There are some real differences between the terms push marketing and pull marketing.
While these terms have been used for decades, they have taken on more significance and more distinct meanings as a result of the Internet and online purchasing.
What they refer to is the way information and products are marketed, but to two different groups:
- Distributors to carry the product line
- End-customers to purchase the products and put them to use.
Possibly seeing the two terms in action will help us better understand the difference between push and pull marketing. The following is a true story and references push and pull marketing in the B2B world:
A Canadian client wanted us to help them secure more distributors in the U.S. To help them in this endeavor, we published content explicitly prepared for distributors. It was all designed to help distributors better understand the value of this client’s products, their features and benefits, why their customers will like the products, and suggest ways to market them. In other words, we were pushing these products to distributors, encouraging them to take on the product line.
As more distributors in the U.S. began carrying the product line, our marketing efforts changed direction. Now our goal was to interest end-customers on the value of these products, the reasons they should select them, how they can benefit them, and use other promotional tactics. What we wanted to do, in other words, was pull them to distributors that carried the line.
B2C Push and Pull Marketing
We see this in the B2C world as well. Here’s an example, based on a true story:
A company developed a new line of fragrances. These were high-end products, and the company wanted only high-end department stores to carry them. To accomplish this, they met with buyers from these department stores and introduced the fragrances to them. Marketing material was provided, and a public relations company was hired to conduct studies, asking women who sampled the fragrances, what they thought of them.
The fragrances were highly praised. Further, after given samples of the fragrances, some of the women later contacted the public relations company asking where they could purchase the fragrances. This opened the eyes of many of the buyers, as you can imagine. To sweeten the deal, the fragrance company offered sales incentives to the stores to help introduce the line.
Once again, this is an example of push marketing. The manufacturer is not focused on the customer at this point. Their goal now is just interesting department stores to carry the line.
Once high-end stores were secured to carry the fragrances, the marketing strategy again shifts. Now the goal of both the manufacturer and the department stores was to interest women in purchasing the fragrances. Working together, the manufacturer and the stores hired advertising and public relations companies to promote the products. And to sweeten the promotion, product samples were given out as gifts, and the fragrances were introduced at a reduced price point.
In time, many women, given the free samples, headed back to the store to purchase the fragrances. This is pull marketing in action.
Both strategies should also be viewed as marketing “journeys.” There will be times the manufacturer wants to secure more distributors for their products or reward those distributors that have already taken on the line by offering cost incentives. This helps build brand loyalty.
At the same time, the manufacturer will work with its distributors to develop new marketing programs and incentives that keep pulling end-customers in their direction, to purchase the product. In other words, both strategies are ongoing.