Push and Pull Marketing: Differences and Synergies

An image of a bulls eye.
An image of a bulls eye.

Push and pull marketing are key elements of the promotional mix strategy, yet sometimes these terms leave marketers feeling puzzled. Marketing strategy expert and author, Terence Shimp, describes push-pull marketing as "physical metaphors characterizing the promotional activities manufactures undertake to encourage trade channel members to handle/ merchandise brands and persuade consumers to purchase them.”

If you're not too sure what’s meant by pull vs push marketing, or how these two methods work together, then you've come to the right place. Use this article to develop the foundations of your own push-pull technique!

What do we mean by push marketing?

A push marketing strategy, also called a push promotional strategy, is a technique used by manufacturers to “push” intermediaries (like wholesalers and resellers) to increase inventories of their brand versus competitor brands. Following this, wholesalers also often turn to push marketing in order to persuade retailers to sell the goods through a number of tactics including:

  1. Personal selling
  2. Trade oriented promotions
  3. Trade advertising
  4. Trade shows and conferences

In general, companies use a push marketing strategy when launching a new product or operating in a niche market. While this strategy does have its benefits, it also has some drawbacks that must be considered before deciding if this is the best option for you. Let’s explore both sides of the coin so you can base your decision on a well-rounded view.

Push strategy advantages

  • Economies of scale are cost savings that occur as a result of making more of a product. If organizations are successful in their push strategy efforts and intermediaries put in a big enough order, companies get to benefit from larger cost-savings. 
  • When a push strategy is involved, demand is more forecastable and predictable as manufactures are able to produce and push as much or little as they wish. This production control has a significantly positive impact on supply chain management as technically, the demand should exceed the supply.
  • When using a push marketing technique, the time it takes to generate sales is often faster due to the force in which you present your products and services to the end customer.

Push strategy disadvantages

  • Since a push promotional strategy relies heavily on outbound sales, the model needs to be supported by a strong salesforce that's able to build opportunities by networking actively with retailers and distributors in the market – and this takes time.
  • Companies using push promotional marketing are at the mercy of the negotiating power of retailers and distributors. For example, if the product is new, it’ll likely be seen as riskier since it’s less profitable and is therefore less likely to be stoked.
  • Push strategies rely heavily on discounts and offering them to resellers can be expensive - so expensive that your business may struggle to recoup. Sometimes companies are even forced to sell each unit for less than their own manufacturing or acquisition cost, which makes push marketing unaffordable for some companies. Leading on from this, the longer you apply push marketing, the more difficult it becomes for you to get resellers to pay your regular prices.
An image of a warehouse

What do we mean by pull marketing?

Pull marketing is the polar opposite of push marketing. So what is an example of market pull? Well, it involves stimulating demand for a product or service and persuading consumers to ask for the product in retail outlets. The goal of this type of promotional marketing strategy is to “pull” customers into store or have a product “pulled” off the shelves, so to speak. Rather than trying to sell to a wholesaler, the manufacturer instead uses a market pull promotional strategy to focus its promotion on the customer and motivates them to want it. They do that using tactics such as:

  1. Content marketing
  2. Sampling
  3. PR stunts, like pop up shops
  4. Discounts and competitions
  5. Advertising
  6. Social media
  7. Email marketing

It’s also worth noting that a modern-day pull marketing strategy tends to use various pull media channels, from social media to pay per click, since the modern-day customer journey is fragmented. This means companies need to be present on the various channels that the audience are using to discover and research. Want to learn more about optimizing your customer journey strategy? Take a look at our ebook, “Demystifying the B2B Online Customer Journey”.

