Dear Marketing: Less Push, More Pull

Advertising is dead. Long live storytelling.

This year over $500,000,000,000 will be spent on advertising globally. But how much of it will be well spent? There’s been growing discontent about the low effectiveness and transparency of advertising.

Advertising is push. It’s interruption. It’s buy-now-with-just-one-click. Conversion rates for the top communication channel (like emails sent post-purchase) average around 1.5%. It’s so low because there’s so much of it, and so much of it garbage.

The result is that we’re bombarded daily with one-way messaging that we’ve consequently learned to ignore entirely. Yet somehow the advertising industry is still being paid billions of dollars by companies wanting to “capture” the attention of their consumers. Hmmm…

Sure, it sometimes works when you’ve got deep pockets, but for the rest of us advertising can be an enormous waste of money. It’s often priced as “cost-per-click”. That’s just one click. And more often than not they’ll close the browser as soon as your landing page appears.

The Thing About Pull Marketing

Pull marketing is about inviting your existing customers, followers, and prospects to engage more deeply with your brand. It’s about meeting them where they already are, interacting with them organically and on their own terms. Above all, it’s about storytelling.

Whereas push is one-way and one-off, pulling people is about having a sustained conversation. It’s a series of two-way interactions, one after another. The key idea is that audience must actually do something – like make a choice or write something – in order to continue down the path.

If the message isn’t engaging then no one will be pulled to the next interaction in the sequence, or the next one, and so forth. Keep it engaging and you could get 20 or more interactions per person. Compare that to a single click that you get with push. That’s 20x the interactions, simply by being engaging.

Building a pull program must be designed with your audience in mind, so it helps to be extremely customer-centric. It also helps to think of all your push communications – like an email or banner ad or flyer – as able to benefit from the addition of pull.

Adding pull to your push allows you to start layering your messaging (instead of all at once) and to have a more systematic approach to storytelling that entices your audience deeper into your marketing funnel.

The shifting focus from push to pull is one that will play out over the next decade. Just as with the advent of social, those agencies, companies, and organizations who start to build their pull capabilities will have ‘unfair advantage’ over their competitors in this period.

When your company is keen to start building out your pull marketing program, we suggest starting simple. We’ve developed a simple methodology to starting pulling your audience.

We call it the 5T’s of Pull. And it all starts with your touchpoints.

Step 1: Define your TOUCHPOINTS

Your company probably has a variety of moments where their audience comes in contact with its brand. These touchpoints can occur before, during, or after they purchase something from you. Supermarket aisles, restaurant menus, and social media posts are all example of touchpoints.

Pick a couple touchpoints where you think it would be easiest to invite your audience to engage more deeply. Every brand has its promoters so it’s good to pick the touchpoints where you think you’ll have especially satisfied audience members, like post-purchase emails and customer appreciation events.

Your touchpoints that have higher traffic are probably the best place to start. These could include online touchpoints like corporate websites or monthly update emails, and offline touchpoints like flyers or e-commerce delivery.

Step 2: Define your TRIBES

For thousands of years, people who share similar values and interests have been grouped into distinct tribes. And just because modern society has evolved beyond the hunter-gatherer way of life, doesn’t mean that tribes have disappeared.

Today people can be a part of many tribes at the same time. You could for example be a hardcore devotee of Apple and a Canon camera nut, making you feel a sense of belonging to both tribes. Knowing the tribes people belong to can help us communicate with them in a more personal and relevant way.

If you don’t already have your Tribes defined, take a stab at 2-3 distinct groups that may flow through your TouchPoints. Then as your very first pull, you can ask your audience whether or not they belong to these tribes. Start simple, then keep on peeling back the onion to expose more sub-tribes and more interesting information.

Step 3: Define your TOPICS

What do you think that each of your tribes would be most interested in? Often times it’s NOT about your product or brand or company. Instead people engage most with the topics that create value for them in some way.

For example if you’ve identified one of your tribes as recent college graduates, then one topic they might be interested in is how to get an internship. This would create value for them, especially if the tips come from successful executives with the power to hire them.

As you start to put your pull marketing program in place, try to keep the topics relevant to the touchpoint. So if your touchpoint is a restaurant menu, then the most relevant topic could be a “secret menu” that’s only accessible by scanning the QR code on it.

Step 4: Define your TRIGGERS

Triggers are invitations for your audience to interact more deeply with your content topics. They should communicate to people WHY they should click the link on your site or scan that QR code on the menu, or other entry point into your pull marketing program.

Let’s say you’re an online bookseller. You know that your overall tribe is interested in, well, books. And a large percentage of them have an affinity towards Starbucks. You could then trigger an invitation through a simple flyer, given at the cashier, promising a free small Starbucks in exchange for just 30 seconds of their time.

Triggers are how you initially pull people into your program. Once they’ve submitted that first action it’s all about pulling the participant from one bit of content to the next in an engaging manner. So after the initial pull message offering a Starbucks coffee, the next message might be “how excited are you to share your feedback with us?”

Step 5. Define your TRACKING

Finally we’ll need to identify a couple goals. What’s the Key Performance Indicator that you’re tracking in this program? These are the success metrics that you can easily report on a consistent basis.

Example of KPI’s could be awareness (posts per person), organic growth (referrals per person), or engagement (interactions per person). Pick a metric that’s considered very important to your company executives, then track it regularly.

In addition to your overall program KPI, you could also give a goal to each small campaign you run. These are more specific, like percentage of participants who upload a photo. Or customer satisfaction scores at your events.

Putting the 5T’s into Practice

You don’t need more than an hour or two to align on the 5T’s. Once you’ve got them it becomes easier to actually try out, measure, and scale. We also suggest keeping the plan simple and “under the radar” to start.

The entire marketing industry is based on push so it’s not surprising that there’s a lot of detractors to pull. But they shouldn’t be afraid of this shift. Pull doesn’t replace push, it amplifies it.

You don’t have to cut your entire ad budget; just allocate a slice to go directly to your audience instead of to your agencies. Pull will help you squeeze incremental ROI out of your push marketing spend. It’ll also give you a competitive advantage that could drive significant growth in the decade to come.

For a free template to help you get started with the 5T’s of Pull, email and we’ll send it right over.

Sina Farzaneh is the CEO of Pullpath, a leader in pull marketing software and services.

This post originally appeared here and you can connect with Sina on LinkedIn here.