Taking a look at COVID lockdowns and resulting business impact a year into the pandemic, a new survey of small businesses owners from marketing firm PostcardMania aimed to gauge how they have fared through the crisis so far. Overall takeaways demonstrate small business resiliency and optimism, while quantifying the realities of a year living with COVID-19.
Survey topics spanned a slew of issues, from pivots, revenue shortfalls and marketing to Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgiveness and work from home. The firm first surveyed business owners at the end of May and into June 2020, with the new research creating, where appropriate, comparison between how business owners felt and about coronavirus and handled its difficulties then and now.
Responses revealed several key insights about the “new normal” as it compares to a return to the “old normal.” Nearly 60 percent of respondents claimed they pivoted operations in some way in response to coronavirus, while a mere 3.24 percent of respondents had fully reverted back to the way things were pre-coronavirus. The majority (53.9 percent) will mostly or entirely maintain the changes they’ve made in the last year.
Marketing spend and impact
Most companies (61.37 percent) responded to COVID-19 by adjusting how much money they were willing to spend on marketing—46.37 percent spent less while 15 percent spent more. Respondents are split on how best to approach marketing at present.
About half (44.5 percent) have returned their marketing to normal or even increased their marketing expenditure, while slightly more (55.5 percent) are either marketing on a smaller scale or not marketing at all.
Only 51.21 percent of respondents applied for PPP loans. Of those that did, the overwhelming majority (84.44 percent) used PPP funds to cover payroll. Rent/mortgage (47.78 percent) and utilities (44.44 percent) were the second and third most-cited uses for PPP funds respectively.
As for revenue, 55.30 percent of respondents ended 2020 with revenues down more than 10 percent compared to 2019. When you factor in PPP, that number shrinks by 10.64 percent to 47.66 percent of respondents.
The research found that small business owners may not yet embrace work from home on a full-time basis. The majority (55.73 percent) say all staff have returned to the office while only 13.74 percent are now allowing staff to work from home permanently. A further 19.85 percent claim a mix of staff working from home and in the office.
The survey’s silver living? The number of businesses that projected they would end the year with the same number of staff in June 2020 and those that did end the year with the same number of staff are virtually identical, and, by and large, most small businesses (57.82 percent) rate their handling of the pandemic as good or great.
“This survey just shows what so many people already instinctively know and love about the small business community—they are scrappy, resilient and cut from a different cloth,” said Joy Gendusa, PostcardMania founder/CEO , in a news release. “This is why you can never count them out. The small business community may suffer setbacks, but we are going nowhere!”
This survey is the second from PostcardMania, a nationwide marketing company with 96,765 US small business clients. The latest data pool consisted of 254 small business owners, 66.15% of which reported employing between 2 and 499 employees. On average, respondents have been in business just shy of 17 years and cover a broad range of industries, from financial services to nonprofits, wholesalers, retailers, restaurants, dentists, and everything in between.