Pull marketing advantages

  • Long term success is ultimately determined by the interest of the end buyer. Applying a pull strategy helps you to be more audience-focused and relevant. For example, unlike push marketing, pull marketing allows you to add an element of personalization to your marketing strategy. And with 80% of customers now saying they’re more likely to purchase a product or service from a company that provides personalized experiences, this is now something that is needed to survive in this day and age. Not only this, but personalization also puts you in a better placed to drive brand loyalty and brand equity, both of which are key advantages of a pull strategy.
  • A pull strategy model can be a powerful way of understanding how a new product is received. Say you’re a new brand and don’t yet know the scope of your audience, based on interest from customers, marketers can test and identify whether their audience has accepted a new product in the market and how large buyer pool may be.
  • When audiences want your goods, naturally, brands have stronger bargaining power with distributors in the market. You see, distributors don’t want to let customers go, so they’re more willing to negotiate with brands who’re benefiting from pull marketing success.

Pull marketing disadvantages

  • Companies that solely focus on pull strategies often miss the market penetration trick. Since the pull marketing strategy model relies on people who already know they have a need, those that have a strictly inbound organization are losing out on market share by excluding people that aren’t yet aware of their brand. Basically, it's almost impossible to build brand awareness by only using a pull strategy as the attention is on consumers already interested in your product or service.
  • Creating high demand using a pull technique can be difficult in a competitive market. Interest doesn’t just appear, any marketer will tell you that a lot of time and effort goes into generating content that facilitates it.
  • Expanding on the point above, pull marketing strategy efforts can also be difficult to measure. While quantifying marketing ROI has come a long way in recent years, it still has some way to go, especially when it comes to attributing acquisitions.
Grocery store

Now we understand the benefits and drawbacks of solely using a push or pull strategy, let’s take a look at the synergies between them.

The synergies: How push and pull marketing work together?

There are a number of elements at play that influence decision-making around whether a marketer leans more on a pull or push marketing strategy, including goals/ objectives/ KPIs, the type of product/ service they offer (industrial or consumer?), type of buying situation and more. Having said that, blending elements of push-pull marketing together is where the sweet spot is at, after all, push and pull models naturally align. Here's an example of how push and pull marketing work together:

In order to boost sales of a newly launched product, a manufacturer decides to promote to the end consumer (pull). Knowing the importance of balancing promotion with intermediaries too, they decide to simultaneously offer trade discounts (push) in order to 'move' their products through distribution channels.

As marketing professionals, we need to create market demand (awareness) and then help develop the lead pipeline (sales). Initially push marketing helps generate the need and a pull marketing strategy offers a way for users to satisfy that need. Because of this, companies rarely exclusively use either approach at a given time, instead, they integrate push-pull marketing so they can benefit from the advantages and limit the drawbacks of each push and pull technique.  

Integrating your push-pull technique

An integrated marketing communication strategy (ICM) refers to the process of creating a unified and seamless experience for customers. The model attempts to meld all aspects of marketing communication, such as advertising, promotions, direct sales, public relations, social media, etc., so that all align in harmony as a unified force. While a push marketing strategy deals with resellers, the resellers ultimately interact with consumers on the brand's behalf, so it’s important that marketing professionals cultivate seamless experiences with both intermediaries and the end customer. This is when integrated push and pull marketing become paramount.

For integrated marketing communications to be successful, the marketer must ensure push and pull strategy messages communicated across all push and pull channels are aligned. As mentioned, when all channels work in synergy, it manifests a unified force – one not to be reckoned with! The most common disconnect between a push and pull strategy occurs between personal selling and other elements of the promotional mix, so pay close attention to breaking down the silos and creating sales enablement material that can support integrated communications. If sales and marketing are singing from different hymn sheets, it's easy for the message to become blurred and confusing for the consumer.

Coworkers looking at a laptop

So there we have it, how to identify the difference between a push and pull strategy, why both models are needed if you’re to successfully balance the process of creating market demand and sales and how to integrate your push pull technique. If you’re in the process of launching a new product, consider the points given in this article before deciding on the best push-pull model and approach to take. We're always here for a chat, so if you'd like to learn more about creating a push pull model that works for your business, fill out the form below and we'll be in touch!

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