When people think of marketing, they often think of direct, targeted campaigns. This is mostly true – brands spend 2/3 of their marketing budget on direct marketing. However, direct marketing is only one side of the coin. While direct marketing engages your customers and tries to convince them to buy right away, indirect marketing allows customers to engage with your business and build trust in your brand.
With indirect marketing, you go for a long-term approach hoping that they will eventually buy from you. It is the opposite of overt promotion, where you expect the customer to buy right away. In the following paragraphs, you’ll learn the importance of indirect marketing and see how its core methods can help you stand out from the crowd.
Why Does Indirect Marketing Matter?
I’ve led online marketing campaigns for more than a decade now and have had experience with both direct and indirect marketing. Whenever someone asks me about the difference between the two kinds of marketing, I often use running as a metaphor.
We can compare direct marketing to sprinting. Speed to market is essential in direct marketing, and campaigns are often short, intense, and aggressive. For a direct marketing campaign to be effective, you have to invest many resources in a relatively short amount of time. It’s a high-risk, high-reward strategy.
In contrast, indirect marketing is comparable to running a marathon. While speed is still essential, endurance matters more. It’s a long-term strategy that involves patience and adjustment. While the immediate returns for indirect marketing are not immediately apparent, the trust that you win with these campaigns forms the foundation of your relationships with customers.
In a field like marketing, where people often crave immediate results, you must be asking: “why then should I invest in indirect marketing campaigns?” Well, let’s examine a few reasons brands use this approach.
First, your potential customers are tired of ads. Their patience has worn thin due to the volume of direct ads they receive daily. Indirect marketing is much more subtle. When done well, most viewers don’t even realize that you’re already advertising something.
Second, indirect marketing allows you to build even more brand exposure in the long run. Through its underlying parts like search engine optimization (SEO), you can ensure that your content is visible in search engine results and generate traffic as long as it’s still up.
Third, years of indirect marketing efforts like content marketing and webinars can establish your brand as an industry expert. Thought leadership ensures that your brand is respected and admired outside your core audience, in addition to being recognized within your industry.
Finally, indirect marketing is compatible with word-of-mouth advertising. Whether you generate articles, videos, or social media posts, your customers are likely to share and engage with your content. Marketers also consider growing fan loyalty as a factor in using indirect marketing as part of their marketing strategies.
5 Ways To Use Indirect Marketing To Get More Customers
As we’ve seen earlier, indirect marketing often involves lower, less intense spending than direct marketing. For instance, you can start a blog for less than $50 and hire a freelancer to write articles for a reasonable price. It is also subtler, opting instead to show viewers your brand value rather than inundating them with ads and promotional content.
Let’s look at a few indirect marketing methods that can help you increase your customer base organically.
1. Content Marketing
You can draw up all the charts, email strategies, and lead conversion funnels you like, but any digital marketing strategy falls flat without content that convinces your audience that your brand can help them. According to HubSpot, close to 50% of buyers read or view three to five pieces of content before reaching out to a sales rep. Content is the conduit through which you transmit ideas and brand value propositions to your audience. your audience.
Content marketing seeks to capture a target market by creating informative content. Here, you’re not trying to sell your products directly to the market. Instead, you’re making an effort to drive your brand visibility, capture your audience’s attention, and establish your brand as a solution to your market’s problems.
Content marketing is focused on informing, entertaining, or educating your viewers. A few popular content marketing formats are:
- Blogs and articles
- Online games
- Quizzes and quiz funnels
- Live branded events
- Videos on platforms like YouTube or Vimeo
- Webinars and other virtual workshops
Well-crafted content allows you to offer viewers something they can use, such as tips for a more conducive working environment or software recommendations for remote workers.
By providing a lead magnet like free content or a limited-time software trial, where you provide additional valuable information, you can sometimes collect their contact information and place them on your mailing list. That allows you to develop the relationship with your audience further.
In the spirit of the 2020 Olympic Games, Salesforce featured a story of one of its employees who was a silver medalist in 2008. When you click on the link, the article does not just mention Christine Magnuson’s athletic past but also promotes the company’s recruitment page:
As the example above illustrates, you don’t need to run content marketing campaigns directly either. You can partner with affiliates who create engaging content that generates leads for your company. You may ask a blogger to review your product or include your product in a listicle, such as a “Best of” list.
You can invest in long-term relationships with affiliates. For example, when you identify an affiliate that generates referrals, you can invest in partnerships. Those partnerships could involve educational webinars and other top-of-the-funnel thought pieces.
You can leverage the trust in that relationship to slowly introduce your company to a new audience. You can generate a lot of leads over time with this approach.
You’ll need to consider how to run such campaigns. For example, you might extend the affiliate tracking cookie lifetime so that you can track more sales. That allows you to offer a higher payout. Or, you could pay per lead at a lower rate knowing that some of those leads will become sales. Some affiliates can even set up and track Google Ads campaigns.
Whether you are trying to sell products or recruit the best workers available, content marketing allows you to build your image and cement your position as an industry thought leader. In the case of Salesforce, content marketing also offered an opportunity for the company to package itself as a workplace where people of diverse backgrounds are welcome.
