Since 2020, Pipedrive has released an annual State of Sales and Marketing study that provides insights into companies and their growth, with a focus on sales and marketing. The studies consistently show that most of the surveyed companies continue to experience continuous growth, even when faced with global challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ukraine crisis, or a looming economic crisis. This underscores the ability of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and their leaders to flexibly adapt to (potential) crisis situations.
This year, once again, 63% of SMBs have demonstrated at least slight growth compared to the previous year. However, for the first time since the beginning of the analysis, we are observing a declining trend: 63% of the companies reported stronger growth than the previous year. In 2021, this figure was still at 73%.
What does this mean for SMBs in the country and what other conclusions can be drawn from the study? And how can leaders increase growth rates?
Anti-cyclical investments of great importance
The study reveals an interesting correlation: Despite the current economic uncertainty, 32% of the surveyed companies consciously choose to invest in new sales and marketing technologies. This may be surprising at first, as such investments are often the first to be cut in a weakening economic environment. However, these companies view technology investments as a means to solidify their position in the market. And this strategy seems to be paying off: Participants working in companies that did not cut their budgets had a 27% higher likelihood of achieving their annual revenue targets.
This apparent paradox raises a crucial question: Why are these companies opting for technology now, when caution might seem more appropriate? Recent years have already shown increased interest among SMBs in promoting digitization through the use of new technologies. Initially, these companies faced increased lead volumes due to the loss of personal contacts (such as Zoom meetings instead of client visits). Now the task is to coordinate these increased volumes using digital tools, including new communication and collaboration channels and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools. These tools enable companies to stay organized and effectively respond to the increased demand despite the new challenges.
The study also suggests that SMBs in sales are now entering the second phase of digitization since the beginning of the pandemic. The previous digitization efforts allowed these companies to achieve higher sales volumes, but it also increased the workload for employees. Intelligent tools are increasingly used in this context, particularly for repetitive tasks such as contract creation and customer appointment scheduling. This allows employees to focus more on qualitatively important tasks.
Investments in technology – and higher marketing budgets
Companies often reduce their marketing budgets during economically turbulent times. However, significant opportunities arise in these times. When competitors reduce their marketing activities, competitors can significantly increase their visibility in the market. This not only allows companies to retain existing customers – a vital necessity, especially for small businesses – but also to acquire new customers through targeted measures. Examples include interactive webinars and online training, or targeted content marketing campaigns. Creating and disseminating relevant content through blogs, videos, or infographics can engage the target audience and increase engagement. This provides companies with the opportunity to demonstrate their expertise while expanding their audience – all with relatively little extra effort and cost.
Continued work pressure and professional concerns
Despite the mentioned declining growth rate, the survey results are positive. In a year marked by labor shortages, inflation, occasional recession fears, and supply chain disruptions, nearly two-thirds of business leaders across various industries report at least slight business growth. However, this happens in some cases at the expense of employees: The current report highlights that high workloads, unpaid overtime, and the risk of burnout continue to exist. This year’s study results still reflect the fears and uncertainties that team members face. 41% of them still have concerns about not being able to achieve their professional goals. This points to ongoing pressure on the shoulders of employees.
In addition to concerns about goal achievement, another 23% of team members are concerned about additional overtime that could be coming their way in the near future. This ongoing fear of further burdens indicates that work-related stress can continue to rise despite existing high demands, according to the survey respondents’ theory.
Fighting additional workload with digital tools
To minimize the risk of burnout and maintain overall job satisfaction, investments in digital tools represent the first step towards a long-term solution. However, the solution is not limited to acquiring licenses and implementing tools. To fully unleash the potential of these tools and their automation technologies, it is essential for leaders to actively support the implementation process. This means introducing mandatory training, recording webinars, and offering personal one-on-one sessions to unlock the full potential of newly introduced tools and processes. Collaboration with service providers is also crucial, as they can assist employees with any questions that may arise.
The study underscores that sales and marketing teams, especially at SMBs, have shown great resilience. Problem-solving takes center stage in order to achieve growth goals despite significant internal and external disruptions. This path has already been successfully pursued, and the groundwork has been laid. In the coming year, the focus will be on further relieving employees and maximizing the benefits of the initiated digitization. This positions companies effectively in the challenging market environment and can sustainably boost revenues when the economic situation is expected to improve.