Pull marketing is the science of demand generation—of attracting interest in products and services that leads to sales. It means getting customers to seek out your product or service through an active, exploratory process. Pull marketing allows us to harness the power of influence, attraction and engineered serendipity. It enables us to achieve sales goals in less time, for fewer dollars, and with greater impact than ever before possible.
Push marketing, on the other hand, refers to many traditional and mass marketing approaches. It refers to activities that take your product or service directly to customers, such as product displays and direct sales. It refers to traditional advertising and direct mailing approaches. While both push and pull marketing and sales approaches are valid and important in driving revenue, pull marketing has emerged as an increasingly powerful approach due to changes in consumer behavior and the rise of digital and social media engagement.
The Future of Marketing is Already Here
Today, you could say the same thing about marketing: the future of marketing is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed. Incredible examples of the power of pull marketing are increasingly common. The success stories grow daily:
- Promoting savvy, engaging content that connects with certain customer segments in just the right way, fueling their interest in a brand and it’s products and services.
- Strengthening customer relationships by providing content that builds trust and establishes thought leadership—as well as demonstrating a keen interest in the customer’s interests. (What’s the most common attribute of interesting brands? They’re interested in you.)
- Understanding the buying cycle of each customer segment through lead management, lead scoring and lead nurturing.
Push marketing activities often begin with forecasting and planning. The challenge with this approach is that it’s increasingly difficult to forecast and plan how and when to reach customers at the right time and place—when interaction is timely, relevant and convenient. And, it turns out that this matters a great deal to customers. It’s not unusual to see response rates that are ten times higher for these types of offers compared to offers that are sent through direct marketing. Customers will no longer respond to interruptions. According to Mike Volpe, Chief Marketing Officer of HubSpot, 86 percent of consumers skip television ads, 91 percent unsubscribe, and 200 million say “do not call.” Their collective message to marketers is clear.
The Power of Pull
Pull marketing places the customer solidly at the center of all marketing activity. Rather than the traditional marketing funnel concept, pull marketing accepts that customer engagement is more like a non-linear lifecycle. And, it accepts that the customer is in control rather than the companies marketing to them.
Success in pull marketing requires fresh thinking and new approaches in four critical areas.
“Content is king” – Bill Gates
“Online success comes from thinking like a journalist and a thought leader.” – David Meerman Scott
Effective content reaches the right people at the right time with information that is useful. This type of content sometimes includes what may have been withheld in the past and protected as valuable intellectual property. Effective content gives some of that intellectual property away for free. Creating great content isn’t easy. It is difficult to provide information that is helpful via articles, white papers, podcasts, blogs, videos, etc. The good news is that this content can be reused and re-purposed for maximum benefit.
New marketing technologies support pull-based, inbound marketing activities. They help streamline the processes involved, decreasing the marginal cost of marketing. They help store content and make it’s effective reuse possible across multiple channels and interactions. They help marketers score leads and nurture leads. They make it possible to seamlessly blend lead generating marketing activities with direct sales engagement at just the right time. And, perhaps most importantly, they make it possible to measure the impact and revenue results of marketing investments.
Customers are increasingly savvy and particularly attuned to corporate marketing speak. They respond best to an approach that is more like a telephone than a megaphone. They desire authentic engagement that listens, respects, and treats them as unique individuals. Social media has created an environment where word of mouth is important—and much more effective than ever before. Marketing can promote a company and its products and services in the best possible light. But sooner or later the truth comes out—and faster than ever before. Successful pull marketing is based on brand promises that companies are able to keep. Authenticity in marketing is not optional.
Pull techniques work best in uncertain, rapidly changing environments which is why they’ve become so prominent in the digital and social era. Pull means learning faster and applying those insights to materially improve results. And, increasingly, small changes can lead to big results. This means that the cost of testing is lower because lower-cost tactics are being tested—not complex, expensive endeavors. Many of my clients tell me that they are unprepared to introduce new changes rapidly. However, this is usually because they are thinking in terms of projects and product releases, rather than small, incremental changes to content, search engine optimization, A/B testing, etc. With pull marketing approaches, the learning loop often resembles the diagram below.
While the benefits of pull marketing are substantial, the path forward won’t be easy. Change never is.
Our number one task must be making sense of the changes around us and moving forward in an unfamiliar landscape. Like all things in marketing, the best place to start is always with the customer. Who are your customers? What personas best represent each important customer segment? What interests your customers? What are they talking about online? Where are they interacting and engaging? What are they passionate about?
The power of pull marketing is clear. How will you respond to the new opportunities it enables?