[Case Study] Push vs Pull marketing – What is best for your strategy?

Push vs pull marketing strategy cover image

Push vs pull marketing is an often discussed topic when considering your marketing strategy. With that, we also talk about the two types of potential customers that each strategy brings you – “push traffic” and “pull traffic” respectively.

In this Morningscore article, we explore those two terms and how implementing each of them will benefit your company.

Traditional marketing alone isn’t enough to cover most companies’ need for growth anymore. Your potential consumers are using less physical media and more digital media by the day.

Because of that, many companies even rely solely on digital marketing activities to reach consumers at the right time.

In the digital world, however, there are plenty of marketing channels which can influence your strategy – Facebook Advertising, Search Engine Optimization, Google Ads (prev. AdWords) to name a few. Because of that, you might have also heard that push and pull channels are also called outbound and inbound marketing channels.

As marketing professionals we like to analyze each channel’s performance. But one thing we tend to overlook is that they all collectively play into the same picture. Namely, they all define your marketing approach to building brand awareness and brand loyalty.

Now, the data presented here is collected from a research survey we ran about what traffic costs, and what type of traffic is most relevant to use when planning your marketing strategy. Keep in mind, however, that this post serves as an overview – results are not black and white, and yours will probably differ from ours.

So whether you’re a century-old conglomerate or a new brand, to effectively reach potential customers, you’ll have to understand both push and pull marketing strategies.

Let’s do just that by backing it up with some first-hand research.

Channels in push and pull marketing


Push and Pull Types of Traffic

Alright, you say, let’s dive right into it. But first, what’s the difference between the two? Push and pull types of marketing differ significantly in the way you approach your potential customers.

Pull marketing means that you’re using a marketing strategy that draws potential consumers towards your products. Push marketing on the other hand means that you are trying to promote a specific product to an audience that you think will find it relevant.

Generally, Social Media is considered a “push channel”, while Search Engines and databases like Google, Bing, Youtube, etc. fall into the “pull channel” category.

How Do Push And Pull Marketing Strategies Differ?

Pull marketing often creates loyal customers and followers easier than push marketing. That’s because it’s easier for your prospects to see the customer journey as positive.

How exactly? Let me take you back to 2010 and the movie “Inception”.

push and pull marketing example inception idea

A cultural line from it goes like this:

Arthur: Okay, here’s me planting an idea in your head. Don’t think about elephants. What are you thinking about?’

Saito: ‘Elephants.’”

Now, while most of the concepts in the movie are the works of masterful science-fiction writing, this particular one is actually quite true.

Someone’s own idea – and ultimately a problem that needs solving – is a much stronger Call-To-Action for them compared to you planting that as an idea in their minds.

Similarly, “telling” someone they need your product is not as effective as them realizing that on their own. Tactics such as push ads and direct mail simply don’t have the same effect.

Does that mean “pull marketing” is a better strategy than “push marketing”? Well, let’s not jump to conclusions just yet. The trend seems to be such, but there’s more behind the scenes.

Push vs Pull Strategies – Which Should You Use?

To understand whether you should use a push marketing or a pull marketing strategy, you need to determine where your potential customers are positioned in your awareness funnel.

Now, the Awareness Funnel might sound scary, but it’s a rather simple concept to grasp. It consists of just 4 steps – and it often dictates almost every step in your marketing tactics and strategy.

Those are:

  • Unaware
  • Problem Aware
  • Solution Aware
  • Product Aware

pull & push marketing awareness funnel

Here, reflect on how customers behave depending on what stage they are at. These steps will directly dictate what customers do and search for. For example:

  • Unaware – Potential prospects who are unaware of their problems aren’t actively searching for anything related to your products.
  • Problem Aware – People who in one way or another (e.g. through push marketing) have become aware that they have a problem are starting to become active in their search. For example, they are trying to understand their problem better. They are, however, not necessarily searching for a product just yet.
  • Solution Aware – These customers are actively doing research to understand how to solve the problem they are facing. This is a great place to attract them through pull marketing.
  • Product Aware – Similarly to “Solution Aware”, customers have explored enough and are ready to make a purchase. Now they are looking for the best solution according to their needs.

As you can see, push and pull marketing both have their strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, they are bound to work most effectively when used together.

Pull Marketing – Definition, Use Cases, And Examples

In pull marketing, your potential customers are aware of their problem and are actively searching for the solution. Because of that, here your goal is to lure (pull) them in while they are searching. This could happen either and both during their Problem Aware, Solution Aware or Product Aware stages.

Here, users engage much more with the product pre-purchase, and go out to search for information actively.

Pull Marketing Example:

While this applies to virtually every type of business, some prominent examples to help you understand the idea are: car dealers, lawyers, products such as household appliances, beds, computer screens, etc. In other words, products and services related to problems that customers are generally aware of.

The idea is simple – you’re not going to search for a lawyer unless you need one (i.e. you’re aware of your problem). And what’s a better time for a lawyer firm to be at the top of Google than now? They can achieve that by using pull marketing techniques such as SEO through blog posts and inbound marketing (part of content marketing) and Google Ads.

