Pull Marketing vs. Push Marketing – The Shifting Battleground

Even though I make my living as a marketer, I get as bothered as any other consumer by the constant intrusiveness of unwanted promotions. The abundance of unsolicited marketing pitches from TV, radio, Internet ads and other media exasperates me daily.

Yet, as hard as we try to get away from it (using tools like TiVo, Sirius Radio, cable, and voice mail), persistent marketers continue to find new ways to track us down and share their messages, regardless of our needs or receptivity. Here are a few examples of irritating push marketing techniques:

1. Anyone showing up uninvited. Whether at the office or home, this is particularly irritating. The exceptions are neighborhood scouts or sports teams.

2. YouTube now requires you to watch short commercials prior to viewing their content.

3. Newspapers that contain ads that are wrapped around the editorial content, so you have to go through multiple gyrations to get to the news stories.

4. Online, floating banner ads are becoming more intrusive and harder to ignore. They follow your cursor until you can find the ―X or “close” button.

5. Unsolicited telephone calls are still an annoyance — except they are now from so-called “market researchers” and charities, who are exempt from the privacy requirements. Who came up with that loophole?

Here’s the problem. Push marketing is intrusive and often ineffective because, at any given time, a majority of your audience—whether they are listeners, viewers, or readers—have no interest whatsoever in what you are promoting. They may be interested in the future, but if you come on too strong when they are not receptive, you may turn them off forever.

In some cases, you may have a lead requirement that can only be met with push marketing techniques. If so, by all means use the necessary techniques to meet your lead objectives. But often, you have a choice, and a more effective alternative is to practice pull marketing strategies.

Pull marketing centers around the idea that you actively draw clients or customers to seek out your product or services. You do this by discovering where your prospects congregate, making your information available to them in educational and entertaining ways and giving them incentives to come to you when they have a need for what you offer.

Instead of having a monologue (as evidenced in push marketing) with your clients or customers, you create a dialogue with pull marketing—a dialogue between you and the prospect.

Transitioning from push to pull marketing strategies is a subtle shift in thinking, but it is also quite powerful. Instead of asking: How many people can I sell to today?, the question becomes: How can I help people solve their problems? In the first scenario, you are a seller, almost an adversary. In the second, you are a helper whose expertise (and wise placement of messages) sells itself. Instead of just relying on ads pushing your value proposition, you produce valuable content (through social media and at your website) that solves problems. In other words, you become a trusted resource and thought leader who circulates a carefully crafted message that attracts the people who need you.

Nevertheless, there will always be an ongoing battle between consumers and push marketers. The latter will continue to try new and clever ways to force the former to pay attention and respond to their promotions. But I submit that a much more effective plan is to uncover a way to attract a larger share of the people who are already interested in what you offer and then convince them to do business with you. It’s always easier and more pleasant when you can fulfill an existing need instead of trying to create a need.

In the push model, the marketer is seemingly in charge of everything—the timing, content and frequency of promotions. However, in reality, your consumer is the one in charge, because only he or she can decide whether or not to read or listen to your promotion and whether to respond.

When you are deciding how much of time and financial resources to allocate between push and pull marketing strategies, keep in mind that the battleground has shifted and the prospect is the one who holds the high ground. Rather than fight this reality, just accept who has the real control—and find the best ways to help people buy in the way they want to buy, instead of the way you want to sell to them.

If you enjoyed the perspective in this article, you might want to read another recent blog post on the subject of pull marketing strategies and timing.

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