Not so many years ago, the more stuff companies made, and the more they advertised, the more they could sell. It was a marketplace that absorbed everything that could be “pushed” out into it. But with the flattening or globalization of the world prices have tumbled, products proliferate and options abound. Mass media has become saturated with advertising, “pushing” this growing mass of products into the marketplace. As a result, mass advertising has become inefficient and expensive. Mass media is difficult to target and has a very small percentage of return. TV ads and print ads in national publications have millions of “impressions” but very few are likely to become customers. That’s OK if you have a large consumer brand and deep media pockets. But the mass media formula breaks down for specialty products.
As the effectiveness of the mass-media approach to marketing diminishes, mass markets are evolving into mass customization and niche specialties. So how do specialized companies with niche products reach the customers whom they can benefit the most? The answer begins at the center of each company. It radiates out through everything they do and ultimately becomes their marketing. To understand, let’s start with the business manager’s vision for this.
It’s hard to get away from the push mindset. It’s a part of our western mentality, an expression of the west’s egocentric perception of the world. But it’s not the only way. The east has a “pull” perception of power, seeking to attract rather than impose. As one example, the teeth on handsaws in Asia face in towards the user, making the “pull” motion the power stroke, as opposed to the western saw tooth orientation. So what’s to learn from this?
From the perception of those in the east, the “pull” is the power stroke, not the “push.” Instead of forcing out to create action, they draw in. Applying this to a product brand, it’s easy to see in a crowded marketplace that the brand and all its marketing can’t possibly push out with enough frequency and reach to connect with the few people who might benefit the most. Instead, marketing must be set up to attract customers. The brand spirit must come from within, and draw customers towards it. How do we apply this concept to your marketing?
Instead of “pushing” and interrupting your customer, make your marketing attractive to those who are looking for a solution like your product.
Leave behind the concepts of “selling” “pitching” or “closing.” Forget about “driving” your business. These are “push” concepts. Instead, think of ways to be attractive. Start from the core of your brand, its promise of what it uniquely provides, for whom and for what purpose.
This shouldn’t sound completely unfamiliar. Some variations you may have heard of include consent marketing or permission marketing with email. Or products that advertise themselves when customers use them, like Hotmail or a cup of Starbucks. Or products that get better as more people use them, like eBay or a garage sale.
The list goes on and on. Here six things you can apply to your own approach to creating pull marketing:
1) Content: Create content that engages, informs or entertains. Your brand story will be talked about and remembered. Facts will not.
2) Contact: Stop interrupting, and go where your customer is looking for solutions such as yours. Optimize your digital presence for search.
3) Commerce: every touch point your business has with the world should lead new customers towards you. Are you a service business receiving most new business on referral? Look for ways to accelerate your referral rates.
4) Create Community. Do this online by setting list serves and idea shares. Do it in person through thought leadership events like Webinars or physical seminars.
5) Competitive Intelligence. If your promise is to be unique, you must have an understanding of your competition. Often studying your competition reveals an unmet need. Either way, make studying your competitors a continual process, a live stream of information.
6) Connectivity: Create continuity by linking all of your marketing, messages and customer touch points. Each encounter should support your unique claim and benefit for solving their pain.
Together, all of these Six C’s create areas of “pull” marketing that can draw new customers to a company’s brand.
“Pull” is not contrived. It has to be an authentic part of how you do business. You have to build “pull” into your business model, into your service practices, into your product development. When you design “pull” into everything you do, the expression of your marketing is in line with your brand and ready to present that attraction to customers in the marketplace.
How do you initiate the “pull” energy? Ask questions. Ask what job your customer will hire your product to do, what problem they wish to solve. Ask how to make customers your biggest endorsers. Look for ways to make it easy for them to talk about your product, easy to remember, easy to share. And stay in the asking mode as long as you want to stay in business.
The implications of becoming a “pull” business are deep, and affect not only your product and your marketing, but also your culture, your operations and your suppliers. The shift is not easy, because it’s a deep mindset. But the results of becoming a ‘pull’ marketing company will put the fun back in your business, hone your competitive edge and increase your opportunity to create profit.