What is the root cause of moderate or stalled business growth?

After many years helping companies grow, our research and experience at EquiBrand consistently shows the answer is: an overreliance on downstream marketing.

Many companies see their business as largely fixed. This causes them to focus on the wrong problem, using downstream marketing tactics to fight it out with competitors and eke out the last bit of sales revenue or profit contribution.

Yes, downstream is needed – but it’s not enough.

The Difference Between Upstream & Downstream Marketing

Downstream marketing is what most people visualize when they hear the word “marketing.” It involves the familiar advertising, promotion, brand building, and communicating with customers through digital marketing, public relations, social media, and in-store.

While these activities are extremely important, they tend to enhance the acceptance of a product or service that already exists. Further, companies spend an inordinate amount of money on downstream marketing activities, while ignoring critical upstream marketing activities that could get them further ahead.

Upstream marketing, in contrast, refers to the strategic process of identifying and fulfilling customer needs. It takes place at a much earlier stage by developing a clear market segmentation map, and then identifying and precisely defining which customer segments to focus on.

Upstream marketing analyzes:

  • How the end-user uses the product or service
  • What competitive advantage will be required to win the customer – and at what price point

This is done very early in the product or service development cycle. It is one of the missing links for generating revenue growth at many companies.

Who leads upstream efforts at a company? That can vary. In large corporations, this could be the chief executive officer, chief marketing officer, or chief experience officer. In small to medium-sized businesses, it might be the business owner or marketing manager.

Don’t always believe what the marketers say…

Despite what management consultants, research companies, ad agencies, and marketing software providers might say, the truth is: there is no single solution to growth.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow said, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
A one-off solution is the wrong approach.

Going upstream makes sense because it offers the opportunity for sustainable brand and business growth. Effective execution is multifaceted – it involves doing many things well. It requires that the entire organization understand, adopt, and adhere to the universal principles and best practices of upstream marketing.

Want to better understand upstream marketing and how it can help grow your business? Enjoy reading the first chapter of our book, Upstream Marketing. You can download it here, for free.