The SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall has served as an iconic framework shaping the way many B2B organizations have managed and tracked lead management over the past decade.
The introduction of SiriusDecisions' new Demand Unit Waterfall in May 2017 has been met with positive reception from the B2B community, but there are questions about how companies will put the new framework into practice and shift from the traditional Waterfall.
For a deeper perspective on the impact of the new Demand Unit Waterfall, Demand Gen Report reached out to 30 experts in the B2B marketing community, and here is what they had to say:
Amanda Kahlow, Founder and CEO, 6Sense
The new Demand Unit Waterfall codifies what most marketers already know. Identifying and targeting active buyers—those accounts in your addressable market with a pain they are looking to solve—is the critical element in any B2B marketing strategy. The new SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall urges B2B marketers to prioritize prospects that are in active buying cycles and take an account-centric focus to demand creation.
SiriusDecisions’ updated approach emphasizes the critical need for marketers to move the top of the waterfall up the funnel and start with first identifying their Total Addressable Market (TAM). Then, with a full funnel demand intelligence and activation platform, marketers can now connect the signals from buyers across all channels to find their TAMnow—buyers that are not only a fit for an organization’s solution but are also actively in market now. With this insight, marketing has the ability to gain visibility into its buyers’ needs and then reach them with the right message—all while measuring the attribution of success and impact through to revenue.
This framework allows organizations to address many of the fundamental shifts towards account strategies, personalization and the need for greater precision in measuring pipeline impact. In the end, the new waterfall will empower marketers to confidentially drive in-market revenue and pipeline across touch points to build trust, efficiency and improved metrics across sales and marketing.
James Thomas, CMO, Allocadia
This new framework should help marketers evolve their thinking beyond tracking leads and likes, and truly start to understand their ROI.
Effectively evaluating and implementing a model like this requires a rare combination of discipline (tracking the flow of demand) and flexibility (managing the uncertainty of buying teams). Oxymoron? Maybe.
Here’s what I love about the new model:
- B2B purchases are made by teams of people, not ‘leads’ or individuals.
- The focus is on demand across the buyer’s journey.
- It ties together a lot of the current thinking around ABM and how sales and marketing must collaborate to gain the attention and direct prospects through the buying cycle.
The main challenge for me is that the funnel just feels outdated as a concept. I get it. It’s simple. It’s tried and tested. And we all know of deals that flow logically from top to bottom. But from my experience, a funnel or a waterfall is a one-way street (er…flow) and uses the laws of gravity. The reality, though, is much different. Every step and every deal converts at different rates, and many deals that almost close never do, and instead get recycled. Some get spit out.
For me, the concept is more like a twister or cyclone. It’s more like a centrifugal force than gravity. Sales and marketing have to work together to make sure it keeps spinning consistently and producing results or it just fades away. The bottom line is that marketers must align marketing and sales.
Here’s what I know: However you choose to track your funnel/twister, make sure you plan your investments and track the results of the programs at each stage. That’s the only way you can truly prove the performance of your marketing efforts, regardless of the model you use along the way.
Adam Needles, CEO, Annuitas
It’s fascinating that so many look to Sirius for ‘thought leadership’ on this topic—when their Waterfall is constantly playing catch-up, not leading. Apparently, Sirius just realized that marketing and sales activity should be orchestrated around a buying journey ... and that there are multiple personas involved in many purchases. But, yet, their solution to measuring this complex progression misses a basic fundamental reality—that despite the marketplace obsession with using ABM as an acronym solution for everything in demand marketing these days, you still need to care about contacts and contact engagement levels.
Jon Russo, Founder, B2B Fusion Group
For B2B revenue leaders that are contemplating adoption of the new SiriusDecisions Demand Unit Waterfall, here are five impact areas on B2B strategies and initiatives to consider:
1. Develop a data strategy: Install proper data processes, match leads to accounts and establish the right global account hierarchies. After Fuze CMO Brian Kardon and his team invested significant time and energy in a data strategy, his team experienced massive growth success.
2. Embrace an account-based approach: CMO Peter Herbert of VersionOne describes his very successful account-based journey as “real progress B2B revenue teams are making towards a more intelligent, proactive and efficient way of going to market.”
3. Align and measure: Herbert says, “B2B teams are shifting from working in silos to capture and handoff leads to work together to engage in a more compelling way.” Build supporting Salesforce structures, data lakes with business intelligence overlays like Anish Jariwala at Informatica has created, or leverage tools that measure most of this new Waterfall.
4. Select attributes of the buying committee but...anticipate challenges by identifying the right buying authorities from scouts or key influencers, especially if roles change deal to deal. Expect assumptions and manual intervention as sales uses Salesforce contact roles sparingly, marketers create personas and roles change.
5. Retain the right internal and external talent to support this new Waterfall and maximize technology investment ROI. Augment internal teams with knowledgeable external sales and marketing performance firms that extend internal strategy reach and best practice system capabilities to improve odds of visible success and to move in a more agile manner.
Mike Burton, Co-Founder and SVP of Sales, Bombora
The new Demand Unit Waterfall will make B2B marketing much simpler and easier to understand. Even though two new stages have been added to the top, the entire framework is now more intuitive and reflective of the way businesses actually buy today. It’s akin to when “soccer style kicking” came to the NFL in the 1960s and placekickers began taking two steps to their left and approaching the ball at an angle. This simple and logical adjustment improved their power and accuracy. While defining the addressable target and then identifying those who are actively in-market seems obvious, these two “new” steps—“Target Demand” and “Active Demand” respectively—needed to be stated clearly within the Waterfall.
