For many years, virtually all marketing was of the push variety, so called because the object was for you to push your promotions and advertisements in front of the prospect. Your job was to push your message and push your offer until you generated the lead or sale. This was also referred to as interrupt advertising because you were usually interrupting whatever the prospect was doing to present your offer (e.g., watching television, listening to the radio, reading a print publication, etc.). While some think of push media in traditional terms, there are relatively new media such as Web banner ads, pop-up ads, and predictive dialing that are definitely in the push camp.

In the push model, the marketer is in charge of the timing, content, and frequency of promotions. Prospects are in charge of whether they read or listen to your promotion, and whether they choose to respond. Many marketers seem to feel that their job is to shove enough promotions in front of enough prospects to make their sales goals. Push marketing has been the predominant methodology since the days of the Old West pitchman.

By contrast, pull marketing refers to making yourself visible to prospects when they are looking for what you are selling. Instead of pushing your offer at them, you allow them to pull what they want from you. Push and pull marketing require different mindsets. As a practitioner of Fusion Marketing, you should do everything possible to make it easier for people to buy from you, not only at the time they are ready to sign the purchase order or hand over the credit card, but also when they are at the earliest stages of the information gathering (research) process. A sale lost early is still a lost sale, regardless of whether you ever knew the prospect existed.

The greatest boon to pull marketing has been the Internet. It has made marketing more complex but also infinitely more flexible and useful to the purchaser. The greatest successes in marketing are being achieved by those who use social media and public relations to make themselves visible to potential buyers, along with pay per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to make sure that prospects find them when either doing research or when they are in the purchase phase. This is a great way to generate traffic and is extremely cost-effective. Online registration services such as RSS feeds and Web-based newsletter subscriptions are also effective pull marketing methods.

Business-to-business marketers love to talk about their sales cycle, which refers to how long it takes to close a deal, from first contact with the prospect until the order is signed. However, one of the advantages of pull marketing is its ability to shorten the sales cycle, if you give the prospect plenty of chances to either learn about you through social media, or conduct research on your Website. If the prospect takes six months from initial research through purchase, he may spend more than half that time in research that does not involve your time-strapped staff, and you, in fact, have only a three-month sales cycle with that prospect. This type of marketing is better for you and the prospect than the constant push for them to buy something too early in the cycle. Prospects benefit from the pull marketing model because they can learn about what you offer in a pressure-free way. Your sales reps benefit because they are dealing with fewer prospects that are more likely to purchase, thus maximizing their selling effectiveness.

Most of us will want to use a combination of push and pull marketing strategies. For example, you can aggressively use customized offers to promote your products and services to lists of targeted prospects. However, you can also let the world know about you through awareness-building tools such as public relations and social media. In addition, you can create a content-rich Website that satisfies the hunger of early stage prospects to learn about your offerings in a pressure-free environment. The chapters on Website, social media, and search engine optimization will be particularly important. If you do a good job of pull marketing, you will receive the additional benefit of some terrific push marketing, as your community of believers pushes you to their own social networks.

As you decide how much of your time and financial resources to devote to push vs. pull marketing, keep in mind that the battleground has shifted. As the marketer, you are not really in charge-the prospect holds the high ground. Rather than fight this fact, it is better to accept who has the real control and find the best ways to help people buy in the way they want to buy, instead of the way you want to sell to them.
As a pull marketer, these traits will serve you well:

o Patience: Yes, you should always ask for the order, but accept your prospect’s timeframe for purchase.
o Flexibility: Pull marketers require maximum flexibility as they continually search for new ways to inform and please their prospects.
o Curiosity: Develop and maintain a burning desire to learn about your prospects and their characteristics (e.g., demographics) as well as their hopes, desires, wants, and needs.
o Service orientation: The old ways of fooling people or tricking people into buying through superior salesmanship are mostly gone. Those who have a true thirst to serve their customers will succeed.