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The Case for Bottom Up Marketing

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that traditional marketing isn’t working anymore. Customers are barraged with thousands of messages every day, and thanks to tone-deaf strategies, they are becoming less and less interested in responding. This makes it incredibly difficult to measure the effectiveness of a marketing campaign.

Long story short: being the loudest guy in the room is no longer a viable marketing strategy.

Customers aren’t interested in the top down approach of management speaking to the ‘little people.’ They don’t care about how amazing you think your company is when compared to everyone else’s. But they do care about choice and the ability to source products that they want. Employees and field experts know this better than anyone, offering valuable insights into customer pain points and needs. Today, this idea has become known as ‘bottom up marketing.’

In this article, we’re going to make the case for bottom up marketing cycles, and explain the how, what, and why behind its many strategies. We’re going to dive into the most important elements, including:

  • Bottom up marketing defined
  • Top down vs. bottom up marketing: the differences explained
  • Bottom up marketing analyzed: 3 case studies
  • Making the case for bottom up marketing

Bottom Up Marketing Defined

Before we discuss bottom up marketing, let’s discuss its predecessor: top down marketing.

Top down marketing is defined as a promotion strategy that trickles from the top of the ‘pyramid’ to its lowest levels. Company executives and higher-ups define a strategy they want to take and communicate this down the line to upper management and other officials. Supervisors and middle managers delegate tasks to employees, who create tactics in order to match the strategy. Top-down marketing has been used for hundreds of years and is considered to be the traditional approach to marketing.

Bottom-up marketing flips this model on its head. The lowest rungs in an organization, namely employees and contractors, offer input on current trends, news, and audience insights. These insights are used to create individual tactics (i.e. single customer needs), which are passed up the ladder for company-wide collaboration. Tasks are then completed and sent to higher-ups, who will approve the work and send it to appropriate parties.

This infographic from Smartsheet is really helpful for making sense of it all:

Bottom up approach

If you’re still a little shaky on the lingo, don’t worry too much. Let’s look at some real world examples for better context.

Top down marketing is very evident in an organization like Mountain Dew. Top level executives perform a situational analysis to create marketing objectives (i.e. sell more soda). The analysis turns into the creation of a marketing strategy, usually with very broad goals. These decisions are then passed down to mid-level managers, who have their employees create graphics, copy, and dynamic ads (tactics) that will culminate in a marketing strategy.

On the other side of the spectrum, HubSpot takes a bottom up approach to marketing. They start with their customers first: what is one customer need they can meet using a tactic? How could their in-house experts turn this tactic into a strategy? Employees with a strong knowledge of said customer needs can start contributing to the planning phase of the process. In other words: bottom up marketing means you put your mind in your marketplace. By immersing yourself in the needs of your customers, you can discover new pathways where customers get in contact with your company and its services.

Contrary to popular belief, there’s really no wrong or right way to position your marketing ‘triangle.’ However, there are a couple of strengths and weaknesses you should be aware of before making any drastic decisions.

Top Down vs. Bottom Up Marketing: The Differences Explained

There’s a reason why top-down marketing has been the traditional format. This strategy maintains a very straightforward planning phase and supports a centralized decision-making process. All roles and responsibilities within the organization are very clear, which boosts time to market and improves internal communication.

  • Simplified planning process
  • Unified expectations
  • Improved internal communication

Of course, these benefits also come with their fair share of drawbacks:

  • Knowledge gaps may lead to insufficient marketing
  • Lower employee engagement could cause burnout
  • Tactics and strategies are less customer-centric

This is where bottom up marketing kicks in. One of this method’s greatest strengths is a decentralized planning process that allows every team member to provide their expertise and input. Any knowledge gaps from higher ups are supported by a wealth of employees, identifying new tactics in order to build a strategy. Bottom up marketing is particularly strong in technical industries, especially fields like developer marketing that rely on employee experience and creativity.

The benefits of bottom up marketing defend against the drawbacks of a top down strategy:

  • Decreases the risks of knowledge gaps
  • Engages all employees with all talents
  • Customer-centric tactics could draw a larger audience

Of course, this doesn’t mean there aren’t any weaknesses to bottom up marketing. Since the strategy phase takes a decentralized approach, initial project phases could take much longer. In addition, newer customer tactics may be complicated to develop, and significantly stretch out the project timeline.

Bottom Up Marketing Analyzed: 3 Case Studies

Getting started with bottom up marketing in your software company isn’t that complicated. DigitalOcean’s community tutorials allow users to access and implement solutions at a glance, leading to tactic generation. Zapier’s use case library provides detailed information about tactics that could be used for a wide variety of marketing strategies, especially for front-line employees.

Regardless of your industry, bottom up marketing gets results. Below are two of the most commonly cited case studies.


FedEx is in direct competition with a number of other shipping companies, including the USPS. For this reason, remaining competitive requires them to think outside the box.

For the majority of FedEx’s history, the company relied heavily on a top down strategy that promoted all of its shipping services to the audience. However, the key to their competition was not in an overarching strategy, but in individual tactics.

A number of FedEx employees noticed that customers were consistently talking about overnight shipping services. The company promptly turned its top down strategy on its head, and focused on a singular tactic (customer need): how could they create overnight shipping?

Frankly, the rest is history.


Pizza delivery is a staple of the American diet. For Dominos, who lagged behind its peers for several years, the top down approach simply wasn’t making the cut.

Domino employees and managers had interesting insights related to customer needs, namely the prompt delivery of pizza. It was then that Dominos executives had an idea: what could they implement to meet this single need for their customers? This developed into a strategy that guaranteed fresh pizza deliveries within 30 minutes or your money back. This bloomed into a hugely successful marketing strategy, and put Dominos back on the map as a strong competitor in the marketplace.

Making The Case For Bottom Up Marketing

Bottom up marketing transforms a tired, traditional industry from a hit-and-miss enterprise to a powerful, relatable force that attracts a wide base of potential leads. Marketers are able to connect to leads through their needs, not the needs of their business. Instead of creating a strategy that needs to be executed with tactics, it makes far more sense to find a tactic that can be used to build strategy. Some of the world’s biggest names, including FedEx and Dominos, have used bottom up marketing to achieve big success in their industries.

Between ample use cases and extremely measurable benefits, the case for bottom up marketing is stronger than ever. The concept is simple to understand, easy to manage, and nets strong results for the organizations that put it into practice. It’s not just a new method of marketing; it’s a transformative powerhouse for the future. The question is, are you going to cash in on it?

If you’re in a technical industry that’s interested in marketing to software developers, Draft.dev could be a great way to make the switch to bottom up marketing. We provide blog posts, tutorials, and other written content generated from bottom up industry experts with hands-on industry experience. By siphoning finished content through a quality control program, we integrate SEO with technical accuracy to provide value across the board.

If you want to get started on a customized technical content marketing plan, get in touch with us to book a call at your earliest convenience. We can’t wait to chat soon!