2. Social Media
We live in the age of social media. According to Statista, around 3.8 billion people worldwide are on one or more social networks. If your brand does not have a social media presence or isn’t very active on social media, it will miss out on a massive opportunity to reach and build relationships with new audiences. Building an engaged, consistent following can prove to be a valuable form of indirect marketing.
With social media, you can stay on top of changing customer preferences and their perception of your brand—all in real-time. More importantly, creating a social media account costs nothing.
There are other shortcuts to building a vast social media following, like buying social media followers. While these can occasionally work, I don’t advise brands to implement these approaches. These followers are less likely to engage with your page or with other users. Using this tactic can make your brand lose credibility and damage your Facebook ranking.
Instead, the goal should be to deliver consistent value with your social accounts. Publish things that will inspire your audience to engage with your brand. Focus on shareable content like short captions, colorful images, and interactive animations. When your audience shares your content, they become unofficial ambassadors for your brand.
This LinkedIn poll from HubSpot, for example, is an excellent example of shareable content that does not try to sell anything. Instead, its goal is to increase awareness of the brand. It engaged the page’s followers through comments and votes and also promoted the company’s campaign playbook.
Public relations (PR) is the discipline of informing your audience about your brand, including your community development and charitable efforts. Brands use PR to announce their accomplishments and to maintain their reputations in the face of adversity. In other words, PR is all about telling the brand’s story to customers and stakeholders.
One way to use PR in indirect marketing is to partner with well-known brands and use their channels to promote your product. People are more likely to do business with or purchase from brands they trust. These days, having another big-name brand endorse you through references in publications and video content allows you to benefit from another brand’s reputation and market standing.
PR also allows you to reap the benefits of a positive event long after it happens. There is truth to the saying that first impressions last. It only takes a few seconds for a person to form a first impression of your brand, but the results last for a long time. It can also provide unique new touchpoints that you can leverage for short and long-term lead generation.
The marketing firm Catalina, for example, issued a press release announcing the results of a study on shopper behavior based on its proprietary Buyer Intelligence Database. While the press release itself doesn’t sell anything, the prominent mention of the database implies that the company has marketing data that its clients can use to increase sales. This example illustrates how a marketing company uses indirect marketing to promote its services.
Brands and businesses use search engine optimization (SEO) to ensure that search engines can find and index their websites, social media pages, and other online properties. Google runs on an algorithm that skims through websites to determine their relevance to particular search results, a technique also known as “crawling”.
Marketers classify SEO activities into two subcategories: on-page and off-page SEO. On-page SEO deals with all the techniques, processes, and practices performed on the website or social media account itself. It includes factors like meta tags, image optimization, keyword research, sitemaps, anchor pages, and more.
Off-page SEO, on the other hand, deals with creating visibility around your website. It involves techniques like backlinking, guest posting, and brand collaborations. Any route that begins outside your website and ends with new users tracking right back to your website or social media page falls under the classification of off-page SEO.
Good SEO makes your content discoverable to more people—whether through search engine result pages, YouTube content recommendations, and social media search results. The proper use of SEO techniques adds a lot of lead generation potential to your website, which is why marketers keep adapting to Google’s ever-changing algorithm despite the effort and cost involved.
For example, when you search for “affiliate conversion attribution”, WeCanTrack ranks fifth in the search results, ahead of some of its closest competitors. The reason? WeCanTrack invested its resources into ranking for that exact keyword, from adding the phrase to its site description to gaining backlinks from high-authority sites.
5. Social Proof
Businesses are starting to understand the importance of social proof in shaping public opinion of their brands. Social proof refers to the tendency of people to imitate others’ actions. In a marketing context, it implies that people will buy the things others have already purchased.
The infographic above shows us the different types of social proof. While security seals and accreditations are crucial to establishing your brand’s reputation, user-generated content like reviews and testimonials help convince others that your brand serves human customers. When brands upload these testimonials on their websites, visitors can see what previous buyers are saying about their products.
Aside from on-site testimonials, responding to customer reviews on sites such as Yelp or G2.com allows you to show your appreciation for current customers and convince potential clients that you take their feedback seriously. It is also a suitable venue for finding out what users like and dislike about your products.
Content marketing software DemandJump, for example, encourages its clients to post testimonials on platforms such as G2.com or Capterra. Video testimonials are a particularly powerful form of social proof as they add a human touch. When potential customers watch a video testimonial, they are more likely to become interested in your product.
Indirect marketing is a relatively affordable way to build a solid audience base around your brand and create a favorable impression in the minds of potential customers. These days, you need to look at a customer’s interaction with a brand as a journey, one that’s perpetually evolving as their relationship with the brand changes from bystander to paying customer to brand advocate.
Unlike direct marketing, which involves campaigns targeting specific customers to make a purchase or subscription right away, indirect marketing focuses on nurturing a relationship based on trust and authority with the customer. The goal is to keep the brand at the top of the customer’s mind and improve your brand recall through thought leadership.
The five methods mentioned in this article are among the most effective indirect marketing channels. While there are no hard and fast rules for indirect marketing, most brands start with content marketing and SEO to make their content base already visible on Google searches. Once brands have established those two core channels, marketers can start focusing on social media, social proof, and PR.
This article’s featured image comes from Noah Näf on Unsplash.