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June 2019

Your Business is a Black Box

Your Business is a Black Box

No matter what size your business . .

Profits result from what it creates that is outside of your business.  That's where your customers are and where they enjoy the benefits of what you offer.


Inside the black box,  invisible to customers, is only 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.  We can take this another step by being aware that customers "pull" from companies in order to create the desired Pullfillment: the experience of using the product or service.

The word "demand" has been used in this context but it has also been used to describe the mere want for something.  That want might be a whim that falls far short of inspiring the action necessary to get 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 deserve  being called "pull".

So pull is action to satisfy demand for a product or service. Even if a company has a sales force it sends out to push for new business, it will only get the new business if they can get prospective customers to pull in response. 

Also, pullfillment could be said to be another word for “customer experience”, AKA, the acronym “CX”. But we call it pullfillment instead to usefully relate the customer experience directly to the customer pull that initiated it to better utilize these dynamics for higher level success.

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 coins to get, say,  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. Ever have that happen?  Infuriating, isn't it?

There's the anticipated, expected, and/or desired pullfillment and then there's the actual pullfillment. When they are not the same thing, it leaves a pullfillment gap.

Click here for more on the pullfillment gap concept. 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 new, desired state that we call  “pullfillment” since it results from successful pull.


People “pull” by  giving money,  time, and effort in various ways. It’s an exchange of value that needs to feel fair or better to the customer.

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

The Three Types of Pull

The three types of pull we are examining are

1. Purchase Contact Pull- trading money, time, and effort for the Pullfillment you sell.

2. *Remedy Contact Pull- trading time and effort for a fix to Pullfillment that fell short.

3. Attention Pull- trading time and attention to learn how to maximize Pullfillment.


Pull Category


How they pull



Contact Pull

Direct Contact, Interactive

Money, time, effort

Purchase value

Time of Purchase

Contact Pull

Direct Contact,

Time & effort

Fix problems (Close pullfillment gap)


Attention Pull

Via Media, typically online, no direct interaction yet

Time, attention, engagement

Gain skills,  knowledge, motivation, inspiration




Attention 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 Contact 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 pullfillment 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.



Now, let’s return to the point made in the "3 types of pull" table of studying pull over time.

Remember, the order is Attention Pull, Purchase Pull, and (if there is any) Remedy Pull. These can be symbolized by


eye= attention pull

dollar symbol= purchase pull

boomerang= remedy pull



Knowing that your business is a catalyst to convert Purchase Pull to Pullfillment:


Thought leadership is how you  “steer the pull” to elevated pullfillment in response to attention 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 market by saying "we are the best."  What does that really mean? 

An organization doing thought leadership well would counter that with "they are the best at the old way of doing it, sure. But our new way of doing it is what you really want."

Unless you can lead market thinking to embrace a thought leadership position that helps customers elevate the experience of what you offer (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.  

The opportunity is to lead thinking,  to steer and shape the pull so your pullfillment is unique, elevated or moved far away from the typical pullfillment in your niche.

If you do it well, you or your organization 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