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The 2021 State of Small Business Marketing Report 

A comprehensive study of small businesses on what marketing strategies are working right now to get more leads...

Hello there!

If you’re a small business owner, service provider, marketer, or entrepreneur, you’re probably wondering what this report is all about.

Let’s set the stage…

Over the past 5 years, our company has conducted thousands of interviews, conversations and surveys polling over 3,100 business owners. This groundbreaking study uncovered some troubling data.

In the past 5 years much has changed in the small business landscape. And even more has changed over the last 12 months with the worldwide pandemic and following economic crisis.

But through all of that, one constant has remained. Covid-19 hasn’t changed the fact that cashflow is still king for small business.

There’s a lot to unpack in this report in order to help you understand the data and make good decisions moving forward.

At the risk of sounding alarmist, let’s start by looking at the consistency of the importance of cashflow in most small businesses...

Our study found that 88% of business owners struggle to maintain consistent cashflow.  

Only 12% said that they do not have cash flow problems. 

Naturally, the next question we had was: 

What’s The Difference Between The 88% Who Struggle With Cashflow…and the 12% Who Do Not?

Well, when we looked at all of the data from the small business marketing study, there was one thing that stood out head and shoulders above everything else… 

Those businesses who reported never having cashflow problems, almost all of them reported that they have a marketing plan and systems in place to consistently bring in new prospects, customers, appointments and clients

Meanwhile, the vast majority of the 88% do not, and these businesses continue to ride what we call “The Cashflow Rollercoaster.” 

Clearly, having a reliable marketing strategy and system for generating new leads and clients is a core requirement of getting off the cashflow rollercoaster. And… to be fair, you probably already knew this…at least for yourself. So where’s the disconnect?

If most of us understand this, why is there an almost 90% chance that you are experiencing this now?   

And what can you do to overcome this and create (or strengthen) your client generation systems?

That’s what we found out…and what we’re going to share in this report.

Even Though It’s About Small Business Marketing, This Is Not A Small “Survey”

What you are about to uncover in this study is a remarkable trend that my company and I have discovered, through an extensive research project conducted over several years of working with 1000s of small business owners. Using a community survey, hundreds of interviews, and multiple third party researchers to compile and analyze data, the body of research presented is the result of a considerable effort that left no stone unturned. 

In addition to combining many existing studies and research, we also surveyed and interviewed 1000s of business owners and marketers to find a clear answer to the question of “what’s really working?”  

All of this data provided a very clear answer to that question, which we will share in this small business marketing report.

Oh…and by the way…

We’ve discovered a trend that is now so clear…that it’s incredible that others have not already become aware of it. But I have to admit, I’m glad they haven’t. Because it represents such a tremendous opportunity for those small businesses who are in the know. 

An Overwhelming Majority of Small Business Owners Plan on Growing THIS Year.

What are their growth goals?

85% of small business owner respondents plan on growing more 10% or more compared to last year. And 20% of respondents plan on growing more than 100% year-over-year.

Significant growth is on the mind’s of many small business owners. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise. As business owners, we’ve come to learn that growth is necessary to survival.

Why Do Small Business Owners Want to Grow Their Businesses?

Almost 40% say they are in business because they want more freedom, and 22% want to make a difference! Both are goals we can all appreciate.

In their own words

“I want to scale my business without giving up my freedom.”

“My goal is to move from 1:1 to 1:many – and having a program in place that would appeal to my avatar – and then building the systems to create the flow of leads and convert them into new clients – so that I can achieve the impact, influence and income that I desire.”

“I feel that I need to revamp my small business and come up with a business model and structure that will move my business to the next level.”

Achieving this sort of growth is no small feat. The question is, do these small business owners have the right marketing strategies in place to achieve this level of growth? 

Are Your Current Lead Generation Systems Enough?

Despite these lofty, yet absolutely achievable, growth targets, 84% of responders say that their current lead generation strategies are NOT sufficient to reach their goals.

This is an extremely important piece of the puzzle that 84% of business owners are missing.

And when it comes to generating more new customers, leads and appointments, one of the key elements is a marketing plan that makes multiple touch points and moves prospects through your enrollment or sales process without the pitfalls that lead to incomplete or partial implementation.

Frequent and consistent communication keeps you top of mind. If prospects don’t know about you or don’t remember you, they aren’t likely to convert to an appointment; and if you’re not generating enough leads and appointments, you likely won’t have enough clients to reach your goals.

It’s that simple.

With that being said, we found that over 70% of respondents believe they need to be staying in touch with their prospects more.

There’s a connection there, between communication and lead generation. If you don’t communicate with prospects and potential customers, you won’t be generating enough leads for your product or service.

So if that’s the key to market your small business to your target market, why aren’t more business owners working on this?

Time, Strategy, and Budget were three of the more common responses as to what is holding respondents back from making progress on reaching their growth goals.

In their own words

“I don’t have a good system in place.”

“I don’t have enough time.”

“Not quite sure where to start or how to go about some of these marketing projects.”

What are the biggest priorities for lead generation and marketing this year?

Overwhelmingly respondents listed ‘Finding more prospects’ as their marketing priority for 2021.

And this makes sense - without prospects there are no leads and no sales, which can make it difficult to promote your business.

Reducing the time spent on lead generation and marketing and better conversion numbers were next on the list.

Why Aren’t Current Lead Gen Strategies Enough?

You might be thinking at this point…

Why are so many businesses struggling to create enough opportunities or generate enough leads for their products or services?

It’s often not from lack of trying. Or lack of hard work.

So what’s the root cause?

And how can you use that information to make smarter decisions.

Decisions that are likely to lead to implementation AND better marketing results.

