Monday, January 28, 2013

Push vs. Pull in B2B Marketing

In the world of retail consumer marketing, a Push strategy would indicate a manufacturer's ability and monies to motivate a merchant to carry and promote its products. A Pull strategy would indicate that same manufacturer using advertising and promotion directed at consumers, with the objective of having those consumers demand the product from the merchant.

OK, I paraphrased that from marketing guru Phil Kotler in his 11th edition of "Marketing Management", which is a classic text. Also in this edition, Kotler states: "The internet will not become a major advertising medium like televison , radio, and print media. Internet users generally do not welcome advertising."

When Professor Kotler revises that statement in his 12th edition, he might also write about the new dynamics of Push vs. Pull in B2B Marketing !

B2B marketing and selling  in the tech space is heavy on Push. There is a parallel here to B2C Push as described -- with regard to the strong channel influence that manufacturers maintain. But the Bigger "Push" is the heavy-handed salesmanship that is directed at the B2B buyer. Marketing spends about half its budget on demand generation programs. And the Sales function spends four times as much as all of Marketing, trying to persuade buyers.

It is indeed the internet that is changing this dynamic, as IDC VP Kathleen Schaub has written about exetensively in her New Buyer Journey analysis. The self-educated buyer resists Push. In fact, IDC research  shows that Buyers are practically begging their vendors: "Don't sell so hard!.  So, don't sell so hard; don't push so hard. Customers don't want to be sold to. They want to make self-determined choices.

The mantra for B2B marketers has to be Pull. If we acknowledge that the self-educated buyer will make his or her own choices on where to get educated, our job is to attract them, to pull them,  to our way of  thinking. The new Pull will continue to be advertising and promotion, but it will be more about helpful Social connections; an emphasis on educational marketing content; and greater demonstration that we have deep knowledge of  the customer's business issues.

As you think about the next round of your marketing planning and budgets, also think about the general quotient of Push vs. Pull that you have in your overall mix. And ramp up the Pull -- the gravitional forces that will hopefully draw your prospects into your atmosphere.


  1. Great post Rich, I think you are spot on. One of the challenges that marketers have is making the shift from Push to Pull, or from Outbound to Inbound. Some sales teams will resist that change simply due to to tradition and culture. That will require marketing to be able to demonstrate success in the new world. Keep the great insights coming!
    Bob O'Brien

  2. Interesting POV, Rich. While the buyers are saying loud and clear not to sell so hard and we as marketers need to listen to that, it seems to me that we can't just seed the market with content and, like farmers, wait for those seeds to bear fruit. In particular, I'd argue there's a place for optimization sales enablement to better reflect the mindset of the buyers--that is, to create tools and materials for sales to use that move from the hard sell to facilitating a dialog.

  3. Dear Anthony,

    Yes< you are very correct. To further complete the thought, we would argue that the New Buyer passes through a series of gates, and unless he successfully gets through the initial marketing gates in a self-service fashion (pulled in); he will not make it to the interpersonal-dialog stage, wherein the vendor sales team starts their work. And yes, the vendor Sales team at that point needs to be well-enabled.

    I suggest you contact Kathleen Schaub on our team as she has mapped the end-to-end Buyers Journey in detail (

    Thx for getting involved in the conversation!