I know that small businesses believe in “organic” marketing, such as word of mouth or social media. In reality, those are still forms of a specialized promotion — “push” marketing. Well, there are three possible forms!

  1. Even if you have the best product or service, no one would know if you don’t “push” or promote your goods — walk the walk, talk the talk, and talk the walk
  2. At the same time, you always have to have a pulse on consumers’ needs and wants, so that you could create products around them — “pull”
  3. Lastly, you can create a hybrid of push and pull strategies

Push Strategy

Before I get into examples for you, consider the scenario for Johnson & Johnson (JNJ). JNJ makes a wealth of products! You might have heard of such brands including Neutrogena, Band-Aid, Listerine, Tylenol, Visine, and Splenda.

jnj band-aid

Well, guess what. You’ve only heard of them because JNJ pushed the brand names to the you (buyer) through television commercials, mailer coupons, radio promotions, magazine advertising, and so forth.

JNJ is trying to create demand for its products.

push marketing strategy

Pull Strategy

Despite being such a large company, JNJ employs a number of entities in the supply-chain process to ensure that it produces just enough products for its consumers.

If it produces too many, it would have an excess supply, which incurs various costs — expiration, depreciation, warehousing, tied-up capital.

If it produces too few, it would lose out on potential business. If demand exceeds capacity or forecasted production, consumers who want said products would seek substitutes elsewhere.

What a dilemma! Therefore, as part of the supply-chain process, JNJ relies on various companies in between itself (manufacturer) and you (consumer). Distributors and retailers put “feelers” out there, such as ads, and utilize sales analytics to constantly gauge the demand for JNJ products, so that it would know how much to request (RFP — Request for Proposal) in the next order.


Converse to a push-strategy, a manufacturer would see what need is expressed and will circulate that information back to Research & Development (R&D) to create the product.

pull marketing strategy


As a small business owner, your supply-chain may not be as complex. Heck! You probably don’t even carry any inventory and only order goods when there is demand (e.g., photo album for client).

Nevertheless, understanding the push-pull concept can expand your marketing mix and business services. Right now, you are probably reactive, meaning that you see a need and you service it (pull). You push your services through marketing channels, such as previous clients (word of mouth marketing), website advertisements, and blog submissions.

An overlooked potential is putting feelers out there to see what other business you can capture with the same skills (pull). I glazed over the topic on how to increase your clients’ willingness to pay.

For instance, let’s pretend that you are a floral designer. Rather than only working with bridal clients, you can expand your expertise to designing events, creating video tutorials for at-home parents, collaborating with hotels to spruce up their lobbies, and so forth.

tantawan bloom tabletop

This is a form of lateral expansion, just as how Starbucks first served only coffee, then it added breakfast sandwiches, pastries, salads, soups, mugs, travel tumblers, and etc. Another example is how LEGO made LEGO girls! More and more girls are fancying LEGOs instead of Barbies, so lateral expansion. Genius.

Don’t limit yourself, but don’t extend into unchartered territory without the assistance of pull-strategies.

la boulange croissant sandwich

Speaking of Starbucks, do you have a Starbucks product at home? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Your Starbucks fan,

Lawrence Chan

P.S. If you need help with idea-generation to push relevant content, here are some kind words by people regarding my content strategy e-book TRUST — Mastering the Art of Content Creation and Successful Blogging

content strategy testimonials

P.P.S. I not only love Starbucks’ coffee, but I also love its corporate strategies.

starbucks holiday cups