There are two schools of thought regarding marketing approaches: top-down and bottom-up.
Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages, and your choice will depend on your product, target market, and goals.
Which strategy makes sense for your business? This article reviews top-down and bottom-up marketing strategies, their benefits and drawbacks, and when it makes sense to use one approach over another.
What is a top-down marketing strategy?
A top-down marketing strategy is one where the organization's marketing goals are set first, and then a plan is created to achieve those goals. With a top-down marketing approach, the promotion strategy trickles down from the top of the pyramid to the lowest levels.
With a top-down approach, the focus is on creating a compelling message that will be delivered to a large audience, hoping that this message will filter down to the target market.
When to Use a Top-Down Strategy:
Large organizations with many resources often use a top-down strategy. It can be challenging to implement a top-down approach if you don’t clearly understand your target market or what they want. A top-down strategy takes a traditional approach to marketing, with the audience playing a passive role in marketing. Great examples are TV ads or radio commercials.
With this approach, you must define your milestones from the top down, meaning the company's C-level executives or management staff create goals. This strategy may be flexible and include other positions in decision-making, such as senior management and product managers. These decision-makers all interact to develop a design strategy and set goals for the rest of the organization. Organizations must consider their growth trajectory, seasonality, and other factors like product launches or major industry events.
What is a bottom-up marketing strategy?
A bottom-up marketing strategy is one in which the company seeks out customers and develops products or services to meet their needs. This type of strategy is often used by small businesses or startups that don't have the brand recognition of a larger company.
In a bottom-up approach, the focus is on building relationships with potential customers and then growing that base one customer at a time. With a bottom-up marketing strategy, you invest more in bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU) campaigns, targeting prospective customers that are the most buyer-ready. Needless to say, it’s important that at this stage, you focus on driving conversions and pushing buyers through the intent stage to the evaluation and purchase stage.
When to Use a Bottom-Up Strategy:
Bottom-up marketing is more likely to be used in smaller organizations, where team members can be more involved in decision-making. Conducting market research and hearing directly from your customers through reviews, testimonials, and group discussions will give your team enough direction in decision-making
With a bottom-up approach, the company begins by identifying potential customers and then developing products or services that would be appealing to them. This type of strategy can be more flexible than a top-down approach, as it allows the company to adapt quickly to changes in the market.
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With a bottom-up approach, the employees can set marketing goals. To create a bottom-up plan, you must assemble your overall campaign plan, define the expected outcomes from those campaigns and add them up.
Comparing Top-down vs. Bottom-up Marketing Approaches
There are key differences between top-down and bottom-up marketing strategies. Here are the differences between the two approaches.
The top-down marketing approach is more centralized, meaning that decisions are made from the top of the organization and then communicated downward. This type of marketing is typically more controlled and focused, with a clear message transmitted to the entire organization.
Bottom-up marketing is more decentralized, meaning the decisions made are by individual team members or groups that specialize in a certain area of marketing and then communicated upward. This type of marketing is typically more collaborative, with team members working together to develop creative ideas and solutions.
Size of Organizations
Top-down marketing is more likely to be used in larger organizations, where there is a need for a more controlled and focused approach. Bottom-up marketing is more likely to be used in smaller organizations, where team members can be more involved in decision-making.
With a top-down approach, your audience is much broader, meaning you can reach more people. At the same time, you may experience more competition with such a wide audience. When you take a bottom-up approach, your audience has already prequalified themselves and is more interested in your product or service.
Goals and Objectives
When choosing the best approach for your business, be sure to factor in your goals and objectives. If you're looking for a more targeted approach, top-down marketing may be the way. But if you need a more flexible strategy to adapt to changes quickly, the bottom-up marketing approach may be a better option.
A bottom-up approach makes marketing teams more tactical and limits their ability to align with company goals and apply strategies. For this reason, many B2B companies view marketing as a support organization for sales and as non-strategic to the business.
A bottom-up approach allows businesses to stay flexible with their marketing plans. As a result, You can adjust your plans to new initiatives, industry trends, and more.
What’s Best For Your Organization?
Deciding between a top-down and a bottom-up marketing strategy for your organization can depend on several factors. Be sure to factor in your organization’s goals and objectives, your industry, seasonality, your company’s growth trajectory, and even your marketing budget.
Every business is different, so be sure you do your research before you choose a strategy when creating a marketing plan.