Indirect Marketing - Definition & How to use it?

Learn what indirect marketing is and how it's different from direct marketing through some great examples.

What is Indirect Marketing?

Indirect marketing is a marketing strategy where brands market their products by using subtle methods rather than being overly promotional. 

In indirect marketing, you don’t attempt to sell anything to the customer. Instead, you rely on building brand awareness and developing trust, so your potential customers find you.

The idea here is simple - consumers don’t like being bombarded with promotions asking them to buy things. Your potential customers are sick and tired of this, so pursuing it might work against your favour. 

So how can brands effectively market their products without being too spammy? Well, the answer is simple - through indirect marketing. 

With indirect marketing, you create marketing strategies that develop customer relationships by providing useful information to your potential customer. Any effort to directly help the customer will cultivate trust that will eventually prompt them to check out your product. 

The focus here is not to get instant conversions but to build brand awareness. Customers usually respond well to indirect marketing strategy as they are provided value upfront for practically free.    

Difference between Direct Marketing and Indirect Marketing

Direct Marketing

Direct marketing is essentially all marketing activities that directly ask your customer to perform an action that can be termed direct marketing. The goal of direct marketing is to get instant conversions. 

It is the more traditional form of marketing strategy that most people are familiar with. Direct marketing is a very focused way of targeting a pool of audiences to nudge them to take an action. 

Some common forms of direct marketing are as follows:

  1. In-person sales calls
  2. TV commercials
  3. Email advertisements
  4. Flyers or Sales letters
  5. Paid social media advertisement
  6. Print ads
  7. Pay-per-click ads
  8. Billboard ads

You can see a common theme here. All these mediums are trying to directly promote a product. They mostly use flashy means to grab customers’ attention. The template here is straightforward, all brands are essentially holding a microphone, saying “Our product is best in the market and can do x number of things for you. Please buy from us.”

Indirect Marketing

We have prefaced the definition of indirect marketing in the previous section, so let’s highlight how indirect marketing is different from direct marketing. For once, indirect marketing is not as direct as direct marketing. 

Pursuing indirect marketing is essentially a long process, with very little space for instant gratification. So indirect marketing doesn’t immediately yield quantifiable conversions. 

At the centre of indirect marketing is the goal of building familiarity with the brand. So consider this, most brands that you feel some loyalty towards had to cultivate that loyalty over a period of time. They most probably were able to do that by providing you with tremendous value without expecting much in return. 

Eventually, when they released a superior and exclusive version of a product you were more comfortable buying it. This is because you were certain that the product will add value to you based on past experience. 

Some examples of indirect marketing are as follows:

  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  2. All content marketing activities
  3. News articles 
  4. Useful and relevant blog posts
  5. Social media initiatives
  6. Sponsorship 
  7. Referrals
  8. Word of mouth
  9. PR

All these forms are marketing essentially aim to introduce your product to potential customers. 

Cost and Measurability of Indirect Marketing

With any marketing strategy, knowing the cost and measuring the impact of the campaign becomes essential. In direct marketing, calculating the cost is straightforward. You can also periodically measure the conversion rate of the campaign with precision. 

This is not the case with indirect marketing. Here, the marketer has very little control over the yield of the process. Building brand awareness is a time-consuming process. Only after waiting for a certain period of time will you know if your strategy is working. 

For example, a visitor on your blog post will not always check out your product. Even if they check out your product and show interest, they might not make a purchase for a long period of time.  

Since terms like brand awareness and loyalty are not the most quantifiable parameters, it’s comparatively difficult to measure progress. But there are ways to quantify and measure the impact of indirect marketing touchpoints in a customer’s journey through experience analytics. This is of course very difficult to perfect. 

Types of Indirect Marketing

We have already listed down a number of different examples of indirect marketing. But let’s further explore the different types of indirect marketing along with their attributes. 

indirect marketing

An effective indirect marketing strategy is implemented to target potential customers in all possible ways. That means you’ll have to reach your customers and add value to them on all possible mediums available. 

So only SEO focused blogs will not be enough. Combining the efforts on the SEO front with social media content, newsletters, referrals and relevant resources will yield more tangible results. The idea is to capitalize on all indirect opportunities to capture your audience’s attention.

Here are some forms of indirect marketing - 

1. Content Marketing

Content marketing includes all the different content you can create on different mediums and platforms to directly serve your audience. The content can be informative or entertaining. But the goal here is to add value. 

Common ways to implement content marketing are as follows:

  1. Blogging - Writing blogs that serve as guides, tell relevant stories, share insights that are helpful to your customers. 
  2. Podcasts - Building a podcast that focuses on the niche market your company operates in can also be a content marketing strategy
  3. Videos - Creating a YouTube channel or creating video-based content. 
  4. Reviews - Providing authentic product reviews in your domain with elaborate comparisons can also add value. 

This content will be available to your customers for free. The content should be designed so that it's relevant to your product and attracts high-interest customers.

2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization is a method by which websites can get a regular flow of organic traffic through search engine queries. SEO helps your web pages to show up as one of the top results for a query on a search engine. 

For example, if you search “marketing” in Google, there are a number of results that will appear. Now you want one of your blogs on marketing to be one of those results. How do you make that happen? Through search engine optimization. 

This will require you to optimize your website’s on-page and off-page elements. SEO is a great way to make your content discoverable by a large number of customers. 

If you'd like to explore SEO in more detail for your startup, you can check out this thread: SEO for startups.

3. Social media

Social media is a great medium to directly reach a relevant audience. The medium makes it easy to create a one-on-one connection with your customer. So simply posting on trending topics on social media will put you on the radar of your target audience.

It is a great medium to create brand awareness by directly interacting with your customers. Choosing the right platform is half the work. You need to identify which platform your customers spend most of their time on and what kind of content they consume and resonate with. Now with this information, you can start a strong and consistent campaign. 

Through social media, brands can create the top of mind awareness with your customers. 

4. PR

Getting press from established publications, businesses, or individuals with high credibility can be extremely beneficial. This not only puts you in front of a large audience, but it also gives you social proof and in turn shared credibility for being acknowledged by an established brand. 

Interviews, detailed articles about your company, podcast appearances, feature in local publications all can serve as valuable PR for your business. 

Another way to implement a PR initiative is by partnering with a contemporary brand. The campaign can amplify both your brands and create a cross over between your audiences.

5. Social responsibility initiatives

Finally, social responsibility initiatives can also serve as a way of implementing indirect marketing. Here brands pick a social issue that is relevant to their product or market or the community at large. Based on the issue chosen brands can make donations, create awareness campaigns, create opportunities or scholarships for the underprivileged etc.

Corporate social responsibility initiatives basically help establish a socially aware brand image. So now, your customers don’t think of you as just a money-sucking institution. This is a way for your business to give back to the community. 

Indirect Marketing Examples

Some examples of companies implementing indirect marketing are as follows. 

Think with Google is an informative blog for marketers to get deep insights about all things marketing. The site has articles that explore topics like Consumer Insights and Marketing Strategies and Innovations. 

The blog also works as a gateway for marketers to discover marketing tools created by Google like Google Trends, Test My Site and Market Finder.  

Social media marketing is implemented by almost all brands. For example, McDonald’s has a huge user base on all social media platforms. This analysis details how McDonald’s uses regional social media account and memes and videos to constantly be part of conversations. It also provides customer service for queries directly on social media platforms. 


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Sid Sijbrandij

Sid Sijbrandij

Sid Sijbrandij Started on the side Does code