Fishing on Ashumet Pond is one of the most relaxing things in the world. But good luck catching anything! Unless you’re Kevin. Kevin loves fish, he wears fish shirts, he puts fish bumper stickers on his car. Kevin researches whether a surplus of carbon dioxide causes cataracts in fish. And Kevin catches fish whenever he wants to.
The way I see it, there are two ways I can someday snag fish like Kevin (besides trading in my mathematics degree for marine biology, of course):
1. Improve fishing skill
2. Add fish to pond
Hopefully, your product or service already has an audience out there. They’re looking for you. It’s your responsibility to make yourself as available as possible. Find them wherever they are and show them you can satisfy their need.
At a previous company, we coined the term “active seekers” to describe this population. These are the hungry folk. The lawnmower broke and they’re searching for “John Deere riding mower” because it was a hassle to dump those lawn clippings every fifteen minutes. The toilet flooded and they’re requesting proposals on Thumbtack for a trusted plumber.
Pull marketing includes search-based advertising (Google AdWords) and the yellow pages. Sponsored listings or links in the appropriate directories. Signs for bananas when the monkeys are famished.
Pull marketing (alternatively known as inbound marketing, demand harvesting) has two advantages: (a) it’s cheap and (b) it converts quickly. The only drawback? You can do a finite amount of it before you hit an invisible wall. And you must invest in pull marketing to find that wall.
So next time you’re fishing, practice your casting before you get there. Learn how to tie a fly. If the fish are biting, you’ll painlessly catch more. But what if there just aren’t any fish?
If you’re solving a pain point that customers don’t even know they have, then you may not have much of an audience (yet). And even if they know the pain point all too well, your audience may have trouble discovering you.
Push marketing (alternatively known as outbound marketing, demand generation) includes the vast majority of media: newsletters, display advertising, Facebook ads, any social media, billboards, taxi toppers, and even Google’s content network (search advertising’s ugly stepchild).
Why are there so many more channels for push advertising? It’s (a) more expensive and (b) takes longer to convert dollars to customers due to that nuisance we call “educating” the customer. What’s the advantage? It’s unlimited. Advertisers desperately need customers, publishers will gladly take your money, and all the while your target audience will do what they feel like. With a billion dollar budget, you can market bayonets to every soldier in the world, but there’s no guarantee you’ll sell any.
One year, they stocked Ashumet Pond with extra bass. I caught one or two fish that year. I’m still an awful fisherman.
What if there are no active seekers?
Just because your audience doesn’t know (or care) about your product or service, you mustn’t lose hope. This implies it will be costlier to acquire customers and harder to demonstrate positive ROI in the early days. But be sure to extrapolate into the future: (a) will an active seeker population develop as your early customers share their experiences with your product or service – thus enabling you to add pull marketing back to your mix? Or (b) will it become more expensive to stand out before your target audience as competitors enter and the market evolves – thus revealing a weakness in your customer acquisition strategy that needs to be addressed?
In marketing (and skeet shooting): Pull First, Then Push.