Just another sales pitch.
Over the years I have had a lot of conversations about attracting new opportunities. In my old non-profit life, it was about attracting new funding sources, in economic development it was about attracting new business, in my community work it was about attracting new immigrants, and with my regional marketing team it was about attracting new tourists and residents. So, over my career, my many masters have directed me to dedicate most of my time and resources to make the best; application, sales pitch, business case, or marketing strategy to acquire the shiny new opportunities for us. What I have found from my many efforts to push the object of our interest to choose us and make our benefit known is, that at the end of the day, it really doesn’t work. It does not matter what environment you are in, what opportunity you are looking to capture, you are just another sales pitch. Nothing more. People who carry around opportunities are always getting people selling to them, and often it all sounds the same.
But this really shouldn’t surprise us, we’ve all been there, we’ve all dealt with people trying to sell us things. Whether it is a used car, a new type of bank account, an extended warrantee, or how you can work from home and make your own schedule while earning enough money to drive a brand new Bentley. (By the way, does anyone drive Bentley’s any more?) We all hate the sales pitch, we hate having opportunities, ideas, products, and schemes pushed on us. In our modern world, we are the most informed generation of consumers ever. If we need to purchase something we can look it up, read reviews, balance our choices, weigh the pricing options, look for the model that fits our need, and then find the best place to purchase it. Most of our purchases are not pushed onto us; most purchases pull us to them by being the right fit for our needs. This is the way we acquire new things in the 21st century.
Push vs Pull strategy
This is a good time to talk about the Push vs Pull strategy. According to keydifferences.com, the two methods can be understood as:
Push: “In this strategy, the company takes their product to the customers, who are neither aware of it nor seeking it but the product is introduced to them, through various promotional activities.”
Pull: “It is one such strategy, in which customers actively seek products of a particular brand, due to its goodwill, quality, reliability and reputation.”
“In pull strategy, communication of products or information is demanded by the buyer, while in push strategy, no such communication is demanded.”
Basically, Push tried to make consumers aware of an opportunity that they were not actively seeking, where Pull markets it’s brand and quality to the consumer who is looking for it, in the way they are looking to hear it.
“This thing practically sells itself!”
Let’s go back to attracting new opportunities. The reality is that we live in a very informed time in history and that informed people often decide any large commitment or transition. These people are looking for fit; being drawn to the best option that meets their needs and will hit their expected results, as opposed to being pushed by a nice sales pitch which exists in pretty much every environment. This is a conversation I have on a regular basis on economic development. Businesses, government and residents always want to know when the next large multinational company is going to come to our region of 100,000 people (sometimes these conversations are rather exhausting). But where these conversations always go is to the Push vs Pull strategy. Any business large or small is not going to relocate, or invest in, a city or region that is not the right fit to meet their needs and unprepared for the investment. This stresses the importance of; having business friendly regulations, available shovel ready land, information and up to date market intelligence, sustainable incentives, accessible workforce, and a community culture to support the business market. If a community has all the previously mentioned material available, accessible, and clearly articulated then they will create a pull for investment that will out perform any fancy sales pitch alone. And like the newest iPhone, it will practically sell itself. Now, with that being said, you still need to market and create a sales strategy to promote the community you have properly prepared for investment. But the difference is you are selling the Fit not the Hype.
The Key to Pull: Retention
In many of the community development conversations I am in the target populations that are commonly identified for attraction are; talent, Immigrants, and youth. I hear a lot of ideas about attraction strategies that need to be developed to bring these needed populations to the communities I work with. This again always tends to lead to the Push vs Pull strategy, but this time the common language is Attraction vs Retention. A recent example would be conversations with communities and government officials about addressing workforce challenges through immigration. The dominating focus was around methods and resources to attract more skilled immigrants to our communities. I asked about what our current retention strategy is for them once they are here, and further, what are we doing to retain the skilled landed immigrants we currently have, and why is it that we are losing year after year to larger urban centers with more community supports and cultural engagement? When it comes to attraction of people, you need to give them what they need to thrive. This often is supports for their family, jobs for their spouse, a community to embrace them, opportunities to integrate into their community so they can lay down roots. So the question becomes, if you are not prepared to retain the customers (target population) you currently have, what business do you have to attract new ones?
The Push vs Pull strategy is a surprisingly universal method that can create significant impact in almost any situation that involves new opportunities. My experiences have been that Pull and Retention is where 90% of your efforts, resources, and time should be. That is not to say that Push doesn’t have a place and important role to play, but it all comes down to readiness. If your business is trying to attract new customers you need to get your logistics, supply chain, distribution, and product quality ready before you start inviting more business. If your community is looking to add to its corporate tax base, you need to get ready by preparing your regulations structure to be business friendly, identify your shovel ready land, consolidate your utilities and business support in a easy to access guide, and understand your competitive advantage and required fit. This will make the business climate optimal to retain current businesses and pull new ones to your region. If you’re looking to attract new talent and residents then you need to be ready for them with the community supports, employment opportunities, welcome packages, and cultural advantages that will allow them to thrive. Once you have these pull strategies ready, then you can start to push attention to populations with the right fit. Let your competitive advantage, natural fit, and retention plans be the focal point of your Push marketing efforts and bring the right opportunities that you are now prepared for to receive.
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