Winning organizations relentlessly focus on expanding their playing field using a strategic approach to identify and fulfill unmet customer needs, across patients, physicians, providers, and other professionals.

Creating and capturing new market spaces and building strong brands is the domain of upstream marketing and the focus of our work. Three core principles, four business framing questions, and six best practices comprise the upstream marketing framework.


We help leaders unlock growth through the combined principle of insight, identity, and innovation.

  • Insight: Gaining internal clarity and deep customer understanding as the basis for transformative growth.
  • Identity: building strong value propositions and brands that deliver on customer needs and align with company operations
  • Innovation: ensuring a continual stream of creative solutions to meet evolving customer needs and expand the business


Questions can be a powerful way to direct strategy and improve upstream marketing. Our work is guided by these four:

  • Where to play? is the first strategic business decision to make, regarding where to compete and where not to compete. This involves mapping customer segments and their needs to identify strategic opportunity areas. Which customers, markets, channels, and broad product categories should be pursued?
  • How to win? informs value proposition and brand development. What’s the optimal business model, value proposition, product, or service concept to address the specified opportunity area?
  • How might we? jump-starts innovation by pushing for creative solutions to complex problems. Wording the question this way is preferred over “how can we” or “how should we,” as it opens up opportunities.
  • What would have to be true? is the final question that links upstream and downstream marketing. While the first three questions promote expansive thinking, this one narrows choices in moving toward execution. To improve success rates, consider ahead of time what’s required to win, including business metrics and financial thresholds.


  1. Maniacally focus on the end customer. Put customers first and look at the business through their eyes.
  2. Define a core purpose, then use it to broadly define the playing field and individual demand spaces (i.e., To whom? For what?).
  3. Develop winning value propositions at the company, division, and product levels.
  4. Elevate brand building to the highest levels of the company. Make the brand a boardroom topic.
  5. Deliver a consistent stream of innovative products and services, supported by a flexible, test-and-learn approach.
  6. Aim ’em, don’t tame ’em to instill a culture that rewards growth, creativity, and risk-taking

Our work combines proven techniques (qualitative and quantitative methods) with deep experience (case studies, reference cases) to help clients unlock growth through upstream marketing.