% said they were highly or somewhat likely to hire a marketing agency or professional in the future.
In order for those partnerships to be successful, it’s important for agencies to understand what their clients need.
The greatest areas for improvement that small business owners identified after having a negative experience with a marketing agency include:
- Helping to improve customer service: 55%
- Vetting and recommending new technology to help the business grow: 51%
- Improving workflows between marketing and sales teams: 43%
- Helping to refine value proposition: 40%
- Enabling the business to better track leads: 38%
- Going above and beyond the scope of work to help a business better understand its customers: 29%
- Enabling the business to better manage leads: 29%
- Offering business improvement services, such as sales training or brand coaching, as add-ons: 25%
- Enabling the business to better communicate with leads: 9%
Agencies that are able to successfully identify and repair these pain points for their customers are well-positioned to become a critical asset that can help their small business partners with short-term survival in addition to long-term growth and success.
Most small business owners (96%) are willing to pay more for additional services.
Analytics play a critical role in successful partnerships between a business and marketing agency. Not only does the data drive personalized marketing strategies, but it’s also vital to show a client exactly how much ROI they’re gaining from the relationship.
CallRail offers a variety of tools for successfully tracking analytical data that is crucial for measuring ROI and strategizing campaigns:
- Call Tracking: Instantly know which ad, campaign, or keyword inspired a caller to contact your business. Call tracking software helps you measure the success of your marketing campaigns so you can learn which ones make your phones ring and which ones aren’t getting attention. Measure online activity such as social media posts, emails, PPC ads, etc. as well as offline marketing assets such as ads, mailers, billboards, brochures, and more.
- Lead Center: With so many channels for customers to use, it’s becoming harder for small businesses to keep up with leads rolling in from every direction. CallRail’s Lead Center simplifies the process. All of your incoming, active, and recent chats, emails, calls, and texts are filtered into a single inbox. Every time a customer reaches out, you’ll see a timeline of their interactions with your brand.
- Conversation Intelligence: Highly efficient AI-powered software analyzes your calls and provides recordings, transcriptions, and actionable insights so you can troubleshoot common website issues or other problems, compile frequently asked questions, improve your service, train staff, and be more efficient with your marketing budget.
- Form Tracking: Monitor your ad campaigns and illuminate your lead activity by tracking which ad or keywords resulted in a lead clicking “Submit” on a contact form. All touchpoints are saved into a seamless timeline. If, for example, a lead clicked on an ad, downloaded a report, submitted a form, and called your customer service line, Form Tracking will show you all of those actions.
While the future is still uncertain for many business owners, having the right tools, resources, and partners by your side drastically increases your chance for success.
Adding CallRail’s smart tools in addition to a marketing agency’s expertise is a powerful combination that will give small businesses priceless insights into marketing campaigns so they can make sure every dollar is being spent wisely.
But before you invest even a penny, give CallRail a try for free.
We’re all facing the “new normal” together. It’s a brand-new era and marketing frontier for businesses large and small.
Are you interested in the future of small business marketing in the pandemic’s wake? Read the full CallRail report to learn how other business owners have adapted and strategized
Know which marketing
makes your phone ring with CallRail.
The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor's own.