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Industry Insight

For Effective Marketing, Think "Pull" as Well as "Push"

One significant marketing trend in recent years has been the growing use of "

By David Dodd
Published: July 6, 2009

One significant marketing trend in recent years has been the growing use of "pull" marketing techniques and channels.  Outsell, Inc., a media research firm, recently estimated that U.S. marketers will spend $65 billion in 2009 on their Websites (a pull marketing channel).  MediaPost recently reported that U.S. spending on search engine marketing (another pull marketing technique) will grow from $12.2 billion in 2008 to $22.4 billion in 2013.

Strictly speaking, pull marketing refers to marketing communications that are initiated by the prospective customer.  In a broader sense, though, pull marketing is a distinct approach to marketing that relies heavily on using entertaining or informational communications to engage with potential customers.  The defining characteristic of good pull marketing communications is that the content is not overtly promotional.  The primary focus of most pull marketing efforts in B2B companies is on providing information that prospective customers will consider to be valuable.  So, for example, a marketing services firm might develop a series of white papers or recorded Webinars that address a variety of important marketing issues and make those resources available to potential clients at the firm's Website.

The basic objective of pull marketing is to demonstrate your expertise and thereby establish your company as a credible and trusted source of information about a particular subject matter area.  When potential customers go looking for solutions that fall within your area of expertise (when they are ready to actively consider making a purchase), your company is more likely to receive favorable consideration because you have already established your "bona fides."

The use of pull marketing is growing because traditional push marketing is losing effectiveness.  One reason is that the number of marketing messages has exploded.  Various marketing gurus have estimated that the average U.S. consumer is exposed to between 500 and 3,000 marketing messages every day.  And the more we are bombarded by marketing messages, the less attention we pay to any of them.  At best, they become part of the "noise" that surrounds us, and we will often take active steps to avoid them (think spam filters, TiVo, and Do-Not-Call).

The Internet has also contributed to the diminished effectiveness of traditional push marketing.  We have become confident that we can use the Web to find information about almost any product or service.  More importantly, we are confident that we can obtain that information whenever we want or need it.  Therefore, we rarely pay attention to marketing messages that aren't relevant to our immediate interests or priorities.

Pull marketing is growing because marketers have recognized that potential customers are determined to control when and how they will access marketing information.  Rather than fighting this mindset, savvy marketers are using pull marketing techniques to build credibility and trust and then to enable potential customers to obtain the information they want when they want it.  Pull marketing will never completely replace push marketing, but it has become an essential marketing tactic for many companies.  Today's most effective marketing programs are often a combination of push and pull.  For example, I frequently receive e-mails (push) that invite me to attend a Webinar (pull) or download a white paper (pull).

If you are a marketing service provider, you should be thinking about how you can incorporate pull marketing into you own marketing efforts and about how you can help your clients leverage the benefits of pull marketing.

G. David Dodd is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us here.

G. David Dodd is a principal of Point Balance, LLC ( www.pointbalance.com ), an executive education and management consulting firm. Point Balance provides cutting-edge management education programs designed for printing and publishing executives. The firm also provides management consulting services involving business strategy development, strategic marketing, cost management (including activity-based costing), business process management, and balanced scorecard performance management systems. Dodd is a co-author of Activity-Based Costing for Printers: An Implementation Guide, the authoritative resource relating to the use of activity-based costing by printing and publishing firms. Dodd also co-authored Making Value Added Services Work, a comprehensive reference tool for printing company managers who are just beginning to consider diversification or who have already added new services and are not receiving the benefits they expected.

David Dodd can be reached at ddodd@pointbalance.com,931-707-5105.



By Jason Pinto on Jul 07, 2009

I think this was a great article. You are right on regarding companies using this technique to establish themselves as a "trusted source of information about a particular subject matter area".

Some companies are still hesitating on providing "free" information with the PULL approach - but it does work. The results are not always as instantly measureable as say, an email blast -- but in the long-run, creating awareness and establishing yourself as a leader drives leads and customers.

Jason Pinto


By Michael Jahn on Jul 07, 2009

In case one wanted to see an example of a pull marketing page - this one is from a software developer - take a peek at this section of the web site;


Enjoy !


By Michael J on Jul 07, 2009

Another way to think about pull marketing as opposed "to demonstrate your expertise and thereby establish your company as a credible and trusted source of information about a particular subject matter area" is to communicate in a way that is "interesting to potential customers."

No doubt "interesting" is very hard to figure out. But an example is Jon Stewart or the recent Xerox Youtube on information overload.

Another thing to think about is What exactly is the best way to demonstrate your company's expertise?"

Some words of wisdom from one of my high school students back in the day. "Don't tell me what you can do. Show me what you've done."

Best is if you can "show me what you've done for people like me."


By Marion Williams-Bennett on Jul 09, 2009

I like what David says about the balance of push vs. pull. That balance is critical if you are going to establish credibility and establish yourself as an expert. I am thinking specifically about the public relations realm of marketing communications. In public relations, there is a temptation to go out to social media and talk to your users, your community as a leader. But without validation from other credible mainstream sources like editors, customers, and analysts your position as a “trusted source” is far less credible.


By Tom Hackelman on Jul 12, 2009

Great points, David! Pull marketing is the wave of the future because it provides the added value that customers are now expecting.

For more ideas about creating a pull, I have written a free report found at: http://www.TomHackelman.com/free-report.html

Thanks, David!


By LSmith on Jul 16, 2009

Really interesting post. I agree that the internet has diminished the effectiveness of "push" marketing. Consumers would rather go seek out the information themselves, than have it shoved in their faces. The internet is a great portal through which companies can make that type of information readily available. I know that our company has a lots of success using http://www.hoffmanmarcom.com/writing-whitepapers.php" rel="nofollow">white papers as one of our main "pull" strategies. Like you said, white papers are an excellent way to provide the information your consumers or future business partners may be searching for, without pushing it on them. Additionally, it sets you company up as a knowledge leader in their respective area.

Again, very insightful post.


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