From Push to Pull: Basic Operations Applied to Marketing

From Push to Pull: Basic Operations Applied to Marketing
January 14, 2015

The other day, my LinkedIn Pulse revealed the first article in a 26-week blog series that Marketo CMO Sanjay Dholakia is writing on “a new era of engagement marketing” in collaboration with the Economist. He interviews John Hagel, co-chairman of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge, who shares some changes that marketers need to be prepared to embrace, lest they be displaced. One that stuck out to me in particular was the shift from “Push to Pull.” From Push to Pull

I had heard this term one other time: in my MBA Operations class. “Push to Pull” was used in the context of “lean principles” which, without getting technical, aim to optimize results by eliminating waste in work processes. One way to “go lean,” if you will, is to produce a product exactly when the customer wants or pulls it, rather than systematically pushing out inventory and wasting resources that are not yet needed (also known as just-in-time production). I promise I’m going somewhere with this...

I have heard the push to pull analogy applied to business strategy in general. The “lean startup,” for example, requires being out in the field, identifying unmet needs, and getting customer validation before bringing a product to market (as opposed to investing time and money in an un-wanted solution that will be pushed out, crash, and burn).  It had never occurred to me, however, to apply this same concept to my own field.

Lean marketing. Get to know to the customer. Listen, and engage accordingly, rather than producing wasted content.

Makes sense though, right? Marketing messages often fall on deaf ears because blanket air-cover campaigns are pushed out when consumers want specific, applicable nuggets of gold that will help them get more value from the product or service. All those wasted tweets, blog posts, eBooks, videos, slide decks, and demo offers that are not engaging the right people in the right way could be avoided with a lean approach to marketing.

Perhaps in this “next era of marketing,” as Dholakia calls it, marketers will use analytics to understand specific consumer needs and respond with targeted content that will attract and assist them rather than inundate and overwhelm them. Perhaps rather than pushing any and every piece of content that they produce, they will allow consumers to signal or pull what they want, and thoughtfully develop resources as the need arises. 

The book Lean Thinking describes “a way to do more with less, while coming closer to providing customers with exactly what they want – the value.” Seems like the end goal of any smart marketer, doesn’t it?