Amid all the discussion of our economy--its lows and highs, the struggles to rebound, the fledgling progress we’re making--we’ve somehow missed another important point: the essential nature of the economy itself has changed.

We’re in a whole new era now: Welcome to the "Pull Economy."

What's Changed

In its predecessor, the "Push Economy," we got used to being proactive, to pushing our presence and credentials. Want new customers? Push your brand out there via newspaper ads and 30-second spots. Hunting for a new job? Apply by pushing your résumé. The whole paradigm centered on aggressive, even forceful, promotion in order to generate and convert leads.

We haven’t said goodbye to these, of course. Advertising, marketing, and other traditional tactics still exist and are still useful. But increasingly, the market comes to us--that’s the hallmark of the Pull Economy.

Thank the Digital Age for the switch-up.

In the Pull Economy, people are looking for you and they convert based on your reputation--what they find online from content that you share (like blogs, a company website, corporate social media) and what others have shared about you (e.g. review spaces). In fact, in a world where lead generation and lead conversion are the two crucial "moments" in the sales funnel, it’s critical to understand that reputation is the conversion catalyst.

Why Your Reputation Is Everything

Sure, if you’re a Disney or a Pepsi or a Ford, your reputation precedes you and fuels lead generation and conversion. No argument here. Even for top, established brands, however, there’s danger (see: Paula Deen, United Breaks Guitars, Susan G. Komen Foundation).

But for the 27.9 million small businesses in America, the average person may be turned on by your push but they’ll convert by your pull. Research shows consumers trust what they find online. In fact, 70 percent of consumers trust online reviews, second only to word of mouth from family and friends. Moreover, 60 percent put faith in what they find on company websites, half of people trust emails they sign up to receive directly from companies, and 40 percent use ads found on search engine results.

The percentages vary but what’s the theme here? This is all information people are finding, in some form or fashion, online.

How to Survive in the Pull Economy

That’s why it’s time businesses examine themselves through the lens of the Pull Economy. Mystery shop your own product. Track how your leads are generated and analyze trends over time. Even more crucially, what does the data say about why people convert and become customers? If you don’t have the answers to that question, retool your sales process so getting that information is part of the closing. Look closely at your competitors and identify how they’re faring in the Pull Economy and why.

What are the best and worst approaches you’ve seen companies take in the Pull Economy? And how does your own stack up?