Finding the Balance: Online Push vs. Pull Marketing

Push or pull? It’s never an easy choice, but when marketing a product or a service we’re inevitably doing one of the two whether we know it or now. Online marketing, especially within the last 10 years, has flipped both disciplines on their head. Not only that, but it’s become apparent that far too often marketers will immerse themselves in one subset and fail to consider the other (and consequently loose opportunities). There’s a time to push, a time to pull, a time to ease up, and a time to accelerate. Understanding when to do each can make all the difference in the world.

Push Marketing

The guy standing on the street handing out pamphlets is a classic example of push marketing. We never asked to be marketed to, but nonetheless it happens. A billboard, a television commercial, and a radio ad all fall into this category. Online marketers will often make the mistake and think that all of push marketing is traditional or spam marketing, but it’s an incorrect generalization.

What about email marketing? Customers opt in to an email list to receive more information and periodically they expect to receive updates. There’s nothing wrong with this type of marketing and it can work extremely well if done the right away. Sending out three emails a day is pushing way too hard, while sending out three emails a year is pushing way too soft. The secret is to find the balance. Groupon and Living Social have built daily deal empires built on the appropriate balance of expected push marketing.

Facebook advertising, a 15 sec video pre-roll spot, and a banner advertisement are all considered forms of push marketing. Success will hinge on how targeted the marketing is and how strongly it speaks to the intended audience.

Pull Marketing

This blog post could be considered a form of pull marketing. Pull marketing is more organic than push marketing and is meant to attract an audience. SEO, search marketing, and certain types of social media marketing (mostly the content related variety) fall into this category.

A technology company that hosts a weekly podcast about tech news is participating in pull marketing. When visitors listen to the podcast, the company is betting that a certain percentage of them will stick around and develop interest in the company and possibly purchase their products/services in the future. Pull marketing is built on the soft sale and the premise that those being marketed to have shown a high amount of interested in the offering. The problem with pull marketing is that it can be easy to overdue and at the same time difficult to benefit from.

On Twitter, pull marketing provides long term benefits, even though push marketing is easier and much more convenient to do.

PPC advertising is an excellent form of pull marketing, but can be highly competitive depending on the keywords that you’re going after. A cost/benefit and or site traffic analysis is necessary to determine if the investment is worth the return.

Balance Wins

All push with no pull and all pull with no push are both potentially dangerous mindsets. It’s acceptable to lean strongly towards one, but remember to never disregard the other. Experiment, always look at the data, and never stop listening to the customer.  In the end their actions will tell you exactly how they want to be marketed to.

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