The terms “upstream” and “downstream” refer to two different, but equally important, aspects of marketing. We covered the key differences between the two in an article published in 2016 called “Upstream vs Downstream Marketing; Why do so many companies focus solely on downstream marketing?“.

As a quick recap, upstream marketing is focused on strategy and the long-term market situation, while downstream marketing looks at tactics, activity and supporting the company’s sales team with their objectives.

Distinguishing these types of marketing activity can help further develop the connection between marketing and sales teams, benefiting the company’s growth and overall sales potential.

Marketing and Sales Synergy

Developing the right balance between marketing and sales teams is crucial, regardless of industry. A sales team won’t be as successful without input from marketing, while marketing needs the information that sales teams collect daily to build and develop strategy and campaigns.

Without this, there will be a disconnect that could impact revenue. For example, a marketing team could develop an exciting new strategy based on their research, but the sales team may refuse to support it because they view it as nonsense based on theoretical concepts without any real-world application and it is yet another process to follow. This, of course, could potentially impact the sales team’s commission, so is unlikely to be fully on-boarded and accepted.

It is the Head of Marketing’s role to build a connection between sales and their marketing team and overcome these barriers by understanding the difference between upstream and downstream marketing activities and engaging both sides to deliver growth for the business in question.

Marketing Stream Sales and Marketing


Upstream marketing focuses on innovation, attempting to answer two questions:

1. Where is the market moving?
2. What will customers want next?

Marketing teams should engage a sales team and conduct research focused on long-term trends within the industry while taking onboard content from forums, blogs and even thought-leaders on social media platforms to answer these questions.

It is also worth keeping in mind that any new trend has the potential to create new marketing and sales opportunities.


Downstream activities usually focus on short-term sales and directly support any current sales functions. Anything the marketing team introduces to help the sales team with its next campaign is classed as a downstream activity and, for this reason, decisions should always be coordinated with sales. This is often a quick win as the information a sales team feeds back is highly valuable and can be implemented quickly.

Market research focused on short-term sales campaigns is also a downstream activity. For instance, research surveys could establish whether customers would be willing to pay a higher price for additional functionality and features or whether affordability is vital to them at all.

Downstream market research can also be used to run A/B testing for advertising and promotions before a full marketing campaign begins.

One Marketing Stream

It’s important to remember that the terms “upstream” and “downstream” refer to different parts of the same marketing stream, so upstream activities must flow into downstream operations seamlessly.

Successful companies will leverage both upstream and downstream marketing to deliver the best product or service and maximise value.

Expanding your capabilities up and downstream means you expand your potential business and market size by that much more.