Push and pull marketing strategies

Promotional strategies to get your product or service to market can be roughly divided into two separate camps.

1. Push strategy

A push promotional strategy involves taking the product directly to the customer via whatever means, ensuring the customer is aware of your brand at the point of purchase.

"Taking the product to the customer"

Examples of push tactics

  • Trade show promotions to encourage retailer demand
  • Direct selling to customers in showrooms or face to face
  • Negotiation with retailers to stock your product
  • Efficient supply chain allowing retailers an efficient supply
  • Packaging design to encourage purchase
  • Point of sale displays

2. Pull strategy

A pull strategy involves motivating customers to seek out your brand in an active process.

"Getting the customer to come to you"

Examples of pull tactics

  • Advertising and mass media promotion
  • Word of mouth referrals
  • Customer relationship management
  • Sales promotions and discounts
Push pull promotional strategy
Simple diagram explaining some example differences between a push and pull promotional strategy

The origin of these two terms refers to the supply chain and how the demand for the product is generated.

Push strategy explained

The term 'push strategy' describes the work a manufacturer of a product needs to perform to get the product to the customer. This may involve setting up distribution channels and persuading middle men and retailers to stock your product. The push technique can work particularly well for lower value items such as fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs), when customers are standing at the shelf ready to drop an item into their baskets and are ready to make their decision on the spot. This term now broadly encompasses most direct promotional techniques such as encouraging retailers to stock your product, designing point of sale materials or even selling face to face. New businesses often adopt a push strategy for their products in order to generate exposure and a retail channel. Once your brand has been established, this can be integrated with a pull strategy.

Pull strategy explained

'Pull strategy' refers to the customer actively seeking out your product and retailers placing orders for stock due to direct consumer demand. A pull strategy requires a highly visible brand which can be developed through mass media advertising or similar tactics. If customers want a product, the retailers will stock it - supply and demand in its purest form, and this is the basis of a pull strategy. Create the demand, and the supply channels will almost look after themselves.

Final words

A successful strategy will usually have elements of both the push and pull promotional methods. If you are starting a new business and intend to sell a product through retailers, you'll almost certainly need to persuade outlets to purchase and stock your product. You'll also need to raise brand awareness and start building valuable word of mouth referrals. If you have designed a product around the customer and have considered all elements of the marketing mix, both of these aspects should be achievable.

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