The other big change is that the new Waterfall explicitly acknowledges the decreasing power of sales (and, to some extent, marketing) in altering the behaviors that can turn companies into prospective buyers. The reality is that there are limited numbers of prospects who are actively in-market, and sales and marketing need to work in tandem to reach these targets. This recognition should alter B2B marketing for the better because it will force many organizations to acknowledge that the lines of demarcation between sales and marketing are outdated and must give way to orchestration with the buyers' needs in mind.
Dana Harder, VP of Strategy, Content4Demand
The Content4Demand team has taken the last week to fully digest the newly released SiriusDecisions Demand Unit Waterfall and overall...we’re happy. We believe it acknowledges and addresses the realities of today’s B2B buyers and buying habits—our secret ingredient in developing buyer-focused content that drives demand.
A few of the highlights addressed in the new framework:
- B2B buyers continue to evolve and the ‘B2B Buyer Audience Echelon’ does a fantastic job of showcasing the multitude of levels we need to engage within target accounts.
- Increased emphasis on where your customer personas fit in as part of a larger buying group—there’s specific messaging that B2B marketers will now be expected to develop to address buyers at the organization, functional and individual levels.
- Reinforcement of aligning demand and campaigns to buying centers with unique needs. We specifically liked how SiriusDecisions has incorporated urgency and solution fit as key tenets of successful buyer-focused marketing.
Peter Isaacson, CMO, Demandbase
The new model recognizes that each purchase decision typically includes various buyers and influencers across a model, and provides a system for tracking and aggregating these connected leads at the account level.
We are excited that SiriusDecisions unveiled this new demand model, which is a terrific framework for managing the funnel from start to end. In fact, the new Demand Waterfall syncs so seamlessly to Demandbase’s ABM approach, that we fielded multiple questions about whether Demandbase helped create it. Each step of the new Demand Unit Waterfall aligns closely with Demandbase solutions to help marketers execute a complete ABM strategy. Taking this framework and pairing it with intent data and artificial intelligence (AI), companies can make the first steps to identify and target the right accounts.
Real-time data on website engagement and advertising activity—the cornerstone of Demandbase’s ABM platform—then allows B2B marketers to engage with the right accounts. In the next stage, AI and machine learning can sort through millions of signals to prioritize the specific accounts to focus on first. Then, account-based sales development helps transform real account insights into relevant and meaningful conversations to convert interest into a qualified opportunity. All of this culminates in the pipeline and closed revenue stages—stages in which more high performing marketing teams are involved.
The challenge with any business framework is typically the implementation because it requires change management at both a people and systems level. For companies that want to implement the Demand Unit Waterfall introduced by SiriusDecisions successfully, they must implement aspects of both ABM and lead management. We have been helping our clients operationalize models like this for the past couple years by layering on ABM systems and methods to the native record-level lead structure of marketing automation and CRM systems. The companies having success at a people and systems level are those that start with the implementation of a lead management framework and then apply another data layer for addressing the account-based [unit] model.
I recommend marketing and sales teams start with an assessment to determine the viability of such a framework within their own organization before they jump in with both feet. I candidly don’t foresee mass adoption of this new framework due to the level of sophistication needed by demand generation teams. What I love most about it is the opportunity it creates to foster strategic discussions and collaboration between sales and marketing leaders.
Rishi Dave, CMO, Dun & Bradstreet
The biggest implication will be how companies identify the demand units within their prioritized accounts (prioritized through analytics) to target their marketing and sales acceleration efforts. Marketers will need to start with clean, integrated and organized data on the companies they are targeting, the people within those companies and the relationships among those people. This can be accomplished through a master data strategy that combines a company’s first-party data with third party data and then links this to IP addresses, mobile IDs and data in systems like their CRM to target the right activities by demand unit. In fact, the relationships in the buying unit can be determined even before talking to prospects by leveraging analytics to identify potential buying groups. The biggest implication here is that marketers will need to be even more of a driver of their company’s data strategy.
Brandon Redlinger, Director of Growth, Engagio
SiriusDecisions' Demand Unit Waterfall moves the account-based conversation forward in a big way. The idea of shifting from lead-focused to account-based is widely discussed, but the new waterfall gives organizations a model to build on and implement this strategy. They've done a great job at taking a complex idea and making it easy to understand.
SiriusDecisions has always pushed for sales and marketing alignment, but this takes it to the next level. The waterfall no longer delineates what marketing and sales are responsible for—they're both on the hook for pipeline and closed deals! The exclusion of words like 'leads' and 'handoff' will do wonders for speaking the same language, focusing on the same goals and ultimately driving alignment.
I also love the new emphasis on engagement and prioritization within an account. Before someone spends money with you, they first spend time with you. Qualifying at the account level and being able to measure the types of engagement between multiple people over a specific timeframe is much more meaningful than scoring individual leads. At the end of the day, this allows teams to be more effective, sell more and deliver a better customer experience.
The new waterfall clearly illustrates that ABM is not only here to stay, but a foundational part of how B2B companies go to market.
Bonnie Crater, President and CEO, Full Circle Insights
With the introduction of SiriusDecisions’ new Demand Unit Waterfall, here’s how we at Full Circle Insights think marketers will be impacted:
1) Demand Unit instead of leads. The new waterfall tracks a demand unit through the entire funnel. A Demand Unit is a Buying Group + Need + Solution. In Salesforce terms, that’s an opportunity or a deal. Since the concept of an opportunity is being pushed up the funnel, marketing will be