The History of Push Marketing… and Why it Doesn’t Work Today


Push marketing gained traction as media began to be an effective way of reaching different audiences. First there were newspapers that could take a product sales pitch right into the hands of possible buyers, and then came TV advertising, direct mail, and sponsorship.

In fact, marketers embraced each new way to reach people. Every new channel became a new weapon in their armory – enabling them to bombard prospects with as much advertising firepower as they could afford. Potential buyers were always passive recipients, powerless to control the deluge of content.

Then came digital marketing, and the exponential growth of new opportunities to bombard people with sales messages. The online world gave rise to ever more sophisticated ways of reaching audiences – and the ability to target very specific groups. Digital marketing even gave rise to a whole new supporting industry – from technologies to consultants, created to help marketers convert leads into sales.

It’s like that Tinder date who becomes your stalker

But it isn’t working. The onslaught of content is being rejected. Everywhere buyers turn, someone is trying to push more sales messages at them. And companies are employing ever more sophisticated techniques, such as using tracking data, or deploying information from past searches to target them. Like a Tinder date who turns into a stalker, prospects are becoming increasingly uneasy with these sneaky methods of targeting them. They are turning off advertising channels altogether, by installing ad blockers and unsubscribing from mailing lists. But the more they switch off, the more companies look for new ways to reach them, convinced that success must lie in inflicting content on consumers who don’t want it.

At the same time, the average sales cycle is lengthening. According to Sirius Decisions, the average sales cycle in B2B has increased 24% between 2012-2014 due to more decision makers being involved in the process. Lead nurturing is essential for industries with long buying cycles but there’s more danger than ever of having prospects break off contact over time.

It’s time to stop this push approach. It’s time for a new, more respectful methodology. The fact is that these buyers still want to buy things, they just don’t want to be manipulated into purchases via underhand sales methods.

It’s time to take a new perspective that recognizes that buyers want and need information, but on their own terms. It’s time for an approach that is based on respect and ethical transparency. It’s time to win back their trust.

A relationship based on trust is the basis of pull marketing – this is not just a methodology but rather a new way of looking at the relationship between companies and their prospects.  And it’s a shift in power. This approach puts the buyer in control, and recognizes that he/she needs different information at different times. The difference is that the appropriate information is accessible to them when the buyer is ready.

It is this new, pragmatic approach that will break through the vicious circle we are trapped in – where we are creating and pushing out ever more content that is delivering ever smaller returns. We’ll be able to work with prospective customers who can consume the content they want, when they are ready for it. And at the same time, we’ll reimagine the funnel – with fewer leads being turned off in the middle for better results and better engagement.

I strongly believe that this is the new way to do marketing – but the theory is one thing – how do you put it into practice? Look out for our next blog post for details of a framework you can put into practice…

Stephan Nobs By Stephan Nobs

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