Over 50% of businesses listed 2 causes for lack of follow-through.

  1. Not sure where to begin.
  2. Not enough time.


Good information is at a premium these days.

It’s why there’s been an explosion in online courses for things like email marketing, social media marketing, and content marketing.

Google and Wikipedia made us hungry for quick information. But with that power comes information overload.

So online courses, consultants, and experts have jumped in to fill the gaps.

But sometimes it’s not enough.

Taking that first step is hard. And with many marketing automation tools and software out there, there’s an assumed level all users should be at.

Want to use a new webinar software?

It helps to have a big list or big budget to advertise to so that you aren’t presenting your marketing strategy to an empty room.

Want to design a great new direct mail piece?

You better know the customer base you are sending it to before going down the rabbit hole of best design software available.

Thinking of running some Facebook ads?

That will take a budget. But beyond that what will you send people to? And will it work for your target market?

The questions can quickly get overwhelming and the scale of everything can weigh businesses down, slow the decision-making process to a halt, and ultimately have a negative impact.

If you’ve ever felt stuck considering what to do...you're not alone.

We’ve been there too.

It’s one of the reasons I started my business in the first place. Because I discovered a way to get better results without all the guesswork. Without all the unknowns. By bringing things back to the original way of business - the relationship.

It helped me grow and get started even when I had no email marketing list. No budget. And limited time (after all I had to deliver to work for my existing client list).

And the information on what actually works is what I’ll be diving more into over the coming weeks.

Something that sets you up with everything you need to help you reach your goals by eliminating the guesswork and time-sucking activities that stall other business growth initiatives.

It Pays to Be Proactive in Your Marketing & Sales

From building lead generation and automated sales systems with thousands of clients and potential customers, we’ve come to know this to be true.

When it comes to your sales and marketing strategies, it pays to be proactive.

But we aren’t alone in this finding.

Forester Research found, “The first viable vendor to reach a decision maker and set the buying vision have a 74% close ratio.”

And Sales Benchmark Index reported that, “You have a 56% greater chance to attain quota (sales goals) if you engage a buyer before they contact a seller.”

To sum it up: the odds are in your favor if you are proactive (most small business marketers would agree).

Still when asked what holds small business owners back from being more proactive in their communication with their new customers and prospects we commonly saw responses like the below:

‘Fear of being pushy.’

‘Don’t want to be white noise.’

‘Don’t know what to say.’

Now I want to address these sentiments.

First, you have to let go of the fear if you want to market your small business effectively.

Ask yourself, “Does Geico sit around asking themselves if they are being too pushy when they are buying ad time for every single Sunday NFL game?”

I can tell you the answer is certainly, NO!

Now, I’ll be fear that can sometimes be easier said than done to come to terms with. Because the truth is some people can be pushy. 

So how do you avoid being pushy when you market your small business?

It comes back to your business marketing strategy. And knowing the right things to say and how to frame it.

It comes from working with people who have been there and done that.

But don’t let the fear of being pushy allow you to ignore the bigger picture. 

Doing nothing IS NOT an option.

Whether you use a system that me and my clients have success with, or you go another route. Fear should never hold you back.

Yes. If you do nothing, your prospects will not find you as pushy. But at the same time, it’s unlikely you will reach your goals when we look back at the stats above regarding how many businesses struggle with cashflow and the percentage of those that don’t currently have lead gen systems in place.

In their own words

“We are constantly fighting the cash-flow battle. We need to market more, but we lack the funds to create a constant marketing campaign.”

“Feast or famine. Workload month to month can vary hugely.”

“[I] don’t have the cash flow to fund growth.”

It’s Time for Change and Small Business Owners Need Help

Luckily for you and me, and for the economy, the small business sector isn’t going anywhere. But that doesn’t mean any specific one of these business owners is guaranteed to succeed.

Yet based on the results of this small business marketing study, it’s clear what they need to do in order to position their businesses for a bright future. Creating systems in the marketing department, to gain and retain the attention of prospects, and therefore increase the pipeline of leads, appointments and clients coming through the door; that is the most compelling mandate that this study offers.

It’s a simple truth. In order to grow, a business needs marketing ideas and systems to get the word out and bring in prospects and new customers.

You also need to have a way to stand out from your competitors and position your small business in a way that will compel your ideal clients to want to talk business with you. And to have the right processes in place to convert these appointments into paying clients, so you can get off the Cashflow Rollercoaster and achieve greater impact and freedom…the reasons most business owners started in the first place!

Cutting Through the Noise

When it comes to marketing your small business online, there are so many options. Too many, really. What usually happens is that the onslaught of advertising and people pushing the latest shiny widget, well, it causes a lot of people to bounce around. Shiny object syndrome is something we’ve all experienced. Eventually, it creates paralysis.  

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing the process to FINALLY implement a system that generates reliable opportunities without sacrificing endless hours each week to manage, allows you to stand out as THE option in your prospect’s eyes, and puts you on the fasttrack to reach your growth goals for the year. 

Think about it…

Having a marketing strategy that you can consistently apply for maximum results, for the maximum ROI on your time and money…

That is what a Successful, Healthy small business looks like 

  • One that has tremendous staying power
  • One that does amazing work and creates a lasting impact in the world, 
  • One that affords you the freedom and lifestyle you want, and 
  • One that makes a consistent, large profit.

To do that, you must have a marketing strategy that generates new leads, consultations, clients and sales.

But there are so many systems out there and so many choices. Which one is the RIGHT one? Over the coming weeks we plan to share the roadmap to the options that will help you achieve your goals as a part of our ‘2021 Lead Generation Workshop.’

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