Describing push marketing is easy (or at least it should be). Push marketing is the traditional marketing and advertising seen everywhere. Push marketing starts with the product or service, identifies the features or benefits that potential customers will find most compelling, and then utilizes targeting and segmentation to “push” carefully crafted marketing messages out via a variety of advertising, sales, and social media channels to the most likely potential customers.
But, stray into the pull marketing universe and prepare to be inundated by a plethora of widely divergent definitions. Some people would define pull marketing as similar to push, but instead of marketing to potential customers, potential decision makers or consumers (or even influencers) are targeted so that hopefully they will pull customers to the business. Still other people talk about technology push versus market pull in the context of determining which products get developed and sold (or should be developed and sold). Making it even more confusing, some people call the direct advertising to consumers of prescription medications like Viagra a pull marketing strategy. So just what is a pull marketing strategy then anyways? Who’s right?
I would argue that none of them are correct. While the communications produced might to talk to different groups of people than traditional marketing or in a slightly different way, they all are still, at their core, push marketing strategies. Pull marketing is something else entirely (and should be in order to maximize your investment in marketing). While push marketing focuses on the most likely potential customers, pull marketing should be focused on a totally different group of people – non-customers who are not yet ready to become customers at this time.
An effective pull marketing strategy begins with extensive research into what makes a person evolve from someone who is disinterested and unaware of a solution area, to seeing how it might fit into their personal or professional lives and make it better. This usually involves the creation of content that will raise awareness, interest, inspiration, and understanding of the whole solution area, and the need for it, not just the features and benefits of one company’s particular product or service. Pull marketing strategies are very uncomfortable for most marketers, and as a result most companies have no pull to balance their push.
So which is better push marketing or pull marketing?
Any organization that is interested in sustained revenue and profitability growth over time should invest in both, but most companies are seduced by the immediate payback of push marketing and pursue only push marketing strategies. Meanwhile, pull marketing helps grow new potential customers (or accelerates their purchase readiness timeline), so it is equally important in the long run. Smart companies, organizations that intend to succeed in the long run, need to invest in both push and pull marketing strategies in order to keep their sales pipeline full both for now AND for the future. And if your company is focused on innovation, then the more disruptive that you try to be, the more important that having a pull component to your marketing strategy will become. Push or pull? The answer lies in… the balance.
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