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Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls: Things I Learned From Sirius Decisions’ Latest Framework Launch

  • Written by Aaron Dun, SnapApp
  • Published in Demanding Views

1Aaron DunnSiriusDecisions rolls out an update to their seminal Demand Waterfall and the B2B marketing intelligentsia goes wild and does back flips with hot takes about why it’s so GREAT! Or in some cases, not so great.

I read all 7,500 words from 33 of my peers who shared their thoughts elsewhere on this site and, since I doubt you are going to do the same, allow me to share a few highlights.

(Full disclosure: I was asked to contribute my thoughts as well for the original article. I would have participated but I happened to be on vacation and missed the deadline. So I have the advantage of time to reflect on what others have said before me.)

The commentary basically distilled down into the following themes:

Finally! That old waterfall was super outdated; it’s about time they changed it.

Yes! Leads don’t buy,

Waterfalls are so 2005.

This is amazing!

I mean, duh, we are already doing this, thanks for noticing.

Sweet, finally, a model to get us to true revenue leadership!

This is dumb, we already focus on driving revenue, thanks for leading through the rear view mirror.

And more than one flavor of:

“This is so smart! (And my company can help you deliver on this promise.)”

Notice anything?  

While some called the change great, and others called it unimportant — all contributors did acknowledge that change was necessary.

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So whether or not you think that Sirius knows what they are talking about (I happen to think they do, mostly), marketing change is afoot. It’s not necessarily about waterfalls or frameworks, however, but about making sure you’re following best practices for a modern marketing world. Here are three things you need to consider in this changing world.

1. Align with your sales team on a funnel model

It took a long time for marketers to adopt the various versions of the Demand Waterfall, and for just as long, marketers have had a love/hate relationship with them: “Funnels are dead!” “Long live the funnel!” Whatever camp you fall into, there’s no denying that the SiriusDecisions Waterfall serves an important purpose for marketing and sales — providing an effective, common lexicon to track how a lead moves between the two functions. The funnel view also gives marketers intermediate metrics to measure against on the way to revenue, as well as defined stages where both marketing and sales can measure conversion rates.  

Regardless of how you feel about the old funnel or the new one, an “SQL” or an “Account Demand Unit,” or whatever other vocabulary that we use day to day, it is this common language that matters. Make sure you are truly aligned with your sales partners and are using the same language to measure performance against sales outcomes.

2. Treat buyers holistically

Gone are the days of marketing teams being measured against so-called “vanity” metrics, like site traffic and social shares, alone — we’ve moved to a world where we’re accountable for revenue metrics. And when you are accountable for revenue, you necessarily start thinking and acting similarly to how your sales org does.

For most B2B products, sales teams are well versed in working entire accounts, not just the one person identified as the champion or decision maker. It’s time for marketers to do the same thing, and the rise of account-based marketing is the direct result of this thinking. Marketers need to think about their content and campaigns to influence potentially four to eight people, at minimum. One person who downloads a white paper could be a signal, but it could be (and most often is) just noise. Your job is to sort through that activity to find actual, tangible buying signals, and get beyond the false positives. 

3. Create engaging experiences vs. static, low-value PDFs

Despite the fact that Sirius continues to draw a linear funnel for a Demand Unit, prospects and accounts do not move linearly in a homogenous group from one stage to the next. Your prospects aren’t neatly following each stage, they may not start by downloading a white paper PDF in their research phase, then engaging with your sales team and so on.

Today, you need to deliver highly engaging experiences across the entire buyer journey, tailored to each of your personas. You need to engage with each person in a Demand Unit with the right message at the right time based on what they tell you and ask for, instead of just guessing that someone is interested because of some arbitrary marketing activities or a lead score. While the era of the lead-gated white paper as a key step in the demand cycle may not be over, it’s definitely on life support. You need to think engagement first.  

In closing, marketers will continue to gnash their teeth over the last update to the Sirius Waterfall. My recommendation: don’t lose any sleep over it, focus instead on nailing the items above. Do that, and you will accelerate your marketing success.  


Aaron Dun drives marketing and strategy for SnapApp. Prior to SnapApp, Aaron served as the CMO for Intronis through its acquisition by Barracuda Networks. He is a staunch supporter of the Oxford comma and an avid opponent of lead-gated PDFs. He tweets periodically from @ajdun, sometimes it’s even interesting.