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Traditional, face-to-face tactics are still fundamental for SMB marketers: Personal relationships and networking (95%), tradeshows and industry events (89%), and in-person events (86%) rank as the most popular marketing tactics for finding new customers, according to a survey of small and midsized businesses conducted by Forrester Consulting for Act-On Software.

Among surveyed SMBs, content marketing (83%) is also a big part of the customer acquisition mix, followed by print advertising (77%), public relations (74%), and SEO (73%).

SMBs are using a variety of other digital tactics for customer acquisition efforts as well, such as email (72%), social media (69%), digital advertising (61%), webinars (58%), and PPC (50%).

Moreover, SMBs appear to be "doing it all" with small teams of marketing generalists. 

Among those 14 different marketing tactics (in the chart above), 50% of SMBs say they use 13 of the tactics and 70% say they use 8 of them.

Below, additional findings from the study titled "Driving SMB Revenue in a Tough Economy."

Social Marketing Yielding Mixed Results

Though 69% of SMBs use social media as part of their customer acquisition marketing mix, results from those efforts across various social platforms are somewhat mixed:

  • Facebook: 49% use the site and report positive results; 36% use Facebook but are unsure about results or say their efforts aren't paying off; and 14% don't use Facebook.
  • Twitter: 47% use the site and report positive results; 31% use Twitter but are unsure about results or say their efforts aren't paying off; 22% don't use Twitter.
  • Video marketing (e.g., YouTube): 51% use video marketing and report positive results; 16% use video marketing but are unsure about results or say their efforts aren't paying off; and 33% don't market with video content.
  • LinkedIn: 49% use the professional networking site and report positive results; 29% use LinkedIn but are unsure about results or say their efforts aren't paying off; and 31% don’t' use LinkedIn.

Top Challenges: Converting, Closing Deals

Among SMBs, the top marketing challenge is converting more leads into opportunities (41%), followed by closing more deals from existing lead flows (39%), increasing sales from existing customers (33%), and differentiating themselves from the competition (33%).

Interestingly, marketing programs are not primary contributors to the sales pipeline: On average, only 35% of the sales pipeline is marketing sourced (attributed to a marketing program).

Also, SMBs aren't making use of marketing automation, Forrester found: Only 19% say they have implemented software that automates marketing and lead management processes.

By contrast, 56% of SMBs say they have implemented CRM technologies.

About the data: Findings are based on a survey of 208 marketing decision-makers in small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), from multiple industries across the US, conducted from June to September 2012.

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