The Definition of Pullfillment



Pull (verb) - to draw or haul toward oneself or itself, in a particular direction, or into a particular position.


Fulfillment (noun) - the state or quality of being fulfilled; completion; realization.


Pull + Fulfillment = Pullfillment


Pullfillment is customers’ experience of receiving the value they pulled for.


So converting pull to pullfillment is what companies do. How successful they are depends on how well they do that.


Your Business is a Black Box

Your Business is a Black Box

No matter what your business . .

Profits result from what it creates that's outside of it.  That's where your customers are and where they experience the benefits.

Inside the black box,  the parts that are invisible to customers, is effort and expense.


Profits Outside/ Expense Inside. Where should your focus be? 


So, for the purpose of this thought experiment, let's keep the focus outside by imagining your business is a black box . . .  with all that matters being outside of it.



Customers Pull for What They Want: Pullfillment

The word "pull" is a clean label for the actions people take to get what they want from companies.  Customers "pull" from companies in order to create the desired Pullfillment: the experience of using the product or service.

I think "pull" is a better word than customer "demand" since demand might be construed as a whim, a mere want that falls far short of action to fulfill  it. It is only when that desire turns into action -  in particular the willing giving of money, time, and other resources - that it becomes real enough to be "pull".

Pull is action to satisfy demand for a product or service. Even if a company sends a sales force  out to push for new business, it only gets the business if prospects pull in response. 

We could say “customer experience” (AKA CX) except for the need to relate it to the satisfaction of a particular pull.  So pullfillment it is.

With that in mind, let's explore a  deeper understanding of pull and the resulting pullfillment. Check out this graphic:



This image shows the pull-to-pullfillment conversion engine "black box" that inputs pull and outputs pullfillment. A good black box makes a lot of pullfillment with relatively little pull. An inefficient black box needs a lot of pull to create relatively little pullfillment.

Consider it a simple vending machine. It's like customers are putting money, time and trouble into that vending machine like a few quarters to get  a cold Diet Coke: the intended pullfillment. They might get a regular coke instead. Or it might be lukewarm instead of cold as expected. Or the machine could just eat their quarters and not give them back. Infuriating, especially when the cashier inside shrugs his shoulders and won't give a refund.

There's the anticipated pullfillment and then there's the actual pullfillment. When they're not the same thing, there's a pullfillment gap.

Up next: Understanding and using the pullfillment gap can transform both marketing results and customer experience. 


The Pullfillment Gap

Pull Basics

Pull = expressing demand, what customers give in exchange for an intended ...

Pullfillment, which is what they get in exchange

The Pull to Pullfillment conversion process is an attempt by customers to move from a current state to a desired state. It’s like they pull a piece of the ground back to create a hole in the expectation of it becoming filled with a certain pullfillment.

Simple, right?

The Move Up to Pullfillment

Customer pull to move from their current state to a state of  “pullfillment” since it results from successful pull.


People “pull”  with money,  time, and effort as an exchange of value. And the best pullfillment conversion engine wins. So know your pullfillment ratio.

Pullfillment Ratio

The pullfillment ratio is the relationship between what customers give and what they get in return.  It’s a visual representation of value from the customer perspective.

How hard they have to pull – the amount of money they have to give and the  time & trouble do they need to go through to get the pullfillment they want is represented by horizontal length: from left to right.

The resulting pullfillment, getting what they want, is represented by vertical height from bottom to top.




We define “fair value” pullfillment where customers get what they want and no more with a 45 degree angle. The height and width are even.

So, a great pullfillment is shaped quite differently from a poor one. It is higher relative to its width.

Poor value, where the pullfillment falls short of expectations, is more “squashed” and longer relative to its height.


What’s the height/length ratio of your solution compared to alternatives from the
customers’ perspective?

How well do you know your customers’ ideas of pullfillment?

How hard do they have to pull for it relative to other solutions?

What would be the next steps for creating greater pullfillment?


Now is a good time to consider the Three Types of Pull

Two Categories and Four Types of Pull

The two categories  of pull are

  • Contact Pull- pulling directly from a company
  • Media Pull- pulling from media to learn about what you can pull from a company

Each category has 2 types, 1 good and 1 bad.

Contact Pull

  1. Purchase Pull- trading money, time, and effort for the Pullfillment you sell. This one we want.
  2. Remedy Pull- trading time and effort to fix a Pullfillment purchase from a company that fell short of what you were pulling for. This one we don't want. 

Media Pull

  1. Learning Pull- trading time and attention to learn how to maximize Pullfillment with pre-purchase research. There's a lot of this.  A recent study found  88% of buyers researched online before making a purchase- whether the purchase was online or off.
  2. Bounce Pull- this is a customer immediately leaving online media intended for learning. While it was a minimal waste of time for the consumer, a company that is watching its bounce rate and the time on page will realize this particular media piece isn't working and will need to respond by improving it. Or, make up for lost potential sales elsewhere. So, bounce pull still makes a demand on the company.


