Open any online platform, from social media channels to company websites, and you’ll likely see an ad - or several. The average consumer in 2021 sees about 1,700 banner ads every single day and, unsurprisingly, ignores most of them. Ad fatigue is a real issue and can make direct marketing a challenge. So what are marketers to do?
The solution is indirect marketing, a form of promotion for your business or product that focuses not on making a quick sale, but on winning audience trust.
Read on to learn why indirect marketing has become a preferred advertising mode for businesses trying to cut through the noise of the millions of ads online. We will also look at several ways you can use an indirect marketing strategy to boost sales and brand awareness.
Indirect marketing is a gentle nudge to get someone to see all the great things your brand has to offer. Less intrusive and more informative, it gives you a chance to engage with your target audience authentically, without pushing for a sale.
Indirect marketing is a way to engage with your customers, rather than sell directly to them, through various channels. It aims to increase brand awareness and attract potential leads, but is not explicitly promotional in its approach. Indirect marketers move away from fighting to close a sale and instead focus on providing value to the consumer. The trick is to plant a seed, nurture it by giving value and information-rich content, and then let the customer do the rest.
Content marketing, blogging, public relations (PR), social media, and search engine optimization (SEO) are some of the most popular indirect marketing techniques for businesses, whereas podcasts, webinars, and tutorials are some of indirect marketing campaigns.
We know that, across the various types of digital marketing brands use, consumers in 2021 will see thousands of ads in a typical day. Google alone brought in advertising revenue that topped $134 billion in 2019 with PPC ads:
This constant flow of ads can be exhausting for consumers, and many of us have learned to tune them out. Many people even use tools like ad blockers to reduce the number they see. So what can you do to make sure your target customers know about your brand without adding to their ad fatigue? This is why indirect marketing matters.
Indirect strategies give your audience a break from the steady stream of “buy this!”, and focus instead on providing them with something useful. For example, let’s imagine you run a content marketing agency. A free webinar on how to use content marketing to grow your business will attract far more prospective customers than a promotional post or sales calls about your services.
There are two main reasons for this. First, your consumer is looking for value right from the first time they encounter your brand. They will not engage with you if they see that you are only looking to make a quick sale. Second, it is a great way to keep potential customers engaged as you guide them along the sales funnel, without coming across as pushy.
In a study by EMarketer, only 10% of respondents said they did not find online ads annoying. More than half of the respondents said autoplay video ads were the most annoying kind of direct marketing campaign. These results give a clear indication that consumers do not like intrusive ads. If you interrupt their web browsing or social media scrolling experience with a hard sell ad, chances are they will become annoyed and end up with nothing good to say about your brand.
Intrusive ads and direct mail can be countered by indirect marketing. This offers you three opportunities that direct marketing doesn’t: the opportunity to build trust, the opportunity to develop customer loyalty and an effective avenue for brand recognition.
In this section, we will look at how you can use indirect marketing to ease your leads into the sales funnel and prevent them from leaking out.
Love it or hate it, social media is near ubiquitous in the modern world. Social media is also a part of the digital ad overdose problem for many users. But that doesn’t mean you should eschew social media marketing entirely. You just need to be clever in how you approach it.
You can use social media to provide great content to your audience. Rather than yet another “buy now” ad, you can use Facebook groups, Youtube and TikTok videos, Instagram Stories, and more to share useful information, get to know your audience, and interact with them directly. Think of it as an indirect version of email marketing.
Education website Scholastic shows us one example of a great way to do this. Their Pinterest account has separate boards aimed at various segments of their audience - teachers, students, and parents. Each one provides excellent tips.
They further break their content down, for example by offering separate boards for classroom learning and e-learning. In the example above, they offer tips on making the most of your classroom library. This immediately provides useful and relevant information for their target audience, and enables conversation between the brand and its customers.
Designing social media posts is also faster (and generally requires less resources) than many other direct marketing channels such as direct mail, sales calls and PPC. Just remember - whatever you do with social media, always pay attention to your analytics to make sure things are working as you want them to.
