Content marketing: the shift from push to pull marketing in the supply chain

By Carl Melville | Supply chain marketing and business development are unrecognizable from only a decade ago. Of the many changes, none is more striking than the transition from push to pull marketing. Also referred to as “content marketing”, it is essential for supply chain competitors seeking to grow their business and outperform the market.

Definition of terms: Push Marketing encompasses most of the traditional marketing approaches. It includes websites, advertising, promotion, trade shows, brochures… all of the artifacts traditionally designed to scream “Hey — look at us! We’re Great!”.  Over time, as more prospects erected ever higher barriers to these traditional approaches, they became less and less effective. However it was the emergence of Web 2.0, about 10 years ago, that was the death knell for traditional B2B push marketing.

Today, sitting at a desk anywhere in the world, prospects can access dozens (and in some cases thousands) of companies eager to engage with them. This has been the leading enabler for prospects, giving them incredible market knowledge previously available only from salespeople.

With the expedience of a few keystrokes, the prospect can engage with many potential providers. However, if your company is not found, you never get an opportunity to be considered. This is the role of SEO. You can find many SEO articles on the site.

Once you can be found, you can be part of the conversation. This is where basic human nature kicks in. We like to talk to people that we find interesting. We find people that are most interesting are those that are interested in us. So those that can provide compelling content that speaks to the concerns and situations of the prospect will be those most likely to be engaged with. It is those situations which will produce marketing conversations that will ultimately lead to sales conversations in a process collectively described as engagement.

There is a thin sliver of hope for traditional marketers. A recent survey found that 86% of business buyers prefer the advantages of pull marketing when making a buying decision. This leaves 14% of the market that will still be responsive to the old approaches. So if you are satisfied with fighting over 14% of the market, and ignoring the rest, then current approaches should be fine.

Pull marketing is about engaging the prospect on the things he or she cares about. It is about the customer, and not about how fabulous you and your products are. Pull marketing provides prospects with valuable information and insights that are designed to create a conversation in the marketplace and to produce an environment that will ultimately lead to a sales conversation. The timing of that conversation – if it ever occurs — will be on the prospects terms. As mentioned earlier, pull marketing is already massively transform marketing landscape. The good news/bad news is that supply chain marketers are a bit behind the curve. This produces an opportunity for those ready, willing and able to act.

The lifeblood and jet fuel of pull marketing is content. Pretty pictures and cute slogans from your design group simply will not suffice. This is good news for companies with compelling narratives and valuable information.

Right now you are reading a piece of original content designed to work in a poll campaign. It’s designed to draw in and engage supply chain business development professionals. You will not find references to our services, how terrific we are, or all the great things that we’ve done for supply chain companies for 15 years.

Did you notice how uninterested you became when you read that last sentence? It’s because it began talking about me, rather than about your concerns. This is the essence of pull marketing. It requires relevant content. If you have complex services that cover a wide range of situations, then you’ll need wide-ranging content. There are best practices for doing this efficiently — but there are no shortcuts.

The supply chain leaders in content marketing have been added for years and have thousands of articles, posts, videos, PDFs and other materials designed to engage with customers. Starting from zero is never easy, but absolutely required.

This is where you often find an offer. This document is no exception. We’ve been working with supply chain organizations to enhance business development programs for 15 years. We are supply chain content marketing pros.

[Carl Melville is the managing partner of TMG (The Melville Group), a marketing strategy and execution firm focused on helping supply chain organizations produce superior revenue solutions.]