Push vs. Pull Marketing: Why Not Both?

By Madison Taylor
June 8, 2020
Three people pulling on a tug-of-war rope

Think about the last time you made a major purchase — the kind of thing that took more than a day to decide on. How did you go about the process? Did you start on company websites? Did you go to a store and look at examples? Did you read review sites?

There are a lot of ways to learn about new products — and practically as many ways that marketers try to inform people about their products. When you click on an ad that says that a certain smartphone is perfect for music enthusiasts, you’re being “pulled” into that brand’s offerings. When you go to the store or the manufacturer’s website to review the features of the phone, you’re being “pushed” by the materials you see there — or possibly by a salesperson. Here’s how the two techniques can work together.

What is Push Marketing?

Push marketing relies on “pushing” products to a certain audience. One of the biggest uses of push marketing is on social media. You’ve doubtless scrolled down your feed and seen a product that you’d never heard of before, but that you found intriguing. That’s push marketing. You weren’t out looking for the product or even the category, but you were targeted nonetheless.

In the old days, almost all marketing was push marketing. Billboards, TV ads, magazines, newspapers, and so on — all of them are simply throwing their product in front of people who might be interested.

But push marketing isn’t entirely outdated. We love inbound marketing, but the core of an inbound marketing strategy is waiting for people to come to you, then giving them what they need. If no one is coming to you, a little push marketing might be just what you need.

If you’re launching a new business, opening a new location, creating a new product, or trying to reach a new market, push marketing is a great way to get your foot in the door. Pick the channels that you know your potential customers are using. If they’re on Facebook or other social media, use the built-in tools to narrow your ads. Push marketing will be more efficient if you target carefully.

What is Pull Marketing?

Pull marketing is the opposite of push marketing. Makes sense, right? It’s a way to draw consumers to your product by showing them that you have the solution to their problems. If someone is looking for a new laptop, they might check CNET. If they’re looking for a new car, they might check Edmunds. If they’re looking for almost anything, they’re likely to Google it. If you can be there when they start looking for answers, you can position your business and your product as a trustworthy answer to what they need.

Where should you start? Focus on credibility and reliability. Start a blog on your website answering frequently asked questions. Run specialized social media campaigns that lead to informative landing pages. Focus on differentiating the brand.

You should also focus on your existing customers. Google reviews, Yelp, and word-of-mouth are vital to expanding a new business, especially in a saturated market. Use your happy customers to lend credibility to your brand and spread the word.

How Push and Pull Can Coexist

Inbound marketing is a form of pull marketing, but it can take some time to ramp up. You can’t just sit back and wait for people to find you if they’re not looking for you at all, so new and expanding businesses can’t rely on pull marketing entirely.

That’s where push marketing comes in to fill the gap. By spreading the word about new products, new companies, rebranding efforts, or whatever else is happening, you can attract the attention of the people you want to sell to.

The two can work together. Customers need a push in order for demand to be created, then a pull to show them how to satisfy that demand. If they’re at the beginning of their buyer’s journey, you can give them a push. If they’re farther along, a pull can get them to make a decision.

Every Brand Is Different

There’s no perfect mix of push and pull marketing that will work for everyone, but it’s probably safe to say that you need a little bit of both. You push your product by getting it on store shelves or placing ads, then pull customers in by showing them what sets you apart from the competition. People will be convinced by a mix of both strategies, but you’ll have to figure out the mix for yourself.