Though we live in the digital age, word-of-mouth marketing is still incredibly powerful. Why? Because people trust recommendations from their friends, family, and colleagues more than they trust traditional advertising.
Therefore, take the time to build your network, get to know people and create brand loyalty. Online networking has really come into its own in the era of COVID-19. Networking allows you to build authentic relationships, have conversations on topics related to your services, and gently nudge interested parties towards your brand.
Many of the people you meet will never have need of your services. That doesn’t mean the time was wasted! If they know and trust you and can vouch for your knowledge and professionalism, they’ll recommend you when someone in their network needs what you’re offering.
An easy way to encourage organic referrals is by offering interactive forms that make it simple for your customers to share your products and services with their friends and family.
Word of mouth advertising can’t be forced. It requires real connections as well as time and patience. But if you present yourself as a welcoming and professional face of your brand, you will soon find those in your network are willing to endorse you to their friends.
In the US, companies say that an average of 65% of new sales come from referrals. The reason is simple: the personal experience of a customer is always more effective than a brand’s claim of being the best, intrusive sales pitches and telemarketing. The only way to take full advantage of this is to offer a superior product and amazing customer service. Remember, this works both ways. If your product and service are great, people will tell their friends. If your product or customer service is terrible… well, they’ll also tell their friends. A strong referral system can make or break a small business.
In 2010, cloud storage and sharing company Dropbox was still finding its feet in the U.S. market. The turning point was when it established its stellar referral program. Dropbox members were given more storage space if they invited other people to join the site. The result was that the platform added 4 million users in just 15 months. One study estimated that this move has also permanently increased Dropbox sign-ups by 60%.
Who doesn’t love free stuff? Free, valuable content is a surefire winner in indirect marketing. Content marketing utilizes a vast array of content types and formats, from articles to Youtube videos, blogs, and even starting a podcast. Content can be informative, entertaining, or both, and is a great way to showcase your brand's value and purpose.
The best kind of content educates, entertains, and then piques the customer’s interest enough to inspire them to learn more. One of my favorite examples from recent years is Hootsuite’s The Game of Thrones-inspired video.
This brilliant campaign replaced the various houses featured in the show’s title sequence with social media platforms. The video ended with the Hootsuite logo and the memorable tagline, “Unite your social kingdom!”. With more than 1 million views, this campaign capitalized on a pop culture phenomenon in a way that was highly entertaining. Certainly something you’d be inclined to hit the “Share” button for!
Many brands use long-form articles to educate their audience, providing in-depth analysis of a topic or a robust how-to guide. This type of informative content works brilliantly as it helps website visitors answer a specific question or solve a particular problem.
Here are a few other types of content you might like to try:
Using content to drive leads and customers for your business is a lot simpler than it sounds. All you’ll need is a landing form that makes your content irresistible to your potential customers.
Take this course registration landing form for example. The prospect of this free training course is likely to appeal to a digital nomad, which makes it an ideal indirect marketing campaign for businesses that target remote workers.
Don’t be afraid to vary your content, try things out, and see what resonates with your audience and gets the best response.
Ultimately, your marketing tactics have one purpose: to convince prospective customers of the value of your product or service. Therefore, why not give them a free look at what you can provide? A free trial period of your product or service is a great way to show them that your product is the solution they’re looking for.
People are often risk-averse, particularly when it comes to spending money. They may not want to take a chance on something they haven’t tried. A free trial with no obligation takes away the risk factor. Make sure that your free trial is a salient selling point on your landing page.
Modern consumers expect brands to give back and contribute positively to society. Buyers increasingly want to support brands that behave ethically, have sustainable practices, and demonstrate a social conscience.
Companies of all sizes have realized the power of using a social cause in their marketing efforts. By attaching yourself to a cause, you can gain your customers' trust as a dependable brand looking to make a positive impact in the world.
