14/02/2023 • Marisa Crimlis-Brown
Direct marketing involves asking potential customers to buy your product or service, while indirect marketing involves building brand awareness over time to attract customers.
Direct marketing in digital can be seen as PPC, Paid Social Ads and Email and can bring immediate results, but if done improperly, it can harm your brand's image. Indirect marketing involves building customer relationships through SEO, Digital PR and Social Media and can lead to long-term sales streams.
A combination of direct and in-direct marketing is suggested with 60% of your budget going towards in-direct marketing and the remaining 40% going on direct methods, but the exact ratio depends on your individual circumstances."
When it comes to marketing, there is no one-size-fits-all method. Each company and business has specific goals for growth and to attract its target customers, which means that each business's marketing plan has to be uniquely tailored to them.
There are two ways you can go when deciding how to reach your customers: direct marketing and indirect marketing.
Both forms of marketing can be successful within your business, but understanding the difference between direct marketing and indirect marketing will help to ensure the best possible results.
In its most simple definition, direct marketing is when you are asking potential customers directly to buy from you or to use your services. While indirect marketing revolves more around building awareness around your brand which will lead to more business over time.
Using this form of marketing involves you asking someone directly to buy your business’ product or service.
These practices can be an extremely effective form of marketing but if you don’t carry out these plans properly it can quickly become a waste of time. And in some extreme cases, when you are using direct methods for marketing too much, it can harm your brand's image as well.
Typical ways to market directly are to use sales calls (or cold calling), email, PPC, and social media advertisements. These are just a few as many marketing and advertising channels can be at times classed as both indirect and direct.
The key thing to remember is Direct Marketing is getting your ad in front of a potential customer with the intent of trying to get them to take action.
Direct marketing has numerous benefits, mainly the immediate success it usually brings. But the reason it does this is more detailed;
Speed: It's usually quite fast to set up and get running. With platforms like Facebook, Google Ads, Instagram and TikTok you can get campaigns up and running very quickly. This means there is no delay in the results you can generate.
Targeted: You choose who you want to get your ads in front of. Whether it's cold calling or running Google Ads you choose where who your going after and as a result, you can be efficient with how your budget is spent.
Personable: Because you are targeted in your approach you can tailor the messaging, creative and offer accordingly. This again improves the effectiveness of the campaign.
Measurable: All channels used within direct marketing are measurable. The evolution of digital marketing has allowed marketers to measure direct advertising campaigns really effectively. Ensuring you know what your return on investment is from day one.
Like anything, there are of course disadvantages to direct marketing.
Privacy: Consumer data is well protected these days (As it should be). This means email campaigns and other direct marketing campaigns need to be within the bounds of the first law but then also the expectation of the consumers. With 3rd party cookies due to be done away with in the future, advertisers need to ensure any direct advertising is done properly and ads value to customers.
Shortlived success: Direct marketing is a great way to drive immediate ROI but there are little lasting effects. Les Binet and Peter Field have studied the impact of direct marketing, or as they call it Sales Activation marketing and have repeatedly shown the effects to be short-lived, especially when compared to brand activation (in-direct marketing).
Not scalable: Carrying on from the above point, direct marketing is not nearly as scalable. You are often reacting to a demand in the market like search terms on PPC rather than creating your own demand. This means there is an inevitable plateau for direct marketing.
Indirect marketing revolves around the idea of building loyal audiences and customers that won't buy from you immediately but will over time. This means that the process of indirect marketing can be weeks or even months long between the impression and a physical sale.
Indirect marketing tactics are viable, but they aren’t as intrusive as other marketing methods. Most social media marketing, digital pr and SEO campaigns are in-direct marketing methods and as such take time to bear fruit.
Indirect marketing will typically take the form of online content and other media, because of this you can put out a lot more content without running the risk of annoying your potential customers.
It is because of this that indirect marketing gives you the perfect opportunity to build relationships with your customer base and compels them to stick with your brand over another.
After a while, this form of marketing will aid in developing a relationship between your customers and your brand, in turn helping you build a more consistent and long-term sales stream.
Builds trust: Indirect methods often use content in various forms to engage with their audience. Whether that's through social media, news outlets or search engines. This content allows brands to communicate with their customers without coming across as a sales tactic that is ultimately self-serving. This builds trust with the consumer increasing the likelihood that they will buy from them eventually.
Scalable: As mentioned before Les Binet and Peter Field in their book “Effectiveness in Context” have shown the scalability of in-direct marketing or as they call it “brand activation”. The more of this you do the more effective the activity becomes, it compounds on itself growing over time.
Makes advertising better: As your brand builds and you gain more loyalty with your customers all of your direct marketing becomes more effective. A brand has a higher click-through rate and higher conversion rates because people already have a relationship with them.
The main disadvantage of in-direct marketing is that it is indirect. You are not trying to get people to make a purchase right there and then so the impact on sales and revenue is not immediate.
It takes time: Any form of in-direct marketing takes time to bring sales in. That's the nature of it and unfortunately, there is no easy way to be able to say how long it will take.
Not easily measured: Unlike direct marketing it is very hard to measure. You can look at metrics like views and reach but these are only vanity metrics when compared to sales and revenue which are much more easily measured with direct advertising.
Upfront cost: Implementing any in-direct marketing campaign requires costs, whether that is time, resources or money it will cost you something without giving you anything back, to begin with.
Ultimately in-direct marketing is what way that brands are built. But it has to be seen as an investment for the future of the business.
It's just not that simple. For a business to succeed it needs to have a healthy balance of both direct and indirect marketing. Once again referring to Les Binet and Peter Field they recommend the 60:40 balance between in-direct and direct marketing.
Ultimately a business has to make sales and we find that most businesses will start with direct marketing, responding to the demand that is already in the market, before using this success of this to help build a brand for the future.
However, this is dependent on vertical and industry as well as the stage that your business is at.
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