Happy clients are the best form of marketing, say SMEsSMEs seem to have taken to heart the maxim that your customers are your best salespeople. Eight out of ten of them say “word of mouth recommendation” is the best way of promoting their business, according to our latest DNA of an entrepreneur survey of 3,000 SMEs in Europe and the US.

More of them (44%) now put greater faith in their website to provide a digital shop window for their wares than advertising (41%) – a reversal of their position in last year’s results, our survey reveals.

Nearly a third said they use social media and blogging, while a further 23% said they wanted to use it in future. Over half (53%) said they used these interactive channels to communicate and provide services to their customers, while 51% said they used them for PR and marketing and 36% said they prospected for new customers on them.

Increasingly, small businesses are turning to the Internet to market themselves, because it’s a much more cost-efficient method than traditional marketing, such as mailshots.

New leads are not only cheaper out in cyberspace, there’s also far more of them. A recent U.S. survey showed that businesses with over 1,000 Facebook fans generate 12 times more leads than those with 1-25 fans; while businesses with over 1,000 Twitter followers generated 10 times more leads than those with only a handful of followers. They’re also likely to be hotter leads too, because they’re actively searching for goods and services in your space.
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What are the best techniques for promoting your business?

· Word of mouth recommendations 80%

· Your website 44%

· Advertising 41%

· Direct mail/email 36%

· Developing opportunities with partners 32%

· Social media and blogging 29%

· SEO (search engine optimisation) 22%

· P.R. 17%

(Respondents were asked to choose their top three. Based on the responses of 3,000 owners or partners in firms with fewer than 50 employees)