Running your business online means having to choose between two core principles for guiding your marketing strategy. It’s common (and important) to balance your budget, time, and efforts on growing your business across organic and paid strategies that offer the best results. Choosing between push vs pull.
But what is the difference between push and pull marketing? And which one is best for you?
Let’s go through the pros and cons. Understanding the difference between push and pull strategies will help you understand the direction you need to go.
First, you have to establish what your long and short-term goals are for your business’s success. As the world of online marketing continues to evolve in light of shrinking physical markets, and as businesses frantically try to adjust to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, it will be as important as ever to establish a solid online marketing approach to help your business stay upright. For businesses looking to establish a fast and immediate cash flow, “push” strategies based on paid ads are one option. For businesses looking to gain a long-term customer base, “pull” offers methods for organic long-term growth.
But what are they? What’s actually the difference between push and pull strategy in marketing? In simple terms push marketing involves pushing your brand in front of audiences (usually with paid advertising or promotions). Pull marketing on the other hand means implementing a strategy that naturally draws consumer interest in your brand or products (usually with relevant and interesting content).
This relatively simple definition of push marketing vs. pull marketing skips overs all the different strategies each option offers. Search engine optimization, search engine ads, content marketing, social media content, social media paid ads, etc. — are all forms of these two kinds of marketing.
The Difference Between Push and Pull Marketing
In push marketing, the goal is to bring your brand or products to your customers. This form of marketing is a lot more deliberate and proactive than other inbound methods. Because push marketing is a bit more aggressive than the alternative it’s generally preferred by businesses taking advantage of a short time period or trying to generate sales quickly.
Instances where push marketing can be helpful include:
- When launching a new business or website without a reputation
- When releasing new products
- During holidays, or seasonal events
- For sales and temporary promotional campaigns
- When expanding to a new niche
- To generate cash flow or sales quickly
- To help clear out product stock before the end of a season
- To help promote brand recognition when competing against a dominant competitor
- Just in general, when trying to subsidize a multi-channel strategy
Push marketing is a broader, sort of shotgun approach that means making your products, services, or brand as visible as possible in order to get the best results you can — but for a cost. It usually means quicker sales. The other side of the coin with push marketing is that it also usually involves spending money. One of the most popular forms of push marketing is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising where marketers can place banners, display ads, search engine ads, and shopping ads across a wide range of platforms, usually by paying a small amount each time their ad is clicked on.
Other popular forms of push marketing include paid social-media marketing strategies that are similar to PPC or cost-per-thousand impressions.
Pull marketing, on the other hand, involves naturally accruing traffic. The reasoning here is to create high-value content suited for your target audiences and letting them come to you. Of course, this doesn’t mean doing anything. Pull marketing simply means being aware of the fact that there are already users actively seeking out the products, services, or information that you offer and making it easier for them to find it, and making it easier for them to get to their ultimate goal.
The most prominent forms of pull marketing include search engine optimization (SEO), creative social media content, and customer reviews. Whereas SEO has proven itself as the type of marketing with the most reliable ROI for a long time, social media has only exploded as a business channel relatively recently.
Pull marketing is often the primary business strategy for companies looking to:
- Ensure long-term business growth
- Maintain dominance in a specific niche or industry
- Build a return customer base or improve loyalty
- To promote brand recognition with customer engagement and visibility
- Increase social media traffic as well as social media sharing
- Grow traffic to their site across organic, referral, and social segments
- Improve sales and revenue affordably, without an expensive ad budget
- Engage with customers before they know what they want, at the top of their shopping funnel
So what’s the difference between push and pull marketing in practice? A few years ago as many as 71% of consumers claimed to prefer pull marketing techniques. As the online landscape evolves businesses are continuing to see the value in the time-proven benefit of pulling in customers organically.
Close to 3/4th of all marketers claim that content marketing increases engagement. These days 51% of all website traffic comes from search engines, and according to BrightEdge that traffic alone is capturing over 40% of all online revenue. If those numbers aren’t convincing enough, by the end of the decade the number of global, active social media users had grown to 3.724 billion. As these numbers demonstrate a new form of normal internet use, it becomes apparent that pull focused marketing is an absolute necessity for future business growth.
But the push strategy can be tempting too. According to Wolfgang Digital, this last year was the first time that paid-search ads outpaced regular search in terms of revenue with PPC driving 33% of revenue in the retail channel. For online-only businesses, paid strategies boast responsibility for as much as 46% of the revenue!
The truth is that businesses find the best success when they focus on a multi-channel, multi-strategy approach in both push and pull. These two broad categories are simply too important to focus on just one.
But what do they encapsulate? Which specific marketing methods make up the difference between push and pull marketing strategies? Let’s go over the most important ones:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
We’ve already mentioned SEO as one of the most effective long-term strategies (especially in terms of ROI). But the truth is that when it comes to search engines in practice, there isn’t a huge difference between push and pull marketing — just in the tools used.
