As the business world continues to rebound from the COVID pandemic, small business owners are demonstrating shifts in focus that helped them survive these last few years. According to small business owners, sales remains a major challenge, but marketing has taken precedence in the past two years.
Results of a recent BizSugar survey shine a light on how small businesses’ priorities have changed in the past two years. In the 2021-2022 Small Business Challenges survey, small business owners demonstrate a greater need for sales, focus on marketing and strategies for business disruptions compared to a similar 2019 survey.
Impact of the Pandemic on Small Businesses
In the survey, conducted between October 2021 and February 2022, more than 1,300 respondents answered questions about the challenges facing their small businesses. These answers were compared to a similar survey also conducted on the Zoho platform between October and December 2019. The differences provide a chilling look at the ways the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact small businesses.
“The survey results were telling a pandemic story,” small business marketing expert Ivana Taylor, who evaluated the survey results, says. “They talked about working remotely in the challenges. The survey caught the nuances that small business owners were dealing with in the pandemic.”
While sales and marketing remain respondents’ greatest challenge in the new survey, greater concern was expressed over marketing concerns than in 2019. 43% of 2021-2022 respondents say marketing is their biggest challenge area, compared to 30% in 2019.
Meanwhile, the number who say that sales is their greatest challenge decreased from 42% in 2019 to 32% in 2021-2022. According to Taylor, this indicates a shift in priorities among small business owners, who had previously placed all their focus on selling as much as possible. Marketing and the technology used to support marketing strategies had been placed on the backburner while brands focused on their customers.
Then, brick and mortar businesses around the world were forced to shut their doors and much of commerce nearly came to a grinding halt in early 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic gave small business owners the chance to reevaluate their challenges and, lacking customers, focus their time on new efforts.
“The shift from a sales to a marketing focus represents the mad dash of attracting customers during the pandemic,” Taylor explains.
43% of Small Business Owners Say Marketing is Their Biggest Challenge Post-Pandemic
Suddenly working remotely, small business owners found themselves in need of the technology they had been ignoring. In fact, while 40% of respondents said marketing was the area of their business needing the most attention in 2019, that number dropped to 30% in 2021-2022. At the same time, more respondents expressed a need to focus on customer service following the pandemic.
The BizSugar survey also demonstrates how small business owners survived the pandemic by shifting spending priorities. When asked what they would do with $10,000 in surplus cash, respondents were most likely to spend the windfall on marketing efforts, on their websites or by investing the funds.
“The pandemic taught them that they needed to have access to liquid cash — if they had 10K — yes marketing and sales investments were top – but so was investing and diversifying risk,” Taylor says. “Small businesses recognize that they have to protect their money via investments in cryptocurrency, diversification and investment in technology.”
When asked what they liked least about running a business, survey participants express their disdain for marketing, implementing processes and management tasks. These answers indicate the focus of small business owners continues to be their products, services and customers.
“Small businesses never really liked sales and marketing – but the pandemic made them hate sales and marketing — they like doing the things they do in their business, they like interacting with customers — they don’t like the mechanics of running a business — it’s a totally different skill set — and they resented having to focus so much on the administrative side of running a business,” Taylor explains.
The BizSugar survey also reveals not only has hiring among the small business community rebounded in the wake of Covid-19, but it also has increased from pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, 40% of survey respondents defined themselves as solopreneurs. By 2021, that number was cut in half.
Almost twice as many respondents say they would hire assistance to undertake a major initiative. According to Taylor, this change is the result of small business owners treading in uncharted waters. They had to hire and get help to successfully transition their businesses and survive the pandemic.
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