Professional marketers talk about two types of marketing, push and pull marketing. Let’s start with some definitions.
A push strategy involves promoting your services directly to the customer via whatever means, ensuring that customers are aware of your brand when they are ready to purchase. The goal is to appeal to those who have not yet discovered they need what you are offering. Unfortunately, this method requires pushing your message to a much larger group to find those who might be interested, and that can be costly.
Examples of push marketing tactics
- Email, print, or broadcast campaigns advertising services
- Trade show or health fair promotions to encourage demand
- Direct selling to customers
- Negotiation with retailers to stock your product
A pull marketing strategy attempts to establish a loyal following by showing potential consumers who you are and what you can offer them with the hope of drawing consumers to your services. This method especially appeals to those who are in need of the service you provide. It is much more cost-effective than push marketing. And yet the downside to pull marketing is that it takes much longer to develop that faithful and loyal following. There is no one splashy campaign that will pull people to you.
Examples of pull tactics
- Word-of-mouth referrals
- Referrer relationship management
- Presentations and talks to public for referral people
- E-newsletters with useful info for the public
- An inviting web page that has lots of useful material: articles, books, resources
- Any activity that attracts potential clients
Branding to pull and sales to push
One common marketing mistake is to focus on the gimmick and not the relationship. Most successful marketing activities express our values and distinctives (i.e., our branding) and strengthen the relationship we have with referrers or customers. Money can be spend on push marketing such as Google ads or, as one group did, sending a coupon for $25 off on the first counseling appointment to all residents in an area. And yet those are very expensive ways to get a client in the door. And sadly they do not generate much loyalty to your organization. Marketing costs can rapidly get out of control if we depend on the program and not the relationships.
It is for that reason that I recommend that all mental health marketing plans focus on getting in front of potential referrers. First off, in the mental health field, the therapist her/himself is very much the brand. Potential referrers come to know us and trust us by their own experience of us. We are our best advertisement. I am certain that a referrer’s experience of us is more powerful than any sales or marketing campaign.
Secondly, relationship-based activities do not cost much money. Rather they are an investment of time. But once that relationship is established, the payoff is so much larger and more resilient than the one-off sales pitch will ever be.
I encourage you to focus the majority of your marketing activities around spending time with referral people, often in their place of work. We should be going to their turf or inviting them to ours– trying to find appropriate ways to aid them in their work. This is the best sort of pull marketing and leads to stability in a way that push marketing never can.
Types of marketing activities
I have made many marketing mistakes over the years, and some of them have cost me quite a lot of money for very little return. I write about several disasters in this post called “Spectacular marketing belly-flops”. It is an embarrassing but honest list of some of my many mistakes.
And then in another post I have written out some of our all-time marketing favorites marketing activities that have been our best methods. When you do them, they really work.