Despite a continued preference among small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) for receiving marketing information via direct mail and in other traditional ways, major marketers to SMBs are cutting back on these tactics and switching to lower-cost, online marketing to save money, according to a study by Bredin Business Information (BBI).

SMBs say they prefer, according to BBI. As a source of information about products and services, SMBs rely most on newspaper and magazine articles (43.6%) and direct mail, including letters, postcards and catalogs (43.5%). Ranked last are phone calls (27.4%) and radio/TV ads (32%). Online, referrals from friends and peers rank first (71.9%) among SMBs, followed by search engine marketing (57%), educational websites (44.5%) and email newsletters (38.2%).

The most important purchase criterion in this economy is high value (61.3%) followed by low price (52.4%) and reliability (35.3%). Least important is buying from a leading brand (1.9%) and having a personal relationship with the vendor (6%).

Among 32 brands rated, Google scored highest (69.8%). The rest of the top 10 are FedEx (63.1%), UPS (62.4%), HP (61.6%), Microsoft (59.2%), Sony (51.4%), Dell (47.6%), Staples (47.1%), Office Depot (45.4%) and Sam’s Club (41.2%).

Among the social networks, SMBs rated Facebook highest (19.7%), followed by LinkedIn (15.6%), MeetUp (11.3%) and Twitter (11.2%).