Business As Usual

Pull and push marketing

Entrepreneur’s help-line - ENTREPRENEUR’S HELP-LINE By Alejandrino J. Ferreria -
In a previous article, we expanded the original four Ps of marketing to 14. The original Ps are product, price, place, and promotion. The additional Ps in the house of marketing are primary target market, positioning, unique selling proposition, people with passion, process that makes a promise, prayer and persistent profits.

Let us now add two more–pull and push. A pull strategy has programs, activities, and tasks that are meant for the customer to look and ask for a particular brand of product or service. A push strategy has programs, activities and tasks that are meant to make the customer close the sale.

In military terms, pull programs are the likes of bombing raids and artillery barrages on a target area. The pull strategy softens the resistance in preparation for the execution of push programs. The latter are those executed by the ground forces to eventually capture the target area.

In enterprise terms, marketing is responsible for pull and sales operation is responsible for push.
Which is more effective?
Clearly, a combination of the two is required but the entrepreneur must understand the market behavior first. The determinant of what would be effective and efficient is the market behavior. We must realize that market behavior, even in the same industry, changes from area to area.

For example, there is this area in Libis, Quezon City called Eastwood where there are many restaurants and food outlets. The observed market behavior in the area is: Let’s eat in Eastwood. Let’s meet by the fountain in the center at a certain time and then decide where to eat. The same is true for malls where the observed market behavior is: Let’s meet at the mall entrance or food court at a certain time and then decide where to eat.

In this situation, the mall or area managers have already created the pull for the food locators. The decision as to which food outlet to patronize is determined in the area. It is now up to the food locator to make the push or sales effort.

There are other streets or areas in Quezon City such as Banawe or Morato that are also lined by restaurants. Here, the observation is different: Let’s eat at a particular place and let us meet there at a certain time. The decision on which restaurant to patronize is made before leaving the house or office. As such, the locators in the area must make a great effort to influence the market before they leave the house or office. The locators must make a great pull effort. There is very little that a push effort can do.

The key is to know the market behavior. Know where and when the purchase decision is made. This will determine if more pull or push programs are needed.

All pull without push will not result in sales. The balance will also be greatly influenced by the propensity of the customers to switch brands. The pull programs will make the customer ask for a particular brand. But if the customer has a propensity to brand switch (or are not brand loyal), a good push strategy can make a brand switch happen.

How often have you asked for a particular cola and the waiter eventually said: "Sorry, we only have the other brand", and you willingly agreed to switch brands?

The pull programs (advertising and other media programs) made the customer ask for the brand. But since there was propensity to brand switch (no brand loyalty), the pull strategy of the competitor resulted in sales for the competitor.

Is your customer loyal to your brand? This can only be tested by a push strategy of the competitor. If the customer switches brands because of the competitor’s push strategy, there is no brand loyalty from that customer. Another market behavior that must be observed is the propensity of the customer to switch brands.
Is there a correct mix?
A correct mix of pull and push programs results in the pull programs that make customers ask for your brand and the push programs that result in the delivery of the product/service brand, even if they are not asked for. There is such a thing as an over pull and an over push.

In military terms, again, your ground forces (push strategy) will be massacred by a superior pull strategy of the enemy or competitor, if one does not execute bombing raids and artillery barrages to soften up the market and the competition. If the enemy is already soft and running away, there is no point wasting resources on unnecessary pull programs. But it is also foolish to bomb and shell an area that is not intended for capture.

Timing and balance are important. The amount of pull and push, plus when to pull and/or push, is critical. All of this will be determined by current and relevant market behavior knowledge. This implies intimate and current knowledge of the area, competition, and the customer. There is no cut and dry formula. It changes from area to area, from situation to situation, and from industry to industry.

(Alejandrino Ferreria is the dean of the Asian Center for Entrepreneurship of the Asian Institute of Management. For further comments and inquiries, you may contact him at: [email protected]. Published "Entrepreneur’s Helpline" columns can be viewed on the AIM website at http//: www.aim.edu.ph).

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