Bredin Report: The SMB Business Outlook

We just finished fielding an SMB Pulse survey of 500 principals of U.S. companies with up to 500 employees, and the results are encouraging: SMBs are feeling significantly more optimistic than just six months ago.

Business outlook

SMBs generally expect a good 2021. Three in four expect to grow versus 2020: 19% by single digits, 59% by double digits and 8% by triple digits. Optimism has increased fifteen percentage points since six months ago, when 61% expected to have an up year.

Part of this optimism may be due to operational recovery from the pandemic. Six months ago, 68% were fully open and operational, and 29% were open for business on a limited basis. Today, those percentages are 79% and 18%, respectively. In other words, 11% of SMBs have returned to full operation in the past six months.

Spending outlook

Although SMBs are more optimistic about their prospects, they remain scarred by the pandemic. Specifically, 60% say they are more cost-conscious and will spend more conservatively as a result of COVID-19. This is significantly higher than the 41% who felt that way six months ago.

Business Outlook by Company Size

Please rate your business outlook from pessimistic to optimistic in each of these areas.

The biggest difference in business outlook among SMBs is how optimism increases with company size. Across all ten dimensions surveyed, SMBs with 100 to 500 employees (mid-sized businesses, or MBs) are more optimistic than SMBs with 20 to 99 employees (small businesses, or SBs), who are in turn more optimistic than SMBs with under 20 employees (very small businesses, or VSBs).

The other thing that jumps out is how optimism has increased across the board since May. The only exceptions are customer acquisition, where MBs are slightly less optimistic; and employee retention, where both SBs and MBs are both slightly less optimistic.

The other outlier is among VSBs, who are much more optimistic about expansion and hiring than in May, but still lag there compared to almost every other business aspect.

The takeaway? The bigger the SMBs you target, the more optimistic they are. However, given their spending outlook, while your prospects may be making more than last year, you still need to give them a strong rationale to invest in your offerings. We’ll discuss how to do that in an upcoming Bredin Report.

Need help understanding and/or engaging SMBs? Bredin can keep you up to date on evolving SMB needs and challenges through quick-turn, actionable  market research. We can also help you develop high-value content to boost SMB awareness, brand perception, leads, conversion and revenue.

About Bredin

Bredin was founded in 1991 by America's foremost small business expert, author and syndicated columnist Alice Bredin. From its beginning, Bredin was designed to be a breed apart: 50% research consultancy, 50% creative agency, 100% focused on SMB. Based in Somerville, Mass., Bredin helps Fortune 500 companies understand, reach and retain SMB customers through timely, targeted research and award-winning marketing programs.