What is indirect marketing? The subtle approach to sensational advertising
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What is indirect marketing? The subtle approach to sensational advertising

Indirect Marketing

Want to be successful in today’s competitive marketplace?

You’re going to need a lot more than just a great website and logo.

While brand assets like your website and product pages are valuable, you’ll also need a reliable way to attract your target audience to your site too. That’s where your marketing campaigns come in.

The only problem?

Many modern customers are sick and tired of endless obvious promotions.

Your target audience is bombarded with advertising every day, in the form of television ads, podcast messages, PPC on the search engines, and even email newsletters. We’ve gotten to a point where the majority of consumers just drown out the commercial content that they see every day.

So, what does that mean for your business? Should you just give up on advertising and hope that people will one day stumble across your website by accident?

Absolutely not.

Marketing is always going to be a crucial component of your company’s growth.

However, your promotional efforts don’t have to be as obvious as cold calling and banner ads. There are more subtle ways to connect with your audience, build relationships, and improve your brand reputation in the process. It all comes down to “indirect marketing.”

Here’s what you need to know about the advantages of indirect marketing, and how it can work for your organisation.

Indirect Marketing

What is indirect marketing anyway?

Let’s start with a basic indirect marketing definition.

Indirect marketing is a way for companies like yours to showcase their services, products, and even their identity, without being too obviously promotional. You don’t spam your potential customers with requests to buy your products or sales newsletters. Instead, you offer useful information to your target market in the hope that they’ll want to learn more about your brand as a result.

Whereas direct marketing concentrates on conversions, indirect marketing is about building brand awareness, and creating a sense of familiarity with your potential customers.

For instance, let’s say you wanted to create more interest in your logo design service.

Rather than sending your potential customers an email outlining the cost of your designs and what you have to offer, you might record a podcast about logo creation. During this podcast, you provide your audience with useful information about the things that they need to look for in a great logo. This gives them information that they can use, while subtly highlighting your position as a thought leader in the industry. At the same time, you can casually reference your brand during the podcast, by talking about your experiences designing for other companies, or pulling attention to case studies.

The idea is that your indirect marketing efforts provide immediate value to your target audience through entertainment or education. At the same time, these strategies plant the seed in your customer’s mind that you’re a logo design company that has something useful to offer. They learn about the techniques you use, and the happy customers that you’ve already worked with. By the time they get to the decision stage in the buyer funnel, they already feel comfortable with your organisation.

You’ve built some all-important trust through your content.

At their core, direct and indirect marketing have the same ultimate goal. They’re both intended to improve your bottom line and increase sales. However, while direct marketing is blunt, indirect marketing focuses on developing a relationship with your audience. That means that increased sales is a side effect of your efforts rather than the core purpose.

Indirect Marketing

What is the difference between direct and indirect marketing?

To fully understand the advantages of indirect marketing, you’ll need insight into how direct and indirect strategies differ.

Direct marketing is the most obvious form of advertising there is. When you invest in an email marketing campaign that tells your customers about your latest product or service, you’re marketing “directly”. The whole purpose of this campaign is to acquire new subscriptions and purchases.

In the average direct marketing definition, you’ll usually see a reference to “push” advertising. That’s because direct promotion requires companies to push messages and ideas out to their audience. You push your offers and information to their mailboxes, televisions, and inboxes, hoping that you’ll eventually get a response.

Direct marketing has no problem with disrupting customers in the midst of their online journey. It can appear in the form of pop-ups, direct mail offers, and even sales calls from a service team. Sales calls are particularly common in the B2B environment.

So, how does indirect marketing differ?

Well, if direct marketing is the “push” part of the promotional world, indirect marketing is the “pull”. With an indirect marketing campaign, you focus on building intrigue for your brand, and convincing customers that they want to learn more about your company.

Rather than instantly telling people all about your products and services, you share your knowledge and insights with your audience. This gives you a chance to showcase your industry expertise and prove to your customers that you have something valuable to give. Indirect marketing also offers a crucial opportunity for businesses to show off the personality that will help them to connect with their customers later.

Because indirect marketing is all about building connections and strengthening sales potential over time, it can be a lot harder to measure than direct advertising. In fact, one of the major disadvantages of indirect marketing is that you can’t always be sure which strategy is having the best impact on your results. Additionally, with indirect marketing, you’ll be targeting a more broad, general audience. That means that you can’t always make direct correlations between your campaigns, new member sales, and other crucial KPIs.

Since both direct and indirect marketing strategies come with their own distinct strengths and weaknesses, most experts recommend using a combination of both. Rather than focusing exclusively on annoying direct advertising, or subtle indirect campaigns, you align your efforts for stronger results. We’ll come back to how you can build a strategy with direct and indirect marketing later.

