Upstream Marketing Best Practices
Many organizations say they have a similar set of principles and some do. What distinguishes the best-in-class companies vs. others is that these integrated principles and related best practices drive everything they do. Their corporate strategy statements, business processes, company culture and hiring practices all support the principles of insight, identity, and innovation.
Here are the common, distinguishing traits among leading upstream marketers vs. downstream marketers.
Here are seven upstream marketing best practices that distinguish the profile companies from the others. The first two traits relate to insight, the second two align with identity, the next two to innovation, and the final one – a wraparound concept – to integration and implementation. Specifically, best-in-class marketers:
- Are maniacally focused on the end customer. Google considers itself an engineering company, Amazon a retailer, Disney a media and entertainment company. Dig deeper, though, and the unifying element is their commitment to customer-centricity. Upstream marketing winners define their markets broadly in customer terms.
- Use a segmented view of the consumer, market and potential opportunities. Best-in-class companies have clear sense of purpose in defining their business, and then slice and dice markets into manageable segments. This allows them to identify strategic opportunities, pursue beachhead targets, demonstrate success and expand the business over time.
- Developing relevant and distinctive value propositions at the company, division, and product level. They think in terms of customer benefits with a focus on the total customer experience. They employ creativity and design thinking to identify customer-driven solutions and then work backward to deliver solutions.
- Elevate brand-building to the highest levels of the company. Top executives are involved in, comfortable with and committed to brand development. They know how to craft and manage a portfolio of brands, understand brand extension and build a deep, shared meaning of the brand internally and with customers. Brand is a boardroom topic.
- Deliver a consistent stream of innovative products and services, supported by rigorous strategy and planning. Guided by insight and an identity, similar methods – focused ideation, iterative concept development, prototyping, business screening – are used to drive growth. Each profile company has its own innovation process, though the principles are identical.
- Instill a strong culture that rewards growth, risk taking, and customer expansion. A commitment to insight, identity and innovation starts at the top. They recognize and promote individual leaders which perpetuates a common culture throughout the organization.
- Integrate and implement, using a process-based view that puts the customer first and breaks down silos. While a functional orientation is useful for managing work activities, it gets in the way of the ideal customer experience.
Throughout this book, we’ll explore these individually, then weave them into an overarching framework. In the final chapters, we combine them into an integrated 6-step process, including “how to” tips for implementation.
There we have it: insight, identity, and innovation as the keys to driving growth, combined with integration and implementation. Let’s go deeper on upstream marketing, show how it’s different from downstream marketing, and introduce the upstream marketing framework, which serves to structure this book.