By Andrew Neitlich

Is your marketing push, pull, or N/A?

By Andrew Neitlich

Today’s blog discusses a key distinction in marketing: push vs. pull. There’s lots of debate about the proper mix of each style of marketing in your mix.

Push marketing is the traditional in-your-face, brag-about-your-services type of marketing. It includes direct mail, advertising, cold calling, and other techniques that push your services. Usually the push approach includes a pitch that tries to sell your services in one step.

Pull marketing brings people to you. It is a softer, lower-key approach. It includes using proactive referral systems, speaking, writing, being visible in your community, and following up with prospects with educational materials — once they have given you permission to do so. It’s not a passive approach, and still requires lots of hustle and creativity.

N/A marketing, referenced in the title of this blog, is what too many IT professionals do. It is no marketing at all, but rather hoping that people will spread the word about you and waiting for the phone to ring.

My style and professional experience — along with the experience of other professionals — favors pull marketing. So I invest lots of time writing (in blogs like this), speaking, sharing articles on my web site, and generally working to establish myself as a “thought leader” in the industry. There’s lots of room for web designers to do the same thing.

In today’s marketplace most prospects are too skeptical to respond to push marketing techniques. As a recent Direct Marketing Association newsletter article noted, push techniques are akin to asking someone to marry you the first time you introduce yourself.

But it’s not all black and white. It’s a continuum. For instance, cold calling can work — if you focus on a very specific niche, research each business/prospect before hand, and personalize your message to them (e.g. “I’ve reviewed your web site, and believe that it ranks 5th compared to your nearest competitors. Here are 3 things I can help you do to put it in first place in terms of attracting more business….”).

And I can show you quite a few businesses that still get the bulk of their revenue via traditional push techniques. But increasingly, they seem to be the exception.

So today’s questions:

One: Is your marketing “push,” “pull,” or N/A?

Two: How will you change your marketing to hit the ideal mix for your style and target market?

  • Mine’s probably N/A at the moment – but I’m lucky to have quite a few clients who refer lots of business.

    One thing I am about to do is this: I’ve been asked to quote on a website for an association that looks after part of a market that I’m targetting. I think I’ll include with their proposal, that if any of their members want a website done, and enquire via the association’s office, I’ll pay the association a referral fee and give the member a small discount. To me, it’s cheap marketing (the association does it for me), the new customer gets a small discount, and the association get a few dollars for doing not very much! I figure that’s win/win/win.

    I should even pen a small article for their next newsletter to coincide with the new website’s launch.

    There’s my next ‘pull’ strategy…

  • drakke

    As you said, when you are just starting out and cash is short then a ‘push’ strategy may be best.

    I’m targeting a relatively underserved market. Because the market is narrow, I’m tailoring the products/services to directly address this particular segment.

    My hope is that the prospects recognize that I have takes the time to invest in their concerns and will reward me by listening to my pitch.

    This direct marketing technique will require more time that I would like so eventually the plan is to switch to a mostly ‘pull’ method once I am established.

  • Mainly pull with a little bit of push, which is my monthly print newsletter. (but even that is on the ‘pull’ side, because I try to keep it mainly informative.

    Jobs tend to come my way out of the blue, which I think is a result of ‘pull’ marketing. Sometimes I wish it were more predictable, but I don’t complain when the work is there!


  • Are there other excellent business blogs like this on the web that people can suggest? I’m trying to broaden my knowledge as much as I can with ideas.


  • Dano

    “when you are just starting out and cash is short then a ‘push’ strategy may be best”

    I dont think so. Its documented that, for launching new products/services/companies, pull is most effective. Im on it. The problem is (always the same) TIME.

    Push technic is better to maintain a consolidated position.

    What about me?
    At my daughter school there is an annual expo: any october parents of any student that have a business may have a place to show their products.

    I think thats a good oppotunity to speak to them. Im working on it. I will talk about … yes: about Pull Marketing and advantages of persuasive communication for sites.

  • DavyT

    I recently scored a several thousand dollar project from a client who had seen an example site of ours posted on the software suppliers’ home page. Coupled with tips from Brendon’s articles, we are in the middle of their project. Pull markrting is the only way to go. I have never advertised anywhere else.

  • aneitlich


    I write my heart out 3 times a week and you reference Brendon’s articles on this blog? His stuff is fantastic, but what am I, chopped liver?



  • I have an interesting system in place. Could be considered Pull and Push marketing combined. Here’s what I do.

    For several years now I’ve been working with 4 people who were initially clients. These guys were so happy with what I did for them, that they took the step of recommending me one notch higher. They actually commit people to web sites. They gather all the requirements, deal with their customers directly. Then they call me, and get a price from me for the work. Past that its up to them to make sure all of the requirements are met. They get paid (usually double of what I charge), and send me my share.

    From my standpoint this works great, because I’m already used to working with these people and understand their quirks and input.

  • My company employes primarily push marketing, with a decent success rate.

    I have recently been looking for ways to establish some pull marketing for us. I’ve personally gotten involved in standards committees for industries relevant to someo of our client base, and have been speaking to some of the more technicaly guys about establishing ourselves as “open source” leaders in some uncharted areas of electronic business to see if that oould lead to work there. As a dry run, I created a single page info website, and got nibbles just from that.

    Recently, I have been trying to extend myself into the web design community a bit, too. Although my company isn’t a design company per se, we’ll probably branch that way soon, so I’m trying to establish a basis there for the future.

    In conclusion, my plot to take over the world is slowly taking form. Muahahaha.

    PS – Brendon who? :)

  • Itmod – you’re happy for someone to mark your work up by 100%? I don’t think I’d be happy with that. 100% commission is a hell of a lot for a salesperson, which is effectively what it sounds like they are.

    BUT that’s my 2 cents – if you’re happy with it, that’s all that really counts!

  • RockyShark, that’s sales. It’s co-branding. They’re handling the sales AND project management, which I’m sure everyone here will agree is a big job in and of itself.

  • Oops… meant to say “NOT sales”.

  • (1) My marketing efforts are mostly “pull”. Referrals, speaking engagements, volunteering in my local community, etc.

    (2) The only thing I will change is using push techniques to initially grab people’s attention. From then on, it’s all pull. I will not however change my marketing mix (i.e. from pull to push or n/a). I will change, however, my pulling approach and techniques.

    I did change after our first year in business from N/A to Pull. I first thought, I’ll put up a website and everyone will want to hire me. It didn’t happen. What changed everything was joining my local Chamber of Commerce and attending networking mixers.

    P.S. I just got done reading Permission Marketing by Seth Godin. The whole book is about pulling or permission, not interruption, based marketing.

    Mike Swartz says, “Check it out.”

    P.S.S. LOL – “push techniques are akin to asking someone to marry you the first time you introduce yourself.”

  • I think mine is a “pull” style. Educational marketing. I target companies that already have websites but that haven’t updated them to standards. I meet with them and show them my work. At the end of the meeting I leave them with an article I’ve written (my take on standards froma business standpoint in termst hey can understand), this is given for free and I make sure they know it. I ask them to read it and to feel free to contact me with any questions. Whether or not they sign on with me, I’ve given them value and pause to think. I do enough of these and my name will get out even more. That’s what I think anyway.

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