For now, let’s take a closer look at the types of indirect marketing you might use.

Examples of indirect marketing

So, how exactly can you start building an indirect marketing campaign?

Well, you’re going to need some indirect marketing examples to inspire you.

Indirect marketing can come in a wide variety of forms, from social media advertising, to content marketing, SEO, and even PR. Here are just some of the options that you can look at when you want to take a more subtle approach to your promotional efforts.

1. Content marketing

Content marketing is one of the most obvious examples of indirect marketing available today. According to the Content Marketing Institute, it’s also the most effective way to promote your business. Content marketing campaigns can include everything from articles and blogs, to podcasts, videos, and other material that educates and entertains your target audience.

The main purpose behind content marketing is to showcase your thought leadership, while giving your customers something valuable. You can even create content based on what you know your audience needs. For instance, Uber, one of the leading apps for ridesharing in the world today, offers companies access to city-specific content that appeals to a unique audience. For instance, you can read all about how to make the most of your time in London:

Indirect Marketing

Often, to get the best results from content marketing, you’ll need to listen to your community. Find out what people want to learn about your industry and build your material from there.

2. SEO (search engine optimisation)

Search engine optimisation is another common component of indirect marketing.

To some extent, this strategy will go hand-in-hand with your content marketing campaigns. You can analyse your competitors and conduct searches with Google AdWords to ensure that you’re ranking for the terms that your audience is searching for.

The more that you appear online when your customers are looking for answers to their most crucial questions, the more your credibility will grow. You can even use your SEO and content strategy to improve your chances of appearing for specific local searches when your clients are further down the sales funnel:

Indirect Marketing

Appearing at the top of the search engine result pages gives your brand visibility an immediate boost. Additionally, it means that you can continue to attract more organic traffic over time that may eventually turn into more sales.

3. Social responsibility initiatives

In a world driven by younger generations like millennials and Gen Z, corporate social responsibility and sustainability are growing increasingly important. Customers are sick and tired of buying from businesses that are just looking to make money. If you can convince your audience that you want to make a positive difference to the environment, then they’ll be more likely to support you with investments and even social sharing.

Toms Shoe Company uses its social initiative to its advantage all of the time. The brand automatically donates a pair of shoes to an impoverished child whenever someone buys a pair of shoes. This unique business model has captured the attention of customers and publications around the world, helping Toms to gain more traction in a relatively saturated marketplace.

Indirect Marketing

Investing in social responsibility initiative also means that businesses can get involved with local events and community experiences too. This means that you’re constantly gaining exposure, without being overly advertorial.

4. PR

Press is another of the most common examples of indirect marketing that companies have used throughout the years. You’ve probably already used some aspects of PR to help launch your business, by publishing information in local publications, or conducting interviews with other people in your industry. PR is all about interacting with other organisations to answer questions about your brand.

If you can appear in the right publications and environments, you don’t just get better exposure; you also benefit from higher credibility too. PR stories and news about your brand can also give you a boost through SEO backlinks that strengthen your position in the search engines.

Often, succeeding in PR indirect marketing efforts involves partnering with the right brands or groups. For instance, Lyft and Netflix joined forces to create a PR stunt that generated attention for both companies without being overly obvious. The aim was to generate excitement for the brands and offer a unique experience to customers.

5. Social media

Finally, aside from content marketing, social media is probably the strategy that most people associate with indirect marketing. Simply being active on social media is enough to keep your brand top of mind with your target audience – even if you’re not posting about your products and services.

To start with, all you need to do is figure out where your customers spend most of their time on social media. If you’re a highly visual company, then you might get better results on Instagram than Facebook, for instance. Once you’ve found your social channel, use it to build stronger connections with your audience.

For instance, Innocent Smoothies uses its Twitter account to repost user-generated content and highlight their social initiatives at the same time. In this post, Innocent simultaneously interacts with customers, highlights its USP and draws attention to its personality. At the same time, you’re reminded of the products that Innocent offers, without any obvious advertising.

Indirect Marketing

What are the advantages of indirect marketing?

For customers that are sick and tired of being yelled at by obvious marketing campaigns, indirect advertising offers an appealing alternative.

Think about the brand that you’ve fallen in love with over the years.

Brands like Brewdog didn’t just rely on obvious direct advertising campaigns to capture audience attention. The business only recently started investing in traditional marketing techniques like offline billboards. Instead, the company used unique pop-up experiences and press releases to build a reputation in its industry over time.