Environmental concerns have prompted a massive movement for more climate literacy in recent years, and companies are taking note. Household name brands like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are all vowing to cut down their carbon footprint and operate in a more sustainable manner.
McDonald's Sweden created a great, eye-catching campaign to draw attention to the world’s most important pollinators: bees. They “opened” a mini McDonald’s for bees and cleverly titled it McHive:
However, don’t be tempted to attach yourself to a cause you don’t care about just to win corporate social responsibility points. This will be very transparent to your audience. Instead, choose something that really matters to you - whether it’s environmental concerns, animal rights, eradicating poverty, or promoting equality for all - and make your brand a vocal advocate.
Good SEO practices should form the backbone of all your marketing efforts. From choosing the right keyword to ensuring all your images and H1 tags are optimized, SEO is essential if you want your brand to be more visible. In fact, it’s been found to be the best inbound strategy when conversions are weighed against effort:
Where is the first place you go when you want to find something online? I bet it’s Google or another search engine. Well, so do most people. That’s why SEO matters - it helps people to find you where they’re looking for you.
Here are a few quick SEO tips to help you get started:
There are special SEO considerations if you are a local business. One study indicated that 92% of local intent searchers choose companies that appear on the first page of results. It also has the best conversion rate among all channels as users come to your brand for immediate solutions.
Here are a few bonus local SEO tips:
SEO is a long game. Your site won’t start ranking in the first week or even the first month. One Ahrefs study found that pages ranking in the top spot of a Google results page are around three years old on average:
Therefore, take your time, be patient, and stick with it. The results will be worth it in the end!
The press can also be an effective way to get people to notice your business. Appearing in the right local publications can give your brand’s credibility a boost. Getting your brand to feature in newspapers and magazines also allows your customers to get to know you better.
PR campaigns help to generate a buzz around your brand and are particularly useful during product launches. As we discussed in the previous section, they’re good for SEO, too!
Companies often use PR campaigns to keep their brand in the public eye and stay relevant. Sportswear brand Nike created a PR sensation when it jumped into the body positivity movement and started displaying mannequins representing different body sizes:
The move was hailed on social media and was picked up by various publications, including Business Insider, which called it a “brilliant business decision”. According to the article, after the move, the search for the words “Nike” and “plus-size” grew by 387%.
Be careful, though - PR campaigns can backfire badly if you don’t know what you’re doing. Hire a professional PR consultant to create your press releases and ensure you don’t end up creating a PR disaster.
Influencer marketing is a bit like a referral program taken to the next level. When one trusted person tells another, you might add two people to your network. With an influencer, however, one recommendation can get your brand in front of thousands of potential customers - or more!
A study by Medakix estimates that about 80% of marketers find influencers an “effective” or “very effective” form of marketing:
Influencers, who were once only celebrities and celebrated industry experts, now include the growing tribe of bloggers , vloggers, and social media personalities who have amassed a loyal following.
If you are a small business owner and think that influencer marketing is not for you, think again! The rise of the micro-influencer has helped local and small businesses to grow their brands all over the world. Micro-influencers can have anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 followers, and those followers tend to be highly engaged. If you want to go even more niche, there’s also nano influencers, who have 2,000 - 10,000 followers.
Indirect marketing can be a highly effective way to build brand awareness and trust. Ranging from educational to entertaining, indirect strategies allow consumers to see the value your services can provide, without ad blockers or ad fatigue getting in the way.
You can use social media, public relations, blogging, referral programs, social causes, and many other strategies to further your brand’s reach. Just make sure you stay focused on providing value and demonstrating why your brand is the best.
With so many great and proven indirect marketing methods at your disposal, what are you waiting for? Your next campaign awaits!
Matt Diggity is a search engine optimisation expert focused on affiliate marketing, client ranking, lead generation, and SEO services. He is the founder and CEO of Diggity Marketing, The Search Initiative, Authority Builders, LeadSpring LLC, and host of the Chiang Mai SEO Conference.
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