It used to be that marketers only had a few avenues to promote their products. They would buy some print ads, work on their store displays, and maybe spring for a billboard or TV spot. But the digital world has changed all that.
Considering the dozens, even hundreds of different marketing tactics available today, it can be hard to know where brands should focus their efforts. How much of your time should be spent on social media? Should you consider podcasts? Is print advertising even worth it any more? With unlimited time and money you could just do them all, but for most companies that’s simply not an option.
Rather than considering every possibility, marketers can narrow their focus down to just two tactics: push vs. pull marketing, also known as outbound and inbound marketing. By boiling your marketing strategy down to push vs. pull, you can decide how much time and budget to allocate to each, then play around with different strategies under both umbrellas to find something that works for you.
Let’s start with the difference between each:
This is the basis for all those old promotional tactics. Push marketing involves any strategy in which you are actively placing your brand in front of a potential customer, including print advertising, billboards, direct mail or catalogs, cold calling, sales displays in stores, and radio and TV spots.
Push marketing is often necessary to build brand awareness. But customers tend to engage less with these tactics, as they can often seem annoying and disruptive to the user experience.
On the other side of the coin is pull marketing, which is an attempt to gain your audience’s attention naturally and “pull” them toward your company. Instead of your brand taking the action by putting an ad or promotion in front of the customer, the goal of pull marketing is for your audience to seek out your brand. Pull tactics have gained popularity recently and include various forms of content (blog posts, videos, eBooks, webinars, etc.), social media presences, search optimization, and peer referrals.
Pull tactics succeed when you make it easy and desirable for customers to find you. One of the best ways to do this is to offer great content that informs, entertains, or does some combination of both. The ultimate goal of pull marketing is to make your brand resonate with the customer and build an emotional connection, thereby increasing brand loyalty.
Pull marketing generates more engagement and loyalty from their customers, and tends to demonstrate a better return on investment (ROI). In fact, according to HubSpot, inbound leads cost 62% less than outbound leads.
The Grey Areas
Of course, push and pull strategies don’t live in a vacuum. They overlap with each other and are often best used in conjunction.
Email marketing is one example of a blurred line between push and pull. When a customer signs up to receive emails from you, it’s likely because you’ve pulled them in with great content and experiences. But when you turn around and send a promotional email to that customer — you’re back in the push game. Same with the content that you create: Content itself is one of the purest forms of pull marketing. But some forms of content distribution, such as ads on social media, will fall under push marketing.
In any marketing strategy, there will be two sides of the coin, with both push and pull marketing tactics. Nearly all brands employ both tactics to some degree.
So what’s worth your time and money?
When you’re building your marketing plan, take a cue from sales teams: The best salespeople don’t just talk about the product all the time, or even most of the time. They ask questions about their buyers’ needs, wants, and pain points, and react to that.
This conversational approach represents your pull strategy and should be the bulk of your marketing efforts. Inbound marketing increases customer’s engagement with brands and more loyalty to that brand. It also produces more quality leads: SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound-sourced leads show a 1.7% close rate.
Most brands should utilize both push and pull strategies. But the more your marketing can rely on pull tactics, and the less emphasis you can put on push methods, the better off you’ll be.