Your Business is a Black Box
The Harmonics of Pull and the Structure of Thought Leadership

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


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