New data from CallRail reveals impact of pandemic on small businesses

ATLANTA -- July 20, 2021 -- CallRail, an Atlanta-based business communications and analytics platform, released new research outlining how COVID impacted small businesses. The study provides a retrospective view of how COVID changed the landscape for small businesses, how they responded, how their businesses are doing today, and the impact their marketing strategies had during the crisis. The study surveyed 600 US-based small business owners in the legal services, healthcare, automotive, real estate, home services, financial services, and advertising industries.

“The pandemic has changed business as we know it–and it's become more clear than ever that businesses that prioritize marketing are coming out on top,” said Mary Pat Donnellon, Chief Revenue Officer at CallRail. “Our data shows that small business owners are highly likely to continue investing in marketing, with many looking to hire agencies for additional services. Small businesses are an integral part of our economy, and we’re committed to helping them grow post-pandemic.”

Key findings from the report include:

The economy is bouncing back–and so are small businesses.

As vaccinations increase, American small businesses are slowly reopening their doors. 80% of SMBs reported their business has already recovered and 11% of small business owners reported that they were actually able to grow their business during the pandemic.

Marketing is key: marketing kept SMBs afloat during the pandemic.

Eighty-one percent(81%) of small business owners believe that their marketing strategy was critical to the success of their business during the pandemic. And, 71% would go so far as to say that it was critical to the very survival of their business. Small business owners who don’t have a marketing strategy in place were 325% more likely than average to say that they feel their business will eventually fail on its current trajectory. It’s no surprise, then, that 43% of business owners surveyed plan to invest more money into developing a marketing strategy over the next year than they currently do. SMB owners who confessed that they don’t do any marketing reported, on average, a 5% greater drop in annual revenue in 2020 than the overall study group.

SMB owners recognize marketing is critical to business success, but would rather spend time on other responsibilities.

Small business owners recognize the importance of a marketing strategy. In fact, 49% of small business owners say that they do all of their own marketing. Small business owners who do their own marketing report spending 20 hours per week, on average, handling those responsibilities. However, 74% of small business owners who do their own marketing admit that they would rather spend their time on primary business responsibilities. This demonstrates that business owners are spending their time on marketing because it’s critical, and unveils an opportunity for them to rely on marketing tools and agencies to offload this demand on their time.

SMBs who had marketing agencies fared better during the pandemic.

SMB owners who use a marketing agency were 82% more likely than average to say that they were able to grow their business during the pandemic. Only 11% of SMB owners currently employ a marketing agency, but a notable 45% of DIY marketers say it’s highly likely they’ll hire an agency in the future.

Social media continues to move the needle for SMBs.

Small business owners are utilizing social media to build affordable, DIY marketing programs. 57% of study participants said that their business uses social media marketing, and business owners whose companies thrived during the pandemic were 23% more likely than average to say that their business engages in social media marketing. 41% of small business owners who do their own marketing said that they didn’t hire an agency because social media allows them to handle it themselves.

The market opportunity for marketing agencies is large.

A whopping 96% of respondents say that they would be willing to pay an agency for additional services to improve their business outside of marketing -- such as customer service/sales training or brand coaching. This shows that, not only did SMBs who had marketing agencies fare better during the pandemic, but also there’s a huge demand for agency expertise for a broad spectrum of services.

Want to read the full research findings and analysis? Download our full report here.

About CallRail

Founded in 2011, CallRail is a business communications and analytics platform that helps businesses improve customer experience and marketing performance. Serving more than 180,000 businesses, CallRail’s platform fits into existing workflows, integrates with several major marketing and sales solutions including HubSpot, Facebook, Salesforce, and Google Ads and Analytics, and scales with each customer’s needs as they grow.

The Atlanta-based company is powered by a community of over 200 passionate and hardworking employees. CallRail has been featured on the Inc. 5000 fastest growing companies and Deloitte Tech Fast 500 lists for five consecutive years. The company also earned a spot on Inc. Magazine’s 2018 and 2019 Best Places to Work list, and the Forbes Best Startup Employers list in 2020. For more information or to view a demo of the platform, visit