If you’ve ever been tasked with determining where to allocate your online marketing budget to get the best return on investment but couldn’t decide between the many options available to you, I recommend going back to the fundamentals. Ask yourself the question, “Am I going to use a push or a pull channel?” Push versus pull marketing is at the foundation of most of our efforts as marketing professionals. Yet few often pause to think about what type of marketing they are engaging in and how drastically their campaign results will vary based on the concept of push versus pull. Push marketing typically refers to efforts aimed at creating a demand for a product or service. This is effective when a new product is launched or when enhancements are made to existing products. Marketers are pushing the product from the manufacturer to the consumer. Most traditional advertising channels offer ways to push a company’s products and service offerings: television commercials, direct mail, print ads and others. You can typically get the best results with push advertising if you are able to expertly segment to your target audience before delivering your advertisement. Pull marketing, on the other hand, refers to a circumstance when a consumer is actively seeking a specific product or service and goes to a company to obtain it. A traditional example of pull marketing is if a company gets positive press coverage about a product and consumers actively seek out that product. Additionally, if there is already good brand recognition or if there was enormous success from a push campaign, a company may benefit from pull opportunities. If you apply the concept of push and pull marketing to online advertising, it can dramatically shift your perception of what to invest in and when, especially if you have a tight budget or are just starting out engaging in the online marketing channel. There are countless options for online marketing, including search engine advertising, search engine optimization, banner advertisements on Web sites, online directories, blogs and a plethora of social media opportunities. Banner advertisements are an example of a push online advertising channel. Banner ads are typically designed as a combination of an image, animation or text placed around the regular content of a business’s Web site. Based on the traffic and visitor type of a certain business’s Web site, a marketer may want to advertise products on that site with banner ads. Usually, businesses that allow banner ads will charge you as the advertiser for a block of impressions (the amount of times your ad displays). If you have the option to pay-per-click for any type of online ad, I’d recommend choosing that option instead. Thanks to browser or profile information on many Web sites, it can be possible to segment towards specific demographic characteristics for display banner ads on a much more targeted basis than traditional push mediums. This means not only can you target by age, gender and location, but also by visitor preferences and behaviors on Web sites. This then makes it possible to decrease impressions and increase the likelihood of engagement. Nonetheless, you won’t be positive that you are reaching your specific segment, and they may not be interested in your offer, so you will most likely pay more for results than you would with a pull medium. Search engine advertising refers to placing paid advertisements alongside organic search results in search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. This method of advertising would generally be considered a pull medium because users are actively searching for a product or service, and you as a marketer are given a chance to present the product and service they want. If you design and target your search engine ads effectively, the chances are greater that your ad will be clicked on, and your visitor will engage with your brand or purchase your product or service. There isn’t always a clear-cut pull opportunity with search engine advertising. Depending on the user’s search term and the person’s stage in the buying lifecycle, the results of whether your ad is truly a pull or push ad may vary. For example, if you are a dog day care business, a key phrase such as “dog day care in Denver” has a high likelihood of resulting in a pull opportunity for you to present the exact service they want versus a key phrase of “dog help.” Depending on the alignment between a user’s key phrase and an advertisement, search engine advertising can result in hybrids between push and pull advertising. Leave it to the online arena to break tradition and blur the lines. As long as a user’s key phrase closely matches what you are advertising on a search engine, you have created a pull opportunity. But if the key phrases associated with the ad are more general or indirectly related to your ad, then it would be considered a push opportunity. Both options have value and can return results, but the pull opportunities lead to the best connection with the online user, and, therefore, tend to increase your click-through rates, conversions and sales. The best feature about online advertising for a business is the ability to track, measure, monitor, test and improve the results of your campaigns in real time as frequently as you want. Never before has it been possible to measure so many stages of engagement as is possible with online advertising with the help of Web analytics, demand generation and CRM systems. Based on this ability, you’ll be able to directly see the results of your online ad spend and balance out your portfolio as frequently as you’d like. Today’s consumers have much more buying power and influence online than in the past. At the same time, brand preference can decrease and their online decision-making process can increase in length due to comparison shopping and exposure to many options. The most effective pull advertising techniques use a combination of tools and techniques from search engine advertising to social media that allow consumers to engage with a business and thus enhance from a company’s brand preference. Clearly, it’s essential to find and leverage pull opportunities whenever possible. Hopefully now you’ll be able to recognize the genuine pull opportunities when you see them, as they are the gold mines of online marketing.