Pull Category

Pull Type


How they pull



Contact Pull

Purchase Pull

Direct Contact, Interactive

Money, time, effort

Purchase value

Time of Purchase

Contact Pull

Remedy Pull

Direct Contact,

Time & effort

Fix problems (Close pullfillment gap)


Media Pull

Learning Pull

Via Media, typically online 

Time, attention, engagement

Gain learning

from Pre-Purchase to anywhere along continuum

Media Pull

Bounce Pull

Via Media, typically online

Rejection of content sends "bounce" signal triggering compensating effort.

Intending to gain learning.

(would have been) Pre-purchase


Learning pull happens continuously, but we are concerned now with that which comes before the purchase and thus influences it.

Remedy pull, taxing the system of your business to “make things right” –comes after the purchase.

Remedy Pull is intended to close the negative “Pullfillment Gap” where the Pullfillment falls short.


Similarly to Purchase Pull,  Remedy Pull expends the resources of a business-as-system.

But, unlike Purchase Pull, Remedy Pull doesn’t typically bring in money in exchange.


The Pullfillment Gap that causes Remedy Pull also causes negative reviews and reduced repeat purchases.

Eliminating any negative Pullfillment Gap and accompanying Remedy Pull helps  business growth and success.


And fortunately, a Pullfillment Gap can go the other way too.



A positive Pullfillment Gap creates that wonderful "surprise and delight" experience in customers when a product or service greatly exceeds their expectations. Isn't it nice to get more than you asked for?

A Positive Gullfillment gap (PPG) can  be in the form of

  • The elevation of the purpose of what is sold to a higher value. Instead of using drums to just communicate with the next village, use them to make music.
  • The greater enjoyment that comes from learning better skills in using what is purchased.  Inspiring and teaching a pilot to more quickly gain a "fly by instruments" license means he or she can get more and better use out of that plane.
  • Bringing benefits to new areas, perhaps previously totally unexpected, to the pullfillment environment. With the right app, the phone in your pocket can add a heads-up display to your car and make driving safer.
  • Attaching a sense of identity or higher purpose to the pullfillment experience. mPower6 uses partnerships with charities to raise the purpose of youth sports fundraising to include inspiring youth to increase their sense of community and helping those in need. 

Steering Pull

So your business, as mentioned in the black box post,  is a pull-to-pullfillment conversion system.



Knowing that your business is a catalyst, an engine for converting Purchase Pull to Pullfillment:


Thought leadership is how you  “steer the pull” to elevated pullfillment in response to learning pull. 

It is how you can set yourself or your organization apart from the others who would have been your competition. 

Just being "known" by your market isn't enough. Unless the purchasers are promiscuous with their money, they will seek value by comparing your offering to alternatives.

You can preempt an unfavorable comparison by using thought leadership to teach your marketplace to revere the special things  that only you offer.

Some companies say"we are the best."  

A thought leading organization  would counter that with "they may be the best at the old way. But our new way is what you really want."

It's not about selling the same model better, it's about realizing how much more is possible for customers with a new model and guiding them there- a place where your company stands alone. If you stay stuck in the patterns of your segment, you stand the risk of being left behind when the tide changes. Or you can be a catalyst for change, and take your market somewhere new.

Unless you can lead market thinking to embrace a thought leadership position that  elevates the experience  (pullfillment), you've missed the opportunity of thought leadership and will only be competing as a commodity. You'll be working with the same pull as everyone else.  It takes the fatiguing, frustrating process of competing as a commodity for a share of market and transforms it to an enjoyable process fueled by visionary inspiration. 

The opportunity is to lead thinking,  to steer and shape the pull so your pullfillment is unique, elevated and moved far away from the typical pullfillment in your niche. When you keep chopping with a dull ax, it can feel heavier and heavier while the shadows grow longer and the skies get dark. Turn on the light and brighten it enough to see the knife sharpener and the map to new market territory expands.

If you do it well, you  will be the only choice to your audience.

Doing it well means understanding thought leadership has a structure. Because it has a structure, it can be managed, measured, and optimized as the basis of all of your marketing. Then your messaging becomes an outreach program with a higher purpose of leading others to more fulfilling lives. 


Effectively steering pull this way requires using a core component of the structure of thought leadership: the thinking levels of your  marketplace you can lead.

Higher thinking levels offer much better leverage for positive influence. We can consider them the harmonics of pull

More on that in the next post: The Harmonics of Pull and the Structure of Thought Leadership.


*the concept of Remedy Pull is closely related to John Seddon's innovation of parsing customer demand into value demand and failure demand.  John is a thought leader who has created a unique combination of systems thinking and intervention methods for breakthroughs in services businesses with the Vanguard Method.  I strongly recommend his new book: Beyond Command and Control

The Harmonics of Pull and the Structure of Thought Leadership

"...Thought leadership has a structure. Because it has a structure, it can be managed, measured, and optimized as the basis of all of your marketing, I wrote in the previous  post, the Pullfillment Gap.

And, in case you are landing here without having read the prior posts, let me explain what Pull and Pullfillment are: The word “pull” is a clean label for the actions people take to get what they want from companies. They Pull in order to get  “Pullfillment”: the experience of using the product or service.

So, back to thought leadership. Structure-Based Thought Leadership defines elevated pullfillment and leads an audience to expect that and only that. 

