The marketing concept I often have the most difficulty communicating to clients is the difference between push marketing and pull marketing.
In the pre-internet and pre-amazon era we were all conditioned to believe that in the marketplace the business with the best argument wins. The business with the lowest price or the loudest message will dominate. To an extent that still works. For example, the nagging repetition of furniture shills on TV drill their brand message into our brains so deeply that when we are actually in the market for furniture we march like zombie robots to their store without thinking. That may work for your local furniture store. People still don’t buy a couch without sitting on it first and you can’t do that online….yet.
For most businesses that doesn’t work anymore. Consumers have too many choices and too much information.
Consumers are more demanding. They have more control than ever before. So what do they want? Price is still important. More than that they also respond to relationships. The business that provides a relationship has an advantage.
Good customer service is a start. That is expected and is usually not a distinguishing advantage. Consumers today are asking “What else can you do for me?”
Give me something of value for free. Show me that you are serious about wanting my business. It doesn’t have to be of monetary value. It can be entertaining or it can be something of educational value that will help me in my work.
Listen to me. Ask me what I want. Engage. Be personal.
Consumers want to know that there are real people behind your business. If you can connect person-to-person with your customers, you are ahead of the game. One maxim that has not changed is that people do business with people they like. So, be likeable. Likeable doesn’t mean accumulating followers on Facebook. It means that customers like you and your business for good reasons. That is what builds loyalty.
The difficulty with understanding pull marketing is that it is hard to escape the power and lure of push marketing. It is the prism through which we instinctively see all marketing. So, when I say pull marketing the initial thought is to somehow grab consumers and pull them into becoming buyers. It sounds like kidnapping. Thinking of it this way is like the push me pull you of Dr. Doolittle fame. (Technically it is called pushmi-pullyu.). Both sides are still part of the same animal. There is no difference. However the true meaning of pull marketing has nothing to do with kidnapping customers. It is all about customers pulling you closer. They do the pulling, not you. In successful pull marketing customers seek you out. They love you on their own because of all the great things you do. For example consumers love LL Bean. Sure the sales help, but you can usually buy elsewhere for less. Consumers pull LL Bean close for many reasons. They love all the free advice they offer. They love LL Bean because the people really really really want you to use their products properly and enjoy them. They love the legendary return policy. LL Bean is a very sincere and honest business. People rave. It is all built into their brand. LL Bean is an old business but it is well suited for the new environment and it knows how pull marketing works.
In the new environment understanding and properly using the techniques of pull marketing is the best way to distinguish your business from the competition.