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Indirect Marketing: Learn What It Can Do for Your Business That Direct Marketing Can’t

By Kat Solukova

Is there anything more annoying than in-your-face marketing? Pop-up ads, cold calls, and sales emails are all intended to get consumers to buy more from you. Unfortunately, this type of selling is more likely to irritate customers than impress them.

In a world where customers have become less accepting of ads, businesses can’t afford to be overly blunt with their promotional campaigns. After all, your customers are bombarded with sales materials every day. It’s no wonder they get sick of all the commercial offers popping up on every website they visit.

So, should businesses give up on marketing entirely? Not exactly. Company leaders still need a way to connect with their audience and convince them to buy. However, you can use a more subtle approach to attract new customers.

Unlike direct marketing, indirect marketing focuses on casually creating a connection with your target audience. You can use indirect marketing to retain new customers, increase loyalty, and develop more business.

What is indirect marketing?

Indirect marketing is a way for companies to advertise their services, products, or ideas without having to spam customers with high pressure (in-your-face) sales tactics.

For example, if a company wanted to advertise an upcoming event to a customer directly, they could send an email to consumers letting them know about the event and how to get signed up. On the other hand, if you wanted to get your customers informed about the same event indirectly, you could use a press release to announce your upcoming event, with quotes from your executive team, and perhaps references to previous events, or you could get influencers to share the event across social media.

Indirect marketing is a valuable component of both brand recognition and awareness. However, like any kind of advertising technique, indirect marketing comes with both positive and negative attributes to consider.


It’s a softer and subtler approach to marketing that doesn’t feel annoying or overwhelming to your target audience.
It delivers value through useful information that answers customer questions about your brand.
It’s usually a lot less expensive than direct marketing; you can usually create your own content with ease.
You build brand awareness and strengthen your reputation without being overly obvious.
You strengthen your relationship with your customers.


Indirect marketing involves casting a wider net, which means you can’t always be sure whom you’re going to attract with your campaigns.
Your profit margins may be lower, as you’re using an indirect way of selling your message.
It’s a long-term strategy that doesn’t always yield results overnight.
It requires consistent upkeep so that it can continue to deliver results.

One major downside of indirect marketing is it’s difficult to measure. Indirect advertising is all about building trust and relationships with your audience over time. Unlike direct marketing, where you can instantly see how people are converting based on your ads, you might not be able to see an immediate return on investment with your indirect campaigns.

How does indirect marketing compare to direct advertising?

Indirect and direct marketing strategies are very different beasts.

Direct marketing is a far more obvious way of connecting with potential leads. Through in-person sales calls, print advertisements, sales letters, and more, you chase your customers. The idea is that you continue to present your service or product to customers until they’re ready to buy. Common examples of direct marketing include:

Pay-per-click advertising and remarketing
Direct mail flyers and sales letters
Email advertising campaigns
Phone sales calls
Print advertisements
In-person meetings

Direct marketing grabs the attention of an audience and entices them to purchase a specific product or service. This advertising strategy is a fairly common practice among businesses. In the race to success, the direct marketing strategy is the hare, designed to rapidly convince potential customers to take action right away.

Alternatively, indirect marketing is the tortoise. It’s the less in-your-face approach to connecting with customers. While your goal may still be to sell things, you don’t have to be as obvious about it. Instead of posting an ad online, you might write a blog about how your product helps people, and publish case studies about specific results.

Common types of indirect marketing

So, how do you invest in your own indirect marketing strategy? Usually, a good indirect marketing campaign will include a multitude of strategies. To effectively enhance brand recognition and awareness, you’ll need to make sure that you’re reaching your customers across a variety of channels, including YouTube ads, content marketing, SEO, and more.

Here are just a few kinds of indirect marketing that you can consider for your business:

1. Content marketing

Content is one of the most effective ways to promote businesses today. With content marketing, you create blogs, podcasts, videos, and other materials to capture the attention and interest of your target audience. While your underlying goal might be to increase sales, you start by offering information and entertainment.

