Most marketers, I hope, are familiar with traditional push-pull strategies.  But, me being me, I don’t like to assume things–we all know what happens when you do that.

If you’re unfamiliar with push and pull marketing, here’s the gist of it:

  • Push marketing aggressively seeks out the consumer, often incentivizing them with discounts and special offerings.  This strategy touts, or pushes, these deals to customers so they’ll buy.
  • Pull marketing generates brand awareness, essentially pulling the customer in because they want to learn more.

Not clear enough? Let’s look at some examples.

Traditional Push Example

Anything that urges you to strike while the iron is hot or claims to offer an unbeatable deal is typically a push strategy.  Think “limited time hotel deals” and the “McDonald’s Dollar Menu.”

Traditional Pull Example

Unlike push strategies which tend to be rather blunt, pull strategies are much more subtle.  They don’t simply use low prices to market their product.  They aim to build brand awareness.  Think Apple and Red Bull.

Apple rarely pushes their products onto their customers via special offers.  Innovative advertising and word-of-mouth pulls customers in.  Red Bull, which also uses innovative advertising, uses sponsorships–X Games, Formula 1, etc.– as well to rope people in.

While some companies lean heavily on the push and some heavily on the pull, most companies try to strike a balance between the two.  After all, it’s tough to generate awareness without putting your name out there.

Okay, so we’ve talked a lot about traditional marketing.  How does this tie into what you’re really here to learn about, online marketing?

A New Push-Pull Strategy for Online Marketing

Make no mistake about it–online marketing is still marketing.  All the general principles still apply.  And with Panda, Penguin, and any future cuddly updates, online marketers are being forced to get back to basics.

That being said, the Internet is a relatively new medium for marketers.  With social networks popping up left and right, the people, the customers, are out there. We’re no longer marketing to “Internet users.”  We’re marketing to people with faces, with online profiles full of information.

With those customers at our finger tips, it puts marketers in a unique position.  They have the ability to push products (*cough* spamming *cough*) but they also have the ability to study their customers and develop ways to pull them in.

Websites and blogs are pull strategies.  By fine-tuning them with on-site search engine optimization tactics, we’re improving that pull strategy.  Your website and your blog are your brand and you need to build that.  Even your company’s social media profiles, which may seem like push strategies on the surface, can in fact be pull strategies.  If used properly, they build brand awareness.

That brings me to content marketing, currently the industry’s biggest buzzword.  Companies are now their own publishers.  They create what they believe to be useful content for their customers and publish it on the web.  However, with customers so close to us on social media networks, it’s easy to push when we mean to be pulling–just think of all those “social profiles” who simply pump out articles and blogs without any real commentary.

In the end, you’re likely to see more long-term success through pull marketing online.  Of course, like I said before, though, some push is needed to help you get off the ground.  For example, an e-mail campaign, which can be effective if done correctly and sparingly, is a push strategy that I encourage you to employ.  You can also push certain offers through your social media profiles as long as that’s not all you’re using it for.

Marketing certainly isn’t anything new.  The Internet and how it’s used today is though.  That means we need to adapt our traditional strategies for the web while maintaining a healthy balance between pushing and pulling.