Upstream and Downstream Activities for a Marketing Director
The purpose of marketing is to conduct research that determines what people want and then to sell those products to them at a profit. The dividing line between upstream and downstream marketing is the release of the product for sale to the customers. Both sides are integral parts of the marketing process.
Not only does upstream marketing influence the development of products, it can also guide the direction of a company. At the highest level of corporate planning, upstream marketing focuses on identifying the company's purpose and developing its brand identity. A business engaged in upstream marketing at that level will conduct its strategic research to examine the future of the market it serves and how it can develop and produce products to serve the market it foresees. The results of its upstream marketing will be revealed in its mission statement and long-term strategic goals.
A strategy team engaged in upstream marketing for product development uses market research to determine the likelihood of a product's success. Team members will look at trends, examine demographics, project economic conditions, conduct focus group meetings and examine alternative product ideas. Once they feel they have a grasp for the future, they work with a production development team to create the product. The upstream marketing team has a responsibility that may not be recognized until its work comes to fruition with the market acceptance of their new product. If sales are weak, team members will be hard pressed to justify their work.
While upstream marketing looks at what products the company will produce, downstream marketing focuses on how to bring a product to the customers. Even before a product is launched, a business must prepare for the event. Advance promotional material must be prepared, sales reps must receive training to assure they understand the product's features and benefits and advertising collateral must be written. If the product release coincides with a trade show or convention, displays must be prepared as well.
As long as the product is in inventory, marketing is an ongoing process. Even though the upstream marketing predicted the viability of the product, the ultimate test is customer acceptance. Product incentives such as warranties and add-on features are also part of downstream marketing. Depending on the product, the marketing team may conduct workshops, demos and customer training. While these activities are good marketing and learning events for the customer, they are also learning events for the marketing team. By observing, evaluating and responding to customer reactions, employees responsible for downstream marketing can fine tune the marketing efforts to deepen the market penetration and extend the product life cycle.