The great thing about content marketing is that it gives your customers access to free value. With a blog or a podcast, you can instantly get people engaged with your brand. You may even be able to convince customers to join your brand community by giving you their email address or other contact details in exchange for premium content.

There are plenty of companies out there that use content marketing to enhance brand awareness and thought leadership. For instance, Uber Blog publishes city-specific content to provide information that’s relevant to a specific audience.

2. Search engine optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is an indirect marketing strategy that often goes hand-in-hand with content marketing. SEO refers to the activities that a business can take to ensure it shows up as the highest-ranking result when potential customers are searching for services.

An SEO campaign will often include on-page strategies that involve things like keyword analysis. Alternatively, you can also look at things like off-page SEO. With off-page SEO, you reference your website in guest blogs and other content to get more attention going back to your site.

SEO is how you make your content more discoverable to a greater variety of people. If you can appear at the top of the search engines, your chances of capturing audience attention go through the roof. What’s more, most customers see brands at the top of the search engines as more reliable and credible than their counterparts.

SEO isn’t just for big companies either; in fact, a lot of smaller businesses use local SEO strategies to target their customers, too.

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3. PR

Good PR has always been a valuable aspect of growing a business. With the right PR, you can ensure that you’re improving the overall credibility of your company. After all, while you can always tell people that your business is excellent, that claim is much more believable when it comes from a third party. The benefits of good PR include:

Enhanced company credibility
Higher sales levels
More investors
More top industry experts willing to work with you
A boost for your SEO through backlinks

Effective PR isn’t just about connecting with journalists and media outlets. If you want your strategy to work, you need to think carefully about the reputation you are building for your brand, and how you can maintain the right image.

You don’t just have to do the standard press release either. Companies can get creative and see some fantastic results. Lyft and Netflix worked together to create a sensational PR campaign to promote the second season of Stranger Things.  The two companies immersed Lyft customers in an environment similar to the series’ fictional Hawkins, Indiana, location to create excitement around the brands.

Video Thumbnail

Strange Mode: Lyft x Stranger Things

By Kat Solukova Is there anything more annoying than in-your-face marketing? Pop-up ads, cold calls, and sales emails are all intended to get consumers to buy more from you. Unfortunately, this type of selling is more likely to irritate customers than impress them. In a world where customers have be

4. Social media

Creating a committed social media following is one of the best ways to enhance your indirect marketing campaigns. This strategy makes it easier for companies to stay top of mind with the people who follow them. The trick is to make sure you’re consistent and memorable with your social shares.

Start by finding out where your audience spends most of their time online. For instance, some companies will get better results with Instagram, whereas others engage more followers with Facebook. Once you’ve got the platform right, you can think about the content you’re going to share.

In addition to posts that immediately highlight the benefits of your products and services, make sure you are taking advantage of user-generated content. For instance, Innocent Drinks regularly reposts content from fans on Twitter to highlight the benefits of company initiatives. For example, this post shows off a cute picture, while reminding customers that buying an Innocent Smoothie also benefits charity foundation @Age_UK:

guinea pigs

Combine direct and indirect marketing

Indirect marketing strategies come in a range of flavors. Businesses today can experiment with everything from content marketing to user-generated content and referrals. However, you don’t necessarily need to make a choice between direct or indirect marketing. In fact, you could benefit more if you’re willing to combine the two.

For instance, you might create blogs that convince customers to sign up for your newsletters. Only once your audience has had a chance to learn about your business and build trust with your brand will you start sending out direct advertising messages through email.

Striking the right balance between indirect and direct marketing will mean you can strengthen your chances of building relationships with your target audience. Rather than just strengthening connections for the long term, or focusing on conversions in the short term, you can get the best of both worlds.

RELATED: How to Create an Integrated Marketing Strategy for Your Small Business

About the Author

Post by: Kat Solukova

Kat Solukova is the Co-founder and Head of Strategy at Engine Scout, a boutique digital marketing agency based in Melbourne, Australia. Engine Scout helps businesses to generate more sales through the combined power of Google and Social Media. You can reach her directly at her website or LinkedIn profile.

Company: Engine Scout Digital Marketing Agency
Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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