Similarly, many other major brands have achieved success by gradually building a connection or “affinity” with their target audience. Starbucks doesn’t have traditional television advertisements, but it does have a solid social presence that means that people are constantly talking about the company. Additionally, Starbucks’ commitment to corporate social responsibility schemes means that other publications are always talking about what it’s doing next.

One of the leading experts in the modern marketing world, Seth Godin says that it’s the job of modern marketing campaigns to tell a story that “resonates” with customers. That’s exactly what indirect marketing allows us to do. Instead of focusing on getting people to buy something immediately, indirect marketing ensures that you’re providing customers with the information and emotions that lead to purchases.

Of course, just like any advertising strategy, there are pros and cons of indirect marketing to consider.

The advantages of indirect marketing include things like:

  • Less disruptive: You’re not screaming at your audience until they pay attention to you. Rather than pushing your content in front of them, you’re convincing them to come and learn more about what you have to offer. This improves the relationship you build with your customer and can increase your chances of brand loyalty.
  • Greater brand awareness: Through indirect types of marketing like content marketing and SEO, you gradually build more exposure for your brand. This leads to a sense of familiarity between you and your audience when the time comes for them to make a purchase.
  • Thought leadership: As well as raising awareness for your brand, indirect marketing examples like content marketing and social media allow you to showcase your knowledge of a specific niche. This improves the credibility of your company over time.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Indirect marketing campaigns are often a lot less expensive than paying for teams to cold-call customers or Google ads. What’s more, your efforts continue to generate compounding value over time. Every blog or video you publish contributes to your reputation.
  • Supports word of mouth marketing: Because your customers feel more passionate about brands that they have relationships with, they’re more likely to refer their friends and associates to that company. Your indirect marketing channels can lead to word of mouth marketing.
Indirect Marketing

Are there any disadvantages of indirect marketing?

While indirect marketing is valuable, it’s not flawless.

As mentioned above, one of the most significant problems of indirect marketing is how difficult it is to track the outcomes of your campaign. You can’t get granular with your advertising analytics like you would with a direct marketing campaign. There’s no way to A/B test different keywords, or see which campaigns had a direct impact on your bottom line.

Indirect marketing is more about creating intangible benefits for your brand. It strengthens your company’s reputation, improve your credibility, and makes it easier for you to successfully gain sales in the long-term. However, it won’t necessarily give you graphs and numbers that you can present to your shareholders.

Indirect marketing can also be quite difficult. The constantly changing algorithms of SEO and social media can be challenging to keep up with. When new platforms emerge, you may feel that you don’t have the time to adopt them into your campaigns. Eventually, you could even find that your content marketing and PR schedules start to fall off track.

Although it’s possible to hire people who can manage your indirect marketing efforts for you, this does make the whole investment a little more expensive.

Because both direct and indirect marketing have positives and negatives to consider, it’s often a much better idea to use both techniques at once. For instance, you can use what you learn about your customers on social media to drive a more targeted direct marketing campaign through PPC with Google AdWords.

Similarly, you can use your PR and CSR initiatives to strengthen your relationships with your target audience. This means that the next time you launch a campaign, you know your customers are more likely to trust you. Rather than just committing to one style of marketing, many leading businesses recognise that they need to speak to their audience in a variety of different ways to have the best impact.

Indirect Marketing

Creating the perfect marketing plan

Marketing and advertising will always be a crucial part of your brand building strategy.

If you want to be successful in today’s highly competitive world, then you can’t just build a website and hope that people will find it. You need a way to draw attention to your products and services. Sometimes, this will mean being direct with your audience, sending out newsletters via email, and launching PPC campaigns to attract an immediate response.

Other times, it may be worth being a little more subtle with your promotional initiatives. Perhaps you’ll help your audience to build a stronger emotional connection with your brand by highlighting your CSR initiatives. Maybe you’ll use social media to respond to customer queries or showcase your thought leadership with a series of informative blogs.

Creating the best marketing strategy doesn’t have to mean choosing between direct marketing and indirect marketing for every project you launch. Instead, many modern businesses are discovering that indirect and direct marketing can go hand-in-hand. With the right combined strategy, you can get immediate attention for your latest campaigns, while also creating connections with your audience that last a lifetime.

Are you ready to discuss building your very own marketing campaigns?

Reach out to Fabrik today. We can help with everything from your content marketing initiatives, to the branding for your direct mail campaigns.

If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy these too:

— From the outside in: External marketing audits

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— Lost in translation: The dangers of marketing jargon

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Steve Harvey
Steve Harvey
Our co-founder, Steve Harvey, is also a regular contributor to Brand Fabrik, a flagship publication covering topics relevant to anyone in branding, marketing and graphic design. Steve shares his enthusiasm for brand naming through his articles and demonstrates his knowledge and expertise in the naming process.

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