The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Month: February 2020

Marketing 101: What’s Push versus Pull?

By Steven Dupree

Fishing on Ashumet Pond is one of the most relaxing things in the world. But good luck catching anything! Unless you’re Kevin. Kevin loves fish, he wears fish shirts, he puts fish bumper stickers on his car. Kevin once researched whether a surplus of carbon dioxide causes cataracts in fish. And Kevin catches fish when he wants to.

The way I see it, there are two ways I can someday snag fish like Kevin (besides trading in my Brandeis mathematics degree for marine biology, of course):

  1. Improve fishing skill
  2. Add fish to pond

Step One: Pull

Hopefully, your product or service already has an audience out there. They’re looking for you. It’s your responsibility to make customer value as available as possible. Find prospects wherever they are and meet their demand.

When I worked at LogMeIn, we coined the term “active seekers” to describe this population. These are the hungry folk. The old lawnmower broke and they’re searching for “John Deere riding mower” so they don’t have to collect and dump lawn clippings.

Pull marketing starts with search-based advertising (Google Ads) but it doesn’t end there. If you offer a niche consumer product or a B2B product, there may be digital marketplaces or directories where you want to be. Signs for bananas where the monkeys are famished.

Pull marketing (alternatively known as inbound marketing, demand harvesting) has two advantages: it’s relatively cheap and it converts quickly. The primary drawback? You can do a limited amount of pull marketing before you hit some invisible wall.

Ok, let’s suppose I’ve practiced casting my fishing rod. I know how to tie a fly. But the fish still don’t bite! What now?

Step Two: Push

You may need to stock the pond.

If you’re solving a pain point that customers don’t even know they have, then you may not have much of an audience (yet). And even if they know the pain point all too well, your audience may have trouble discovering you if they are not searching.

Push marketing (alternatively known as outbound marketing, demand generation) includes the vast majority of online and offline media: newsletters, display advertising, Facebook ads, most social media, billboards, door hangers, and sides of buses…to name a few.

Why are there so many more channels for push advertising? After all, the unit economics are typically more expensive than pull advertising. It takes longer to convert dollars into customers due to that nuisance of “educating” the customer. Why not invest 100% in paid search? Well, you simply may not be able to.

Push marketing, in contrast to pull, is virtually unlimited. Advertisers desperately need customers, publishers will gladly take your money, and all the while your target audience will do whatever they feel like. Success depends on delivering the right message to the right customer at the right time. Good push marketing does just that.

One year, they stocked Ashumet Pond with extra trout. I’m still a novice fisherman but I managed to catch one or two.

If Pull and Push Don’t Work?

Even if your audience doesn’t know or care about your product or service, you mustn’t lose hope. It may be costly to acquire customers and difficult to demonstrate positive return-on-investment “ROI” in the early days. But it won’t always be this way.

Ask yourself: can an “active seeker” population develop as your early customers share their experiences with your product or service–thus enabling you to add pull marketing to your mix? Rising demand for your product or service generates inbound interest. This enables pull marketing and defrays your acquisition costs. 

Or: will it become prohibitively expensive to rise above the noise–as competitors enter and your target market evolves? Customer education is always an option, but it’s expensive. You can do as much push marketing as you need if only you have an unlimited budget. Success still depends upon how receptive customers are to the value you provide.

Rule of Thumb:

In marketing and fishing, as in skeet shooting: pull first, then push!

Steven Dupree is chair of the MS in Digital Marketing and Design program at Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies. In his day job, Steven is VP, Marketing at Amava, a platform helping active retirees find opportunities to earn, learn, travel and more. He has previously held investing and operating roles including VP, Marketing at SoFi, the first and largest provider of student loan refinancing, and VP, Online Marketing Operations at LogMeIn, an early software-as-a-service provider of remote access and collaboration tools. He mentors entrepreneurs for Endeavor Global and Reforge, and serves on the board of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies is committed to creating programs and courses that keep today’s professionals at the forefront of their industries. To learn more, visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.

Complement Coding with Community

By Patrick Masson

It may be the best time ever for open source development and developers: both are in high demand.

Large and small businesses now rely on open source software across the enterprise. Advocates tout open source as a competitive advantage for startups, and a key driver of innovation for established companies. Open Source Programs Offices are now standard across industries. Beyond business/corporations, governments and non-profits are also leveraging open source to reduce costs, extend services, and support their missions.

With such tremendous growth, open source developers are in high demand, and organizations are now working hard to attract and keep open source coders. It’s now common to find Developer Advocates working within companies to recruit and retain open source talent.

For emerging or competitive businesses hoping to leverage open source to enhance and expand their products and services as quickly as possible, the focus is on technology skills, for developers, the focus is also on technology because it pays.

Skilling up job seekers with the desired technologies has become a bit of a cottage industry. Dozens of “coding boot-camps” offer courses that claim to prepare students in as little as nine weeks. More formal programs are also available, some even offering college credits. All of these programs will vary in their quality and commitment to students. I am sure many schools offer excellent services and support to help people develop the skills they need to land the jobs they want.

But “open source technologies” is not enough: not enough for the companies that hope to realize the benefits of open source software projects and not enough for students seeking career advancement through open source development.

In addition to technology skills, companies and developers need community skills, like:

Communication
Open source software development is all about collaboration, contribution, and co-creation. To share, understand, and resolve issues, to design and develop features, and to report and fix bugs, developers must be able to effectively communicate (both verbally and in writing). Communication means explaining issues and ideas to the wide variety of stakeholders who might be involved in a project. Communication means advocating–even arguing–for ideas and ideals. Maybe most importantly, communication means listening. Communication is just one of the non-technical skills a developer will need, and a company will want.

Networking
Open source developers do not work alone, and open source projects are not build alone. Both companies and developers will need to find peers, identify experts, promote participation, and foster collaboration to ensure projects enjoy the greatest levels of success. No developer has all the talent; no company has all the resources. Filling the gaps of a company, developer, and project requires building communities of practice to leverage the powerful potential of the network effect. There are many ways to develop and maintain a network of practice: attending or host events or a conference; join or moderate a social forum; participate in a user-group, etc. None of these activities require those technical skills a developer or company may typically desire in a coding boot-camp, but building relationships is vital for the success of both.

Business Process and Practices
Many new to open source have an idealized impression of both project management and governance. Self-motivated, self-organized, and self-directed communities find consensus through shared values of “many eyeballs,” rapid feedback, meritocracy, etc. Such practices are indeed essential to, and in, open source communities and differ tremendously from traditional development environments. But they do have specific meanings, developed over years of practice, with expectations (even standards) shared across communities. Understanding community norms, best practices, references, standards, and the vernacular of open source software, development, and communities is critical.

Open source technology skills are vital for those looking to work in open source software, and they are critical for companies’ hoping to compete in today’s technology-driven economy. However, non-technical skills are just as necessary and should be included in anyone’s educational efforts toward a career or advancement in open source software development. When assessing coding schools, learners should consider how they will learn about and engage with non-technology skills. When considering developers for open source positions, companies should review applicants’ experience with non-technology skills.

And after both developers and companies are working together, all must keep up their technical and non-technical skills to ensure they remain productive participants in the open source projects and communities they both value and rely on so much.

<<Learn more about Open Source Technology Management>>

Patrick Masson is the  general manager and board director of the Open Source Initiative.

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies is committed to creating programs and courses that keep today’s professionals at the forefront of their industries. To learn more, visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.

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