That separates it from most of what is labeled thought leadership: demonstrating knowledge with "expert" content, perhaps to a large social media audience.

This "expert model" falls short of well-structured thought leadership unless it also includes all the building blocks that comprise Structure-Based Thought Leadership, though. Let's consider some of these distinctions:

It's about your audience's thinking.

First,  thought leadership isn't just about your thinking. What's more important is how your  prospects and customers think about how they use what you sell.

Taken literally, thought leadership simply means leading thought. So thought leadership is leading an audience from old thinking to well-designed new thinking. After all, isn't it more powerful to focus on the ideas rather than the idea-maker?

Relating this point to structure,  the 3 main building blocks of the Thaut Process of thought leadership can be most simply called LEO:  the roaring, golden king of the jungle at the top of the thought leadership food chain. 

LEO: L= Listen , E=Envision, O=Output

Thought leadership means moving thinking. If you want to move thinking, you need to know where you're moving it from. That's  the "L" in LEO:  "Listen". 

If you want to fly to New York and call me saying, "I'm somewhere around Charleston" I won't find you. So how can I get you there? Knowing where you are helps me get you from laid-back, Spanish moss-shadowed Charleston to big, lit-up, dazzling Manhattan.

I don't mean just hearing what people say they want. Walt Disney wouldn't have built Disney Land by hearing what families said they wanted.  They couldn't have imagined it. But, whether he would have articulated it this way or not, he heard them on higher levels by sensing their values. So this audience attunement is insight into high level thinking of the marketplace. 

I find it interesting and disturbing that much of online marketing consists of spying on people to better target them. It's more effective to  instead listen to learn what they want and give it to them.  Then you can respond to their "learning pull" online with content optimized for what they are searching for and lead them from there to somewhere new: your distinctive thought leadership position. And if you've listened the right way, you give them what they might never have thought of, but will love.  

The insights that come from this kind of listening are one of the 3 legs needed to hold up the stool of thought leadership called LEO. The "L" of listening combines with  "E" - envisioning the thought leadership position creatively and  "O"- outputting it effectively to your audience. 


LEO for Thought Leadership


There are higher levels of thought leadership than sharing expertise.

Hints about what they will love, in your audience's values and beliefs, reveal themselves in authentic online conversations, where people really speak their minds.  These aren't in the blog posts or web copy; those are typically contrived. They are in comment threads in response to polarizing articles. They are on Reddit. So it takes different tools* to find them and parse the language for the leverage that leading with higher level thinking like values, beliefs, and identity can give. 

Step back to a broader perspective, one that includes how people use the thought leadership, and you'll see influencing on these higher levels is what transforms.  Thought leadership isn't simply showing what you know, it's empowering your audience to get more value   Doesn't it demonstrate more expertise to also influence on higher levels than knowledge?

The question then become on what levels of thinking we are listening to and leading on? 

You can consider these higher levels the harmonics of pull. They are like harmonics in music. The exquisite sound of an upright bass isn't  just coming just the low frequency thump of the root note. It’s these harmonics, these pleasant sounding higher frequencies mathematically related to the fundamental note underneath them, that give the instrument its true character and aid a skilled musician in conveying nuanced subtleties of emotions.

Similarly, the pull expressed through consumer behavior has harmonics as well. These harmonics are higher levels that can be aligned with or led to a new place with thought leadership.

Here's a table summarizing these levels and how to use them in thought leadership. This model, called the "pullamid" as it can take a pyramid shape, is an adaptation of NLP leader Robert Dilts' model "Logical Levels".  Like in Dilts' model, change moves downward: higher levels can change lower levels but not the other way around.

The "Harmonics of Pull":  Levels of Thought Leadership

Level of Thought Leadership Definition How to Lead and Influence
Core Purpose Their highest mission or purpose in life Better Align Your Offering With a Higher Purpose
Identity  Who they see themselves as in relationship to your offering Align Your Offering with a Desired Sense of Identity
Values What's important in terms of feelings or state of mind Shift the values connected with what you sell to more important ones.
Mental Models What they believe about your offering.  Lead Them to Better Mental Models (possibly aligning with higher values, identity, and/or purpose)
Skillset Knowledge and skills Educate by sharing expertise about your offering. Most "thought leadership" aims only on this level.
Pull Expressed customer demand, what they give up to get what you offer Directly trigger purchase of your product. Most advertising aims only at this level.
Pullfillment Customer experience in using your offering Better customer experience, AKA Pullfillment, can "flow down" from higher level influence.


So, it's about the thought leadership, not the thought leader. And, while it may help to show them what you know and expand their skillset, leading thinking on higher levels like values is more powerful. And since change cascades downward from higher levels, better mental models and values can encourage gaining more knowledge and skills.

If you do it well, once your audience embraces your thought leadership model, they won't consider doing business with anyone else. You teach them how to elevate their experience of what you sell and create a pullfillment gap, that leaves your competition back at the dusty ghost town of "the old way". 

In future posts, I will give various examples of this higher-level thought leadership and show how to best design a robust thought leadership model that can move the mind of a marketplace.

*We are currently internally using such listening tools at Thaut. Beta release coming soon.