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Indirect Marketing: What It Is and How to Use It

Table of Contents

What is indirect marketing?

Indirect marketing is marketing focused on first gaining the trust of your potential customers. Its purpose is to grow your brand’s familiarity and nurture prospective customers to eventually buy from you.

Examples of indirect marketing include:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Content marketing
  • PR
  • Social media
  • Referrals

For this post, we’ll explore indirect marketing in the context of running ads online.

How does indirect compare to direct marketing?

Direct marketing refers to marketing activities where you’re reaching out to someone with the explicit intent to get them to buy as soon as possible.

It can include marketing channels such as:

  • direct mail campaigns
  • telemarketing
  • print ads
  • pay-per-click advertising (PPC)

Direct and indirect marketing go hand-in-hand. Direct marketing tactics can yield quick results, while indirect marketing benefits take longer to kick in. They’re part of a complete marketing strategy that plays for both the short and long-term.

There are a couple of key differences to know about indirect marketing versus direct marketing:

Cost and measurability

With direct marketing, the costs and benefits are clear. If you’re sending direct mailers, you know how much it costs to put the mailers together and send them. Then, you measure the efficacy of the campaign by using a unique link and phone number in the flyers that tracks back to your campaign.

Indirect marketing campaigns are less clear to measure. Indirect marketing is about building trust — and that takes time. Someone could read a blog post of yours then register for your newsletter… then not purchase for a year.

Because the intention isn’t to convert buyers immediately, it can be difficult to attribute a conversion to these efforts. By the time someone buys far in the future, you don’t have a clear way to track whether they were exposed to your indirect marketing in the first place.

Types of indirect marketing

A good indirect marketing strategy combines different strategies. Because to effectively grow your brand awareness, you want to reach potential customers across multiple channels, such as YouTube ads, billboards, and Instagram ads.

Here are several forms of indirect marketing you can use for your business:

Content marketing

This type of marketing campaign is when you create valuable content intended to capture the attention of your target audience. You’re not selling. You’re informing or entertaining.

Here are some examples of content marketing:

  • Blogging
  • Podcasts
  • Videos
  • Free tools
  • Online games
  • Quizzes
  • Live events

In any of these examples, you would be giving away something for free that informs or entertains your audience. In exchange, you’re attracting the attention of people interested in your industry. You can capture their emails to market to them later.

Once you’ve created content, you’ll need to put it in front of the right people. That’s where search engine optimization can help.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO refers to the activities taken to help your business show up as the highest-ranking, relevant result when potential customers are searching for your services.

SEO divides into two categories:

On-page SEO:

  • Making your website easy for Google to understand.
  • Making your website’s content relevant to the queries people search for when trying to learn more about your product or market.

Off-page SEO:

  • Having other reputable websites in your space link to you, Google notices people are talking about you. This helps you rise in search result rankings.
  • You can acquire backlinks in part by sharing valuable content that other people want to share with their audiences.

SEO can make your content discoverable to more people. And those people are interested in what your content is about. If done correctly, SEO can be a fire hose of leads for you each month. It’s a vital part of any digital marketing strategy.


If you happen to get PR, the most valuable way to use it long-term is as social proof on your ads and web pages. Social proof is when you show off how impressive you are by featuring press or notable clients. People are more likely to do business with you if they trust you. And having the New York Times or a news publication in your niche write an article on you is an opportunity to borrow their credibility. By featuring credible PR, you’re able to continue to benefit from press coverage longer than the moment it happens.

Social media

Building a social media following can be one of the most valuable forms of indirect marketing available to you. Because it helps you stay top of mind to those who follow you. And it’s free.

The trick to building a social media following is to add value and be consistent. If you’re putting out useful content that people in your target audience would find worth sharing, your following will grow. And staying consistent tells your market that you’re professional and worth working with. It’s a great way to grow brand recognition and loyalty.


There is no better way for someone to hear about your business than from a trusted friend. You get word-of-mouth referrals by overjoying your customers. Surprise your customers with value they weren’t expecting, and you’ll be something they talk about. Zappos sells shoes. But by building surprise and delight into how they take care of customer relationships, it’s grown to be worth billions of dollars.

If you want to learn advanced indirect marketing techniques and dive much deeper, check out Demand Curve’s Growth Program.

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Neal is co-founder and CTO of Demand Curve and Bell Curve. Crypto enthusiast, climbing addict, language nerd, and compulsive traveller.

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