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In our recent introduction to content marketing, we talked about the established and ever-growing trend of publishing content as a means of drawing more potential customers to your front door – virtual or physical.

Marketing has taken a sharp left turn in recent years away from the old broadcasting style of communication and toward more customer-focused tactics. This provides big benefits from both a human and a search engine optimization standpoint for your business – especially if you’re on a budget. You might not be able to afford a TV or radio spot to get your name out there, but you can probably afford to start a blog and a set up a few social media profiles.

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Word-of-mouth marketing is great for every type of business, but it truly is the life blood of small businesses. Not only is traditional advertising more expensive, small business owners and entrepreneurs operate with the understood advantage of being able to offer personalized service the way big brands simply can’t. In a crowded market, this assumption helps small businesses compete, and it makes people more likely to recommend a business they’ve tried to a friend.

But how do you encourage word-of-mouth marketing? Coming right out and asking every one of your clients to send their friends your way feels awkward — as well it should, since that how it makes your clients feel too. These requests should be individualized, because there are a lot of variables to consider: What if they didn’t actually have a great experience with you? What if they’re not the type of person to talk about things they’ve bought with friends? What if they would have recommended you on their own, but now they feel like it was your idea and no longer feel compelled? Murky waters, to be sure.

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