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Push-Pull Marketing: A Win-Win Combination For Your Small Business

Successful marketing is the lifeblood of a small business. Think of your small business as a doorway. You can do one of two things. You can either push your product out the door, explaining that you have a solution to a problem your customers may not have realized they had. Or, you can pull your customer inside as if drawn by a magnet, attracted by his desire to find a solution to his problem. In push marketing, you go to them. In pull marketing, they come to you. Both approaches have their place.

These two different promotional strategies are known as push and pull marketing. For professional marketers, push-pull marketing is as natural as breathing in and out. But for the small business owner without a formal marketing education, consider this a quick crash-course.

Taking the product to the customer

Push marketing works almost exactly like it sounds. Push marketing is “pushing” the product directly to the customer, without the customer first requesting it. Essentially, you’re making an offer before the customer asks for it. With push marketing, the goal is to get your item out on the shelf or online for quick purchase. For effective push marketing, you need to be able to quickly convince your potential customer that he has a problem, and you have the solution.

Most of us are probably more familiar with push marketing, even if we don’t recognize it by name. Most television ads are classic examples of push marketing. Buy one-get one free sales are a popular type of push marketing. (“The JCPenney Spring Sale – Buy one spring dress, get the other 50% off!”) Those spam emails and the magazine salesman at your door? Push marketing.

Pull ‘em in

The opposite strategy is pull marketing. With pull marketing, your customer probably already senses he or she has a problem. He may not be able to put a name to it, but somewhere, somehow he feels a slight worry or sense of dissatisfaction. He is poking around seeking information … and there you are, with information.  And hey, in addition to the information he’s seeking, you also happen to have the solution for his problem.

Let’s say you hear about a local summer camp in a news story. This camp has been noted for having an innovative camping program for special needs kids. You’re the parent of a special needs child, and while you’ve never thought about summer camp for her, you do worry about your child and want the best for her. As a result, you call the camp for more information … and end up signing up your child for a session. You’ve just responded to pull marketing. The news story about the summer camp is a form of PR.   PR – public relations – has long been a mainstay of pull marketing. But now, there’s a new game in town.

The new face of pull marketing

Your friend posts a comment on Facebook about the latest “gotta-have-it” gadget. She “likes” it. You decide to do a little digging for yourself, and then you buy the gadget too. That’s the new face of pull marketing.

For many years, push marketing ruled the industry. But with the invention of the Internet, the game changed. Now, with the emergence of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, pull marketing is growing by leaps and bounds. Using social media, consumers can instantly recommend (or not) various products and services. This gives small businesses a relatively cheap, easy-to-use method of advertising – if they know how to do it correctly. Two more methods of pull marketing in the Internet age include e-newsletters and blogs.

One product: two strategies

Pharmaceutical companies combine both strategies for multi-billion dollar profits. When a prescription drug is advertised on TV directly to consumers, who then ask their doctors to prescribe it – that’s pull marketing. When that same company sends drug reps in to visit doctors’ offices armed with product samples, that’s push marketing.

Your small business can and should use both marketing strategies. Let’s say you’re a local photographer. Setting up a booth at a wedding fair, where brides-to-be come to gather information about potential vendors, is mostly a pull strategy. However, buying a list of brides-to-be and mailing them a postcard with a one-time special offer – that is push marketing.

Using both strategies creates a powerful marketing mix that entices customers to purchase whatever it is you’re selling. Some customers react better to one type of marketing than to another. Often, pull marketing lays the groundwork for later push marketing.

Pull marketing helps to build trust and long-term customer relationships. In today’s climate, where consumers want to trust people they do business with, pull marketing is essential. But you’ll still need to use push marketing too, to spur people to action. Both strategies overlap, and complement one another nicely.

Next time: Social Media 101

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