Running a successful business is largely about keeping your pipeline of new and repeat business filled. One of the best ways to do this is through an inbound marketing system. Why? Because it can give you the greatest reach for your cost. This is especially true for startups and small businesses that may not have the budget to hire and train an effective sales team.

How does an inbound marketing system work? It is easiest to look at it in three parts.

1) Traffic generation
2) List building
3) Relationship building (and the occasional offering)

Traffic generation. The objective here is to create compelling ads and content that direct people to your landing page or site. This is commonly done through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube and Google Adwords. Naturally, the theme and subject-matter of your ads should be in line with the business you are in.

Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. (free)
Hootsuite for managing social media accounts (free for 3 platforms)
Adwords for creating online ads (pay per click)

List building. Once the person is at your landing page, your objective is either to have them give you their email or have them make a purchase. It can be hard to guide traffic directly to making a purchase so start by aiming to capture emails. This is not only asking less from people but has the potential to create loyal customers.

For obtaining an email it is common practice to use a lead magnet, a free offering that can be obtained in exchange for an email. Good lead magnets include PDFs, videos, and e-books that give solutions to real customer needs or problems. For example, if your audience is interested in health and fitness, a “Top 10 ways to live a healthier life” PDF or video would likely be of real interest to them.

WordPress for building website and landing pages (free + domain cost)
Mailchimp for collecting emails (free)

Relationship building. Once they have given you their email, they will become part of your mailing list. The objective now is to create a great relationship with them. Through the emails you send out, they should come to know, like, and trust you. It is important that you don’t spam them with sales emails or useless content. We all know what it feels like to be spammed.

Once you have a regular stream of great content and your audience (email list) becomes familiar with you, you can then send out an occasional email making an offer. It can be your own product or service, or someone else’s (be sure to get a commission). The important point is that it is something you really believe in and would want if you were in your audiences’ shoes.

Mailchimp for creating and sending email campaigns and offers (free)

The strategy (and tools) outlined above can be executed at practically no financial cost, and is so effective that it should be essential in your business. If you only remember one point, make it this: ask yourself if you would like to be on the receiving end of whatever your are sending out, then utilise the internet to extend the targeted reach of your message.