April 26, 2017 | Sarah Danks

AKA Outbound Marketing vs Inbound Marketing

If you own a business, you’re a marketer. Don’t think so? Well, if you’ve told even ONE person about the services/products you offer, then you’ve informed someone about certain benefits and that, my friend, is marketing.

And these days it’s not about just marketing, it’s about what kind of marketing you’re doing. Namely, push or pull? Do you actively put yourself in front of potential customers, or do you wait for them to come to you?

So, how do you know which type of marketer you are? Well, first you have to know what each type really means.

Defining Push & Pull Marketing

The definition of push marketing is pretty straightforward: it’s, well, pushy. In-your-face. In some forms, it’s an annoyance to those upon which it’s being pushed. In regards to online marketing, push methods interrupt visitors’ sessions on websites – whether due to lightbox/pop-ups, “join our newsletter” notices or banner/display ads.

In this instance, the web visitor is on a website for a reason, yet they keep getting sold to.

(Really, weather.com? Seems a bit excessive.)

Push marketing — also known as outbound marketing — is a more aggressive form of pushing your content in front of potential clients.

Pull marketing, on the other hand (i.e., inbound marketing) is much more passive. Again, as it pertains to online marketing, pull methods put content in front of an audience that’s ready to be sold to.

Here, people are searching for something on a search engine — they WANT to see results so they can choose what to click upon.

But don’t just take our word for it! Let’s look at how others are defining push and pull marketing.

According to Digital Direct Marketing Agency (DMN3):

Pull marketing “pulls” a consumer into the business. Meaning: the customer seeks out your company. Push marketing brings content to the user. Also known as “traditional marketing,” push is the grandmother of modern marketing.”

DMN3 also goes on to say that push marketing is outbound marketing, while pull marketing is inbound. Marketing Land also makes that distinction in the push to pull infographic they show here:

“Outbound marketing is going out of style; inbound marketing is on the rise.”

And Marketing-Schools.org‘s take on pull marketing:

Pull marketing is any method a company uses to generate demand for a product. Modern pull marketing uses various media channels to generate interest about a product or company, encouraging customers to seek out the product or company on their own.” 

Huh? But isn’t posting on social media about your product pushing it in front of potential customers? Seems a bit counter-intuitive.

I also found a guest post by Amanda DiSilvestro on the Marketing Tech News:

Push marketing is an approach that tries to put advertisements in front of someone who does not necessarily have any knowledge of your company. Pull marketing is a method of advertising companies use to try and get consumers to find the company on their own. The idea is that people will find your company because your company was able to build a successful brand.”

Where Does Push Marketing End, and Pull Marketing Begin?

What’s confusing with this last definition — among a myriad of others — is where push marketing ends and where pull marketing begins. Because, how can you have one without the other?

Especially if you adhere to this premise, offered by Boundless:

“A push strategy places the product in front of the customer to make sure the consumer is aware of the existence of the product. A pull strategy motivates customers to actively seek out a specific product.”

But, how do you PULL customers into seeking for your products? Well, you brand yourself so you’re forefront in their mind when they need a product…

…but, how do you brand? By push marketing. It’s like a marketing Catch-22.

Here at ThinkSEM, we consider the following:

Push Marketing Tactics

  • billboards
  • cold calls
  • display ads on GDN websites
  • social media ads
  • pop-up ads/calls-to-actions on websites
  • promoted Tweets/Facebook posts
  • radio/TV ads
  • native advertising

Pull Marketing Strategies

  • search engine optimization (SEO)
  • pay-per-click advertising (PPC) on search engines
  • trade shows
  • showrooms
  • social media community building
  • store signage

But, according to Boundless, “push strategies include trade shows, showrooms…” This is where I disagree.

When I walk into a showroom because I want to buy a new car, was I PUSHED or PULLED into that showroom? Well, if I were pushed, I’d say we’ve got grounds for a lawsuit. No, rather, when I walk — of my own Accord (har har) — into a car showroom, I’ve been PULLED there because I know of this dealer and I want to see which car I’m interested in buying.

Or, wait, have I been pushed there by ads on the radio? Or, no, pulled because I did a Google search and found a PPC ad…

…and, what about trade shows? They aren’t just open to the public; you have to purchase the right to go in. So all the vendors waiting inside to lure you into their booths? They’re not pushing you; you’ve paid to be there.

I’d definitely consider trade shows to be in the pull marketing category; not push.

And then there’s native advertising — that’s one form of marketing about which many people share varying opinions! It’s a whole topic in and of itself.

Then there are those who say that radio and TV ads are pull marketing, since they’re already listening to the radio or watching TV, and they know there will be ads. (Again, I disagree — I HATE ads on the radio like no other form of advertisement!)

But if we want to debate where one type of marketing ends and the other begins, we might as well argue about the chicken and the egg!

Should You Use Inbound, Outbound…or Both?

As a marketer you optimize your website for search engines, you pay for paid placement ads, you attend trade shows, you might even have radio or television ads. How are they working? How do your customers — and potential customers — feel about the way you’re marketing to them?

“At the end of the day,” it doesn’t really matter which type of marketing you’re doing. Almost every person you ask will have a varying definition of what THEY consider either push or pull marketing to be, and ultimately what’s important is whether or not it’s working for your business.

We’re not saying either outbound marketing or inbound marketing is right or wrong. Like many aspects of marketing, there’s a grey area of where one type ends and the other begins — it’s hard to have pull marketing without push marketing, one often leads to the other, etc. and vice versa and yadda yadda.

Figure out what works for your business — or clients — and do it!




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