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Want a new marketing role?

... then you need to understand Upstream, Downstream, Strategy and Tactics


What do these themes essentially mean in the world of marketing medical technologies? If your going to an interview for a marketing job then you need to be able to converse with authority about these aspects of marketing and ensure you are aware of the differences. In the recruiting work we do at Remtec we see a lot of confusion at times about these terms, not only from  candidates but clients also. Clients often wish to hire a marketing candidate with more ‘Strategic Experience’ but when you probe further and ask what activities they require the person to carry out, their answer often sits under tactics not strategy.


Here I set out to discuss each activity, uncoupling the difference between upstream and downstream and simplify the activities of strategic and tactical marketing, to remove further misunderstandings.


Strategic Marketing is primarily over a longer 3-5yr term it is generally done by a corporate HQ group and is less likely to be covered in great detail by a country focussed marketing team, a strategic marketer generally works across a very broad portfolio of products and often will not have a range of products to specifically manage. They usually are supporting and working with a team of product based marketers and it get involved with the following activities.


Long term planning, this often involves the use of  internal tools and methodologies to ensure these plans are consistent and using the same date points and analysis for each product group, so the outcomes can be compared across portfolios and shape future investment or activity. Development of segmentation and positioning for a business and product group, gap analysis highlighting the products required to take you into the segments you wish to own, technology road mapping and activities to fill any gaps, how are you going to develop your technology in the future and do you have skills to do this or do you need to hire them in or even buy or merge to access a new technology.


Market analysis is key and can include Competitor, (PEST), Political, Environmental, Social and Technological, (SWOT) Strengths Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, Boston Matrices, Porter’s five forces and creating  a balanced scorecard to really understand the task ahead.


Price setting over a long term, price erosion trends, conjoint analysis where you ask customers what they would be prepared to pay for a particular set of features, establishing pricing corridors to avoid importing across country boundaries, mapping customer behaviours and current government funding trends.


Once you have decided what segment and position you wish to occupy you need to consider what to do with the products you have that do not fit ‘orphan products’ and this involves portfolio rationalisation, licensing out of a product, divestment or deletion.


More healthcare spend is being governed by reimbursement and payment by result tariffs and you need to be developing key opinion leader (KOL’s) to influence these policy decisions.

The strategic marketer may also get involved with submissions to NICE, health economic studies, cost in use, whole life cost and adoption cost analysis. There may also be the influencing of the creation of new reimbursement HRG or DRG codes.


The implementation of this activity needs to be monitored, measured and controls put in place to ensure there is quality feedback as to its effectiveness. This feedback needs to be incorporated back into the marketing plan and changes made were required.


Upstream marketing is mainly activity leading from the product being invented, developed, produced and arriving on the shelf for sale and is primarily practised by marketers working for a manufacturer. Recent government announcements in the budget are seeking to increase the numbers of technology start up’s in the medtech world, if you wish to work for one of these you will need to understand the following.


New Product development reviews, agreeing a customer requirement spec for a product CRS, namely what they want the product to do, agreeing with R&D a technical requirement spec for a product TRS, namely the technical solution to achieve this customer need.


Managing customer product review groups during the development process, also known as voice of the customer, meeting with component suppliers to discuss changes or improvements that may affect the product performance. Launch stock planning, language translation for the product, instruction manuals, Quick Reference Guides QRG’s and instructions for use IFU’s. All of these may need to be in both paper and/or digital form depending upon the customer base.


Product packaging also sits here and with current waste recycling requirements then the marketer needs to ensure that the type and amount of packaging is appropriate. Forecasting and demand planning meetings with manufacturing, working with Regulatory affairs and Quality with MDA or FDA during inspections all form part of the upstream mix as does CE marking support and most importantly receiving submissions from inventors with new ideas.




This is pretty much day to day and near term activity practised by country based marketing and product managers and involves customer facing marketing of the goods from the shelf to the hands of the customer.


This can involve:

  • All aspects of social and digital marketing, website, e- marketing, Facebook, Linkedin and, Twitter. Establishing CRM systems to enable local customer campaigns to be developed, implemented, measured and monitored.
  • The writing of copy for these communication methods as well as literature and working with agencies. organising exhibitions and conferences, the use of KOL and product champions as key speakers at these. The writing of sales and customer training manuals and courses and delivering these along with regular forecasting and the setting of local pricing. 
  • In organisations where sales and marketing work well together then the marketer should also be involved with agreeing with sales management sales time, focus and compensation plans for their products.
  • Supporting the sales effort is also the role of the tactical marketer, working with the local sales team, contributing to tender and contract submissions and presentations. The writing of service or warranty policies if the product is of a technical nature, local competitor analysis, PEST and SWOT.



This is mainly practised by distributors or the local sales and marketing organisations of manufacturing companies.


Alot of the activity here is the same as the tactical list above but also includes  post launch reviews, where the whole product development and launch plan is reviewed to understand what worked, what didn’t and how things can be improved next time, a crucial part of the measuring, monitoring, feedback and control in the strategic marketing plan.


Many candidate CV’s we see at Remtec and also many marketing job descriptions do not give enough detail about the actual elements of the marketing mix the candidate has managed, or the role is required to manage.


For you to ensure you understand the requirements of a marketing role, ask your recruiter some questions around the above, this will allow you to understand what the role really requires and ensure you can position yourself appropriately at that all important interview.