Typically, businesses will use pull marketing:

  • When the user knows what he or she is looking for
  • When they require more upfront research (e.g. a complex product)
  • When trying to move the customers to the next stage in the Awareness Funnel
  • When branding is of great importance

Push Marketing – Definition, Use Cases, And Examples

In push marketing, however, things look a little different. Here, you are trying to bring your products to your customers. Just as the name suggests, you are trying to “push” a particular product on your target audience.

“So,” you ask, “when is it best to implement push marketing?”. Typically, businesses use push strategies in the following scenarios:

  • When launching a novelty or new product or service
  • When operating in a very niche market
  • When facing tough competition in their niche
  • Or when running a short-term sales promotion

In all of these cases, it’s tough to reach your target audience without any push marketing efforts. Let’s see why with an example.

Push Marketing Example:

To get a better idea, let’s look at John. After years of R&D, his company has just developed a new frying pan that transforms you into a wizard in the kitchen – you can cook several meals simultaneously.

While John has the problem of raising brand awareness just like all of his competitors, his ultimate problem is that nobody knows that his solution is even possible. As we explained above, pull marketing pulls in potential customers who are aware of their problem and are actively looking for a solution.

But in John’s case, nobody is even aware of the problem yet – and therefore, no one knows they should be searching for such a product. His options with pull channels are limited. This is where push marketing tactics work like a charm.

Common sales tactics for push marketing strategies include using channels like Organic & Paid Social Media – Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.


Push vs pull marketing

Push vs Pull Marketing Performance

So how do these two types of marketing perform as pay-per-click campaigns?

Search terms are oriented towards users who actively look for information online. But social media channels like Facebook push products based upon an audience predetermined by their psychographic profile. Knowing this, we can understand both our target market and purchase process even better.

For pull marketing methods, chances are, after fulfilling his or her end goal (e.g. after the purchase), a user moves on. However, your products continue selling even after that. So how is there still direct consumer demand for your products?

Well, this directly means that for most purchase-oriented searches there will constantly be new people being exposed to your campaigns.

In pull marketing, however, most of the time audiences (especially niche ones) are sort of ‘fixed’. Users get to see your ad several times bringing them to a state of “Ad Fatigue”. With this oversaturation, businesses are forced to push new and different direct marketing offers and ads towards the same audience.

And this dynamic is in parts what drives the price difference between the push and pull types of traffic.

Push and Pull Strategies Price Difference

Okay, so we understood the difference and some of the factors influencing the prices. And while an actual price can’t be determined until you bid, this will give you an idea:

  • Push traffic is typically cheaper per click. – i.e., $0.5 per click is not rare. This allows for fast testing and adapting.
  • Pull traffic is more expensive and especially dependent on the competition in the niche/branch (i.e., lawyers). To paint a better picture, the most expensive search keyword costs more than $25 per click!

Recommended Read: How Do Backlinks Work? – A Beginner’s SEO Guide to Backlinks

Marketing Strategies Case Study

Now that you understand those concepts, let’s look at some numbers. Our study across industries shows that traffic from pull marketing tactics converts at 68% higher than push traffic (source). That number makes it clear why businesses are ready to pay a higher price point for “pull” growth strategy and shows the importance of branding.

Push vs Pull Traffic Distribution in %

The latest major US survey shows:

Websites got more traffic from social media (43%) compared to search engines like Google (35%) in 2015.

This, however, does not apply everywhere. Moreover, we are talking about some 200,000 news outlets. This means the trends are not necessarily the same when websites have other purposes than building buzz around news. For that reason, we decided to test the two channels for Danish companies. You can see our findings below.

percentage distribution in push vs pull promotional strategy

Traffic Distribution For Danish Companies

We conducted research that shows how the traffic division looks like among Danish firms in 2017:

  • Search engine (pull): 48,7%
  • Social media (push): 8,2%

So what’s the push and pull distribution in those marketing campaigns? It is clear from this graph that Danish companies are way more dependent on search engines like Google (pull) than they are on social media (push) marketing. Source: 30 Danish (anonymous) companies with revenue between 1-100 million DKK (15 B2B and 15 B2C)

facebook vs google marketing morningscore survey result

Purchase-Ready Google Traffic Increases (Pull)

You might have heard some comments recently that Google won’t last long. But this can’t be further from the truth. Google is not headed down. On the contrary, the purchase-ready Google traffic has skyrocketed with 65% more searches in just two years. (source)

65 percent pull traffic

Why use combination of push and pull strategies?

So what’s the logic behind using both strategies? The idea is that you want to reach your customers across multiple channels to increase your chances of conversion. This is also called omni-channel marketing. To decide how much of each promotional channel you should use, you need to be clear about a few things first:

– What is my product/service/offer?
– Is it a brand new/revolutionary product I’m offering?

– Is it a one-time-only or time sensitive promotion?
– Is it a very limited offer?
– Is it a seasonal sale?

Target Customers:
– Who is my target customer?
– What are my target audience’s favorite websites?
– What is my target group’s preferred Social Media?
– At what point in their lives do customer think about buying my product?
– How do customers learn about their problems that my product solves?

