Indirect marketing is marketing where you are not trying to explicitly sell a product or service.
Instead, focus on activities that generate brand awareness, build relationships with potential customers, and encourage them to buy from you.
Indirect marketing is based on the assumption that potential customers will not buy your product or service immediately, but over time.
And if we look at our buying behavior, that’s probably true. For example, if we need a new pair of headphones, we’ll probably first research online, browse forums, ask our friends, and familiarize ourselves with the brands and models available, all before buying.
In contrast, direct marketing is marketing where you are explicitly trying to get potential customers to buy right now. Channels include cold mail, direct mail, and announcements.
Here are some types of indirect marketing:
1. Public Relations (PR)
PR is the practice of positively influencing the perception of a brand by managing communication with the media and the general public.
Common tactics include being newsworthy, responding to media inquiries (e.g. HARO), creating press releases, building relationships with journalists, and creating PR stunts.
For example, Ahrefs appeared on TechCrunch in 2022.
This was possible because we had:
- A noteworthy event (“we are making a search engine”).
- Relationships with the right people (all thanks to the hard work of my colleague, Daria Samokish).
2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is the practice of optimizing your website and its pages to rank higher in search engines like Google. You would like to make sure that your important pages are appearing in Google for relevant keywords. For example, if someone is searching for your brand, your website should look like:
But no one will look for your brand if they don’t know it exists. So, in addition to optimizing your homepage, you should also target keywords that your customers are searching for.
At Ahrefs, we create content targeting issues that our potential customers have. For example, 14,000 people a month search for “link building” in the United States
This is an issue that our toolset helps with, so we’ve created content that is targeted towards that topic.
Every time someone searches for that keyword on Google, they will discover our content and, in the process, our product and brand.
Repeat this endlessly and you’ll be exposing hundreds, if not thousands, of people to your brand (in our case, about 3.4 million).
Recommended reading: SEO: The Complete Beginner’s Guide
3. Social media
Creating valuable content that gets people to follow you on social media platforms like Twitter and TikTok is a great way to generate brand awareness and build relationships with your audience.
For example, ours Twitter account has 128,000 followers and we regularly share SEO and marketing tips with our audience:
Is it worth investing in indirect marketing? Let’s look at the pros and cons.
Here are the benefits of indirect marketing.
1. Indirect marketing creates demand and awareness
Why is it important to build brand awareness and demand?
Simple: there are alone so many people who are ready to buy right now. Most of your potential customers are not yet aware that they have a problem, are unaware of solutions, or are unaware of your particular product or service.
So if you’re using direct marketing, you’re only focusing on a small group of people. Not only that, but you could actually just reach out to people who are already ready to buy in the first place.
Ultimately, you’ll still need a way to open up a pool of prospects. And you can do it with indirect marketing tactics.
2. Indirect marketing is less intrusive and unobtrusive
Potential customers intentionally seek out content that helps them solve problems. Not only that, but even indirect marketing tactics rarely involve touching people.
Here are some downsides of indirect marketing.
1. Indirect marketing takes time
You can’t create a brand overnight. Nor can you amass 100,000 followers in one day. Relationships with journalists take time to build. And ranking on Google also takes time.
Recognizing that customers need time to buy also means recognizing that nurturing the relationship takes time.
2. Indirect marketing is less traceable
Life gets in everyone’s way. You must have had the experience of looking for something to buy, only to give it up for a few years before suddenly going back to buying it. Your customers are the same too.
As a result, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly which indirect marketing tactic contributed to the success. But that doesn’t mean indirect marketing doesn’t work, it’s just that it’s not attributable.
Direct marketing: pros and cons
Is it worth investing in direct marketing? Here are the pros and cons.
What are some benefits of direct marketing?
1. Direct marketing is measurable
Direct marketing tactics are usually traceable: how many opens, how many clicks, how many conversions, and so on. You can see these metrics on advertising platforms and email marketing software.
2. Direct marketing is fast
Because it is intended to elicit a response or purchase, direct marketing tactics can have an immediate impact on a company’s bottom line.
Direct marketing is not all sunshine and roses. There are some downsides.
1. Direct marketing is intrusive
Direct marketing tactics like cold email and classified ads are usually seen as interruptive. This is because the prospect has not requested them and yet still receives a sales message.
2. Direct marketing has a smaller reach
As mentioned above, there are only so many people who are ready and willing to buy. Direct marketing only converts these people, but it can’t drive purchases from people who don’t even know you exist.
3. Direct marketing can be blocked
CAN-SPAM, GDPR, ad-blockers: they exist to prevent unwanted sales messages from reaching consumers.
Looking for successful examples of how companies have used indirect marketing? Here are three to inspire you.
1. Ahrefs – Blogs
The main type of marketing we use is SEO-based content marketing. It can be summed up in one sentence:
We create and manage high-quality, research-focused content on topics with commercial potential, search traffic potential, and ranking potential.
To break it down:
- We search the topics our customers search for on Google.
- We filter them by checking their business potential: how easy it will be to present our product by addressing these keywords.
- We prioritize by analyzing their ranking potential – how feasible it is for us to rank in the top three with our available resources.
- We create content targeted to these topics.
- We update or rewrite them if they don’t rank or are out of date.
This strategy means that customers always discover us whenever they search for solutions to their problems on Google.
Our strategy is simple. No fancy tactics or the latest hot trend. But this deliberate simplicity makes the strategy easy to follow and is the driving force behind our eight-figure annual recurring revenue (ARR).
Find out how to replicate our strategy in the guide below.
Recommended reading: How to Create an SEO Content Strategy (Follow Ahrefs Framework)
2. Wendy’s – Twitter
Wendy’s is a fast food chain. However, you might not be able to tell from his tweets:
If you’re out of the loop, Wendy’s has essentially revolutionized the way brands can use social media and communicate with their customers. Rather than post boring bureaucratic tweets in “corporatese,” she decided to do a 180-degree turn by sharing memes, roasting rival companies, and posting in a cheeky tone. And she rarely does she have a call to action to visit a Wendy’s restaurant.
But this indirect marketing works for this. In a highly competitive fast food scene, this social media strategy puts its brand first.
Not only do her tweets draw attention to the network itself, but they spread virally to other channels as well. Memes, anime parodies, and YouTube videos – the list goes on.
As of 2012, Wendy’s surpassed Burger King to become the third largest fast food chain in the United States.
3. Slidebeans – YouTube
Slidebean is a pitch deck design platform for startups and small businesses. He has more than 400,000 subscribers on YouTube. Many of his videos aren’t about pitch decks or pitch deck design; instead, they are about startups, marketing, and business.
This is deliberate. It initially started with topics related to his product. But he found he ran out of those topics in a short amount of time. So he decided to shift the marketing funnel to broader topics.
Since we had found a “YouTube formula”, we decided to apply it to other types of content, and one of them was the idea of exploring failed companies. The first was WeWork, which was just the right bridge between a startup-focused company and a widely known brand. At this stage, the series was called “Startup Forensics”.
However, there were only so many tech startups to explore, so we quickly opened it up to “Company Forensics” to broaden our horizons.
This has allowed Slidebean to get as many eyes on YouTube as possible, which puts its brand first. The company achieved $1.5 million in revenue with 3,000 customers in 2022.
The best companies use both indirect and direct marketing. They do not discriminate between strategies. If you want to improve your business, you should use both.
Any question? She hit me on Twitter.