The words “push” and “pull” have a long history in the world of brand building. For the past century or so, marketing professionals have used them to describe how our messages drive sales: a push strategy could “push” the product down through the sales and distribution channel to get it in front of consumers (mainly a B2B strategy), while a pull strategy spoke directly to consumers to create demand, counting on them to ask retailers for the product (“pulling” it through the channel).
Renowned social media author, Gary Vaynerchuk, uses these terms in a different way, and I think his explanation is very helpful to anybody who wishes to connect more closely with their customers online. According to Vaynerchuk, you can approach the creation of content for your website and social media platforms in one of two ways: push your product by yelling good old fashioned ad messages at your customers (Buy now! Save big! Limited time offer!) or “pull” those customers in by simply being helpful or offering them something of value without necessarily expecting anything in return.
As you can see, Vaynerchuk’s definition of “pull” is pretty much the same as the modern definition of engagement, and I believe it is a healthy way to view the seismic shift we have seen in how the internet is used. When we first sought to use this new medium for marketing, we merely applied the same old strategies we had always used with platforms like radio and newspaper: high pressure sales, coupons, etc.
What we discovered, of course, is that these strategies sort of worked like they always did. People bought our product when it was the cheapest, but they were more than willing to buy from our competitors when they were the cheapest. This way of thinking ignored the unique potential that the internet and social media held.
“Pull” marketing still acts like branding is a one-way conversation, and I assure you it is not.
The best brand builders in the past twenty years of online marketers haven’t really used marketing at all. Instead, they just put themselves and their products out there and asked how they can be of service. Ironically, this wasn’t a revolution at all. It was actually a return to the word-of-mouth and personal sales techniques that drove brands in the early days of modern business – before all the yelling started in the 1950s. This engagement creates long-term relationships and loyalty instead of just temporary sales spikes.
Take a look at your online strategies. Now that you’ve been generating content for a few years, are you feeling exhausted?
It’s a lot less work to just go back to “pushing” your customers around (Click here now! Don’t miss this offer!) than to continue to figure out innovative ways to help them succeed. Don’t do it. Push marketing – both on and offline – is a trap. Pushing your products or services on customers may come with temporary sales lifts, but the law of diminishing returns quickly becomes clear as those same customers come to resent your incessant badgering.
Eventually they go through the trouble of clicking “unfollow” or “unsubscribe,” and no amount of pushing can help you then.
Creating valuable content is a lot work. Don’t give up – there are people who can help, and the rewards are significant and long-lasting. Concentrate on relationships. Give your customers a reason to come to you, and they will stay with you a lot longer. Choose to pull and leave your push strategies in the past where they belong.