Saving Indirect Marketing in the Era of Personalization

Andrea Fryrear on Content Marketing

Indirect marketing, generally defined as any marketing campaign in which you don’t know exactly who will consume your message, doesn’t get a lot of attention these days.

The power of big data is making it more and more feasible for marketers to speak to their audience on a personal level, and that ability makes highly targeted direct marketing tactics increasingly possible.

However, indirect marketing should not be left to wither in the wilderness.

It includes one of the most powerful modern marketing tools, content marketing, and is often designed to establish a long term connection with a customer. As a bonus, it’s typically much less expensive than direct marketing.

The focus on content, relationship building, and a broader reach mean that indirect marketing needs to have a place at your strategy table.

Content is Indirect, and Content is King

There’s no shortage of arguments about the massive benefits of content marketing, but we’ll highlight a few of the most salient points:

  • 80% of business decision-makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement
  • 70% say content marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company
  • 60% say company content helps them make better product decisions
  • B2B buyers on average consume 8 pieces of content before making a purchase decision
  • Buyers go through 57% of the purchase process before ever talking to sales

(Stats thanks to Content Marketing Institute)

From search engine optimization to brand awareness to long-term loyalty, it’s practically impossible to effectively run a digital marketing campaign without content. Consumers’ behavior clearly indicates a preference for content they can consume on their own terms.

And, to create the maximum impact from your content, you actually don’t want most of it to be distributed via direct means.

Think about it: if you had to write a unique blog post, create a special infographic, and tailor your ebooks for each and every one of your existing and potential customers, the flood of content would destroy your entire department very quickly.

Certainly, we want to target our content so that it’s relevant to its audience, but that’s not the same thing as using direct marketing methods to distribute it piecemeal to each individual.

Remember, direct marketing is any campaign in which you know exactly who will be consuming your marketing message. That means content marketing is typically indirect, and that means indirect marketing is vital.

Indirect Marketing Reaches Big Audiences to Achieve Big Goals

While one of its disadvantages is admittedly its scattered targets, indirect marketing does cover a broader market than direct marketing. This makes it possible to achieve broader objectives, such as improving brand awareness and establishing thought leadership.

To make progress toward either of these lofty goals you have no choice but to speak with your audience at scale.

Convincing each individual person in your demographic range that you’re the authority in your field AND that your brand is superior to all your competitors would require a budget that would make even Warren Buffett blush.

Creating a piece of content that, through sharing and long tail search engine traffic, reaches hundreds of thousands of readers over time, is exponentially more efficient and effective than trying to connect with all those people one by one.

Indirect Conversations are Lower Risk for Your Audience

Not all of your prospects are ready for a direct marketing message from you all the time.

Maybe they’re too busy, maybe the timing is bad, maybe they’re just not interested in your product right now.

Whatever the reason, a direct marketing message delivered at such an inopportune moment can produce a highly negative brand association because it feels inauthentic and intrusive.

An indirect marketing approach, however, couches its message in terms of providing value without a marketing “catch” (or at least it should).

It can be helpful regardless of the customer’s point in the buying cycle, so you can reach and engage with them even before they are anywhere near the sales funnel.

Think of it like when you board an airplane. You sit down next to two people. One has their headphones in, head down, and is engaged with her tablet. The other smiles at you as you sit, asking how you are.

The passenger wearing headphones doesn’t want to hear your direct marketing pitch; the other would probably be receptive. But if you offered the headphones passenger some gum, she might take that and be more willing to accept future offerings if the gum turned out to be good and not a quid pro quo arrangement.

Your marketing should work the same way. Direct messaging when customers are ready for it, indirect content when they’re not overtly interested.

Indirect Marketing Isn’t Just the Ugly Step Sister

The current marketing love affair with data makes direct marketing seem like the shiny modern toy, but indirect marketing needs just as much attention if we are going to speak to customers at every stage of their buying journey. [break up?]

Not only can we reach more people at more times through the indirect means of content marketing, we can do so more cost-effectively.

Direct marketing has a long and storied history of success, but indirect marketing should be invited to the ball too.