More than half of marketers claim that improving their SEO is their main pull marketing priority. The average click-through rate (CTR) for the 1st position on Google is 19%, that amount drops to 10% for the second position. This means that an SEO strategy is important for netting the most possible traffic for your business if you want to rank as highly as possible.
SEO focuses on making a website optimized for the algorithms that search engines used to index and rank them. By carefully adjusting a wide range of on-site factors (including code, design, content, meta-data, structure, and a lot more) it’s possible for websites to rank their pages higher in search results, and to get more organic traffic.
The downside to SEO is that it requires a fair amount of initial investment — either lots of work to optimize the site or spending money to pay for professional SEO services. It can also sometimes take months to see results as re-indexing and ranking-shifts on Google and Bing tend to play out slowly. But the major advantage of SEO is that the costs are relatively low compared to paid ads, and the pay-off can be very good in the long term. For most businesses, the benefits justify the costs.
As websites optimize their product pages and service pages for SEO it can help increase organic traffic by increasing their 1st-page search engine rankings. A professionally search-optimized site can bring in incredible amounts of static revenue for months or years to come — with perhaps only maintenance required.
As we’ve said above, the big difference between push and pull strategies is that pull methods like SEO tend to take longer but have the best results.
Social Media Marketing
As one of the most pertinent channels available it’s important to discuss where social media lies. The truth is that social media offers opportunities in both pushes and pull as well.
Everyone knows that the opportunity for creative content that drives website referral traffic is inherent to social media — this is the big “pull” base appeal of social platforms. With a good brand, good content, and a loyal customer base it’s possible to take advantage of organic interest in your products/services.
More than 85% of survey respondents claim they are more likely to make a purchase if they see a friend or family member interact with a brand on social.
But social media is also an increasingly important paid ads channel as well. Sites and apps like Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, Snapchat, Pinterest, and more a offer litany of ad styles — and they represent some of the best sites for social media marketing.
The difference between push and pull marketing strategies here is once again the difference between organic and paid. You can use content to pull interest from your followers, or you can use the vast opportunities available from ads to push your brand on audiences that maybe wouldn’t convert otherwise.
Usually, ads on these platforms look a lot like regular content, image ads that exist in user feed, or videos that they can find in their social “stories.” Now social media sites are expanding to include on-platform transactions, on-platform product listings, and ways to more accurately target specific audiences.
In fact, the wealth of data that social media offers is one of its biggest strengths. User data like usage habits, interests, likes, biographical facts, geographical data, cohorts, and more mean that advertisers are able to maximize return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) by targeting the best shoppers for their business.
Paid Search Ads & Display Ads
Paid search advertising is still one of the largest and most popular methods of marketing — passed up by only traditional SEO. It’s a key push strategy that focuses on paying to have custom ads display in search results right next to organic results.
These days 73% of the PPC market belongs to Google, an industry that represented $55.17 billion by 2019. Microsoft’s Bing represents a much smaller, but still noteworthy 3rd place in market share. Nearly half of search clicks go to the top three paid ads in search results, meaning that although marketers are forced to pay-to-play, the benefits are too tantalizing to pass up.
Some estimated data from Google suggests that businesses generally make an average of $2 in revenue for every $1 they spend on Google Ads. Results that mean professional PPC management can be tempting as well. The pay-to-play aspect of search engine ads is representative of the big difference between push and pull marketing strategies on search engine results pages (or SERPs). Both SEO and PPC are ways to get there, but they’re fundamentally different.
Google Ads also extend far beyond just search results, PPC offers both direct marketing and re-marketing opportunities across a huge ad network that includes both the Search Network and the Display network (ads that display across ad-supported websites as well as YouTube).
Content Marketing & Optimization
Content marketing is a heavily important strategy for sustained business growth and business success but it’s here that some previously describe marketing methods overlap. Content marketing is often described as its own brand of marketing, but it’s an area where the differences between push and pull marketing start to blend a little bit.
No other forms of push or pull marketing could exist without at least some content. And many of the most fruitful digital marketing paths almost completely rely on starting with good content as a platform. These days SEO and content are intimately tied together with both keyword density and Google’s EAT playing an important role. Being able to demonstrate EAT (expertise, authority, and trustworthiness) to both search engines and your visitors is crucial to pulling in business.
Content marketing also means looking at the content itself to ensure that it matches your target audience’s ultimate goals. Content marketing requires building out a user-focused website that offers content, guides, images, videos, blogs, and more — all of which are not meant to drive sales but are actually meant to help the visitor find what they need… and then drive sales.
Determining your audience’s needs and goals is tied in deeply with the keyword research that comes with SEO or search ads. Another case where the differences between pull and push marketing are overshadowed by how they work together. These strategies hinge on determining searcher intent and work by offering content that meets that intent. Additionally, Google’s algorithm is designed to push down sites with weak or duplicate content.
These days almost three-quarters of all marketers say that content marketing increases engagement — an important KPI for pull marketing. Not just for retailers too, data from OptinMonster says 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing to reach potential customers.
Good content is informative and helps customers move along the conversion funnel more easily.