– How much money can we spend on that promotion?
– Do we have a team that can produce the content needed?
– Do we have a digital marketing specialist to set up and control the promotions?

Sometimes, ranking high on Google for Solution Aware & Product Aware searches is almost impossible because of the high competition. In such cases, you can opt in for more Problem Aware searches where you aim to increase your audience of newsletter subscribers and convert them through email marketing later on.

It’s very important to answer those questions because then you will see what the potential for your product is on each channel.

Recommended Read: Top 6 Ways To Promote Your Blog For Free

What companies are using push and pull strategies in marketing?

Now let’s look at some examples of companies using those marketing strategies to reach their customers. It’s important to understand that budget will often time have the biggest say in your decision-making when it comes to which channels you want to implement in your case/company.

That being said, most of the time you see companies using BOTH inbound and outbound strategies, and that’s especially true for bigger businesses.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s examine the inbound and outbound marketing campaigns of the hardware/electronics company NZXT.

NZXT Inbound & Outbound Strategies

Push Channels:

For this example we are going to use Facebook’s own functionality added in 2018 that allows us to inspect a company’s current live advertisements.

To do that, we will go to the “Info and ads” panel of NZXT’s Facebook page. Here’s what we find:nzxt examples with sales promotion on facebook companies using outbound strategies

You can see that NZXT is running ads in 10 countries as of April 2019.

After selecting one of the countries, you will be able to see all of their active advertisements. Here are a few examples of the promotional offers they are trying to show:

nzxt company example using push strategies on social media for their outbound build a pc campaign company example number 2

NZXT Push Marketing Example 1

nzxt using outbound channels for their push marketing their sales promotion campaign build a pc on social media example of company using marketing number 3

NZXT Push Marketing Example 2

They are heavily promoting the “build your own pc” ad – possibly with different types of target audiences.

Pull Channels:

In their pull channels, however, things look slightly different.

nzxt using pull strategies to reach customers through inbound channels for different sales promotions company example 4

NZXT Pull Marketing Example 1

You can see that the company ranks both for searches like “build your own pc” but also for plenty others where people generally take longer to make a decision. Additionally, NZXT also ranks for hundreds of informational searches, meaning they pull in a lot of colder audience which they focus on converting at a later point.

NZXT Analysis

Now one thing becomes very obvious. You can immediately see how NZXT uses a mix of both strategies to get the sale. Their pull channels are performing very well for keywords the users are actively searching for (“build your own pc”). However, since that is often times a time-sensitive decision, their outbound approach comes as a supplementary channel. Frankly, this approach works vice-versa as well, depending on the targeting of their push ads.

Event marketing – How much “push” or “pull” should I use?

When trying to decide what promotional strategies you should use for your event marketing, you especially need to take into considerations the “checklist” we just mentioned.

The thing with event marketing is that it’s a very time-sensitive event, it’s usually (very) local and therefore you have many constrains that you simply can’t get around if you’re using pull marketing.

In this case, it’s better to focus on push marketing, including word of mouth.

Pull marketing strategies can sometimes work well, however, here are two primary issues with both SEO and Google Ads:

A) SEO will be best implemented when there’s plenty of time for your website to rank high in Google

B) Google Ads will often bring results much faster — but you often have the limitation of low monthly searches (especially for niche/private events)

Additionally, the initial investment into SEO might not make sense because after the event is done you will likely have to take the page down.

The best way you make use of “pull” tactics for events is to submit your event to “event search engines” like and help it rank there.

In any case, however, events usually rely primarily on “Social” rather than “Search” — meaning it’s essentially better to focus on push marketing.

What Does This All Mean For You?

Now that you understand the current trends shaping those strategies, it’s time to conclude with several take-away points. For the future, consider:

  • Increased traffic does not equal more sales and revenue – but the conversion rate for pull traffic is on average 68% higher than push traffic
  • It definitely pays-off to invest in high purchase-oriented PPC prices on Google
  • Facebook ads and similar channels don’t necessarily bring purchase-ready traffic directly.
  • Push traffic is an almost infinite amount which makes it an excellent supplement to pull traffic (which in some cases can be completely sucked out with less than $200 per month).

Start off the right foot, by knowing your platforms before you begin your work. Many are preconditioned towards a channel and jump the gun based on what they think. The facts, however, show that it depends 100% on your industry and your advertising goal so that either one of the platforms fits best for your company.

Additionally, you can often times find hidden gems that will allow you to reverse engineer competitors (or any company for that matter) and see their approach to both inbound and outbound marketing.

For outbound marketing, you can often times find enough data in the channel you’re interested in — Facebook has several tools that allow you to do that kind of research. For pull campaigns (SEO), Morningscore gives you the complete picture.

Ready to implement SEO? Take the guesswork out of it, and create a strong process with predictable and replicable results. Check out this long tail keyword research guide on how to get started.

Did you learn anything? Check out this post where we answer the question we often hear, namely “How do backlinks work?”. We demystify everything around backlinks and give you the power that SEO gurus have been holding for long.

And don’t forget to look up definitions of any SEO terms you don’t understand in our ultimate SEO glossary of terms and phrases.

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