What is 'inbound' marketing? The term "inbound" means, quite simply, using the many ways of bringing potential customers "in" to your business ambit - for example by trailing content such as blog posts and comments, podcasts, press releases and videos in carefully targeted media. If it's good, the "right" customers - the ones who want what you have to sell - will increasingly get in touch.

In every case the communication is designed to help clients find your business (or it could be a website, a project, etc) - as opposed to more traditional marketing, where the effort is centred on the business finding the client. Why inbound marketing? To be successful, inbound marketing must attract your target audience by earning their attention - and you won't manage that by bombarding potential customers with masses of text-heavy, sales-driven information.

The key is, rather, to give plenty of consideration to what your readers (or viewers, or listeners) are really interested in, after devoting serious thought about how to present it to them in the most practical but also attention-engaging way.

At the same time your communications should all be designed to build on your overall marketing strategy - which in turn needs to be rooted in thorough understanding of how the target market really operates.

So what do I have to do? It's all about content and adroit presentation. If you can create editorial content which attracts attention and encourages potential clients to read about who you are and what you offer - and why it would be to their advantage to do business with you (and why they should trust you to do the job) - then you're on the right track.

If, after reading about your business, they feel motivated to get in touch and pass on their contact details (eg name, phone number, email address, facebook page), then your inbound marketing has been successful, and the next task is to convert their general interest into revenue and, ideally, an ongoing business relationship.

How will I make content work for my business? Good content should be like a magnetic force that attracts people to your website. Traditional, or outbound, marketing is all about identifying your target audience and then hammering them with marketing messages. It is often poorly targeted, and can be frankly invasive and annoying - the exact opposite of what you are aiming to achieve.

Technology is rendering the more basic traditional techniques even less effective than they already were, as you can now block cold calls, skip ads on your TV and filter out spam emails.

What you should be looking to do...

1. Create content which is specific to your core target market, and genuinely useful 2. Use Search Engine Optimisation of your website, if you have one, so that it is conspicuous when people are searching for your type of businesses and services.

3. Get your message across by using social media to share your content, and network effectively with potential clients by every relevant means What sort of content is classified as inbound marketing? The content you create might include some of the following: - Blog articles - Guides - Social posts - Newsletters - Video - Infographics - Podcasts - Webinars Educational articles, videos, an informative business blog, infographics, guest posts, and social media/microblogging updates can help you establish yourself as an influential business in your local market and beyond.

Testimonials can also be extremely useful. Online testimonies can have serious viral potential and can help to bring many new could-be customers to your company.

People aiming to make a serious purchase increasingly carry out a review search in order to find out more about the reputation of product and service providers.

By extension, it's obviously worth encouraging your existing customers to publish positive reviews and testimonials of you as a product or service provider.

Long term results The whole idea of earning and engaging potential customers' attention means you are looking to build a trust-based relationship, rather than merely to gain sporadic impulse buys.

This in turn should help to create the sort of long term value calculated to establish a customer base you can nurture and then ultimately rely upon. Taking control As you are the guiding light of your start-up company, it's clearly your responsibility to take over-arching responsibility for promoting its services.

You will be keen to ensure that high quality content is promoted through email campaigns, SEO, and social media posting/sharing, and that all of this is supported by your website, assuming you have one.

Not every business needs a website, and not all websites do a good job for their companies.

However a good website, lucid, accessible and informative, can be the vital point of reference in your overall marketing strategy.

To achieve its full potential, your site must have the appropriate level of tracking in place to allow detailed analysis of marketing campaigns. This will in turn allow you to reach customers effectively in a usefully targeted manner. Your main considerations will be to - - Attract traffic to your site - Convert your visitors to leads - Convert your leads to sales - Turn customers into repeat customers - Use your analysis to make changes where and when required A page must be useful to the potential customer, and also accessible. There should also be sufficient content to give prospective customers the information they really need - coherently spelling out the real reasons why x, y or z product or service is best-suited to their purposes and within their budget requirements.

In a nutshell When you start a new business you need to find clients. A good inbound marketing strategy will bring them to you, and create the conditions where you can sell to them effectively.

The key difference between advertising and marketing is that advertising just looks to make a strong initial impression on potential customers, whereas marketing looks to build a relationship with them. Positive customer experience definitely brings people back. Testimonials about the quality and value you can provide will attract further customers. You are not ultimately looking to deceive or even dazzle people, and are instead simply using all relevant channels as imaginatively as possible in an effort to explain who you are, and what you can offer.

Issues facing start-ups offset by good inbound marketing Sales focus Some businesses spend minimal time on selling, and can be overly concerned with areas such as design and branding. While these are certainly important, effective inbound marketing is the surest route to sales - and the company livery or logo (etc) is an accessory to your overall strategy.

Effective research Some business owners do not put a high priority on market research - possibly because they think they already know what the customer base wants, or because it can be expensive to commission professional research. However through inbound marketing (eg feedback, conversations on facebook or LinkedIn), plenty of useful data will emerge to form the basis of good research and analysis.

Product message A great product will not drive sales on its own. Owners must be smart about marketing their products to the people who actually want them, and with inbound marketing they have the means to do this.

Focused marketing Generic marketing doesn't yield good results, because customers want products that meet their sometimes highly specific needs. Again, inbound marketing is the key to bringing customers to the product which they need - and which you can supply.

No hard sell Everyone is familiar with the irritation of the "hard sell", particularly in advertising. This is what inbound marketing seeks to avoid, by deploying high quality and informative content.

In a world where people are bombarded with "hard sell" generic advertising that they can readily ignore, high quality content is the biggest weapon in your marketing armoury. This is because by definition any customer who has developed at least an outline interest in your product, having taken on board your communication, will have actually chosen to come to you.

Potential customers will generally not buy if they are not already predisposed to look seriously at a product - they are likely to be far more amenable if they have already been given plenty of information that is genuinely relevant to them.

If your inbound marketing is effective, the customer will be implicitly within your sales ambit as soon as he or she gets in touch, and you then have the opportunity to deliver your product message to someone who is already at least half-convinced that your product is tailored to their needs.

From that point you have the opportunity to create a relationship, more than just a sale - and with it the prospect of the sort of repeat business and effective testimonials that are likely to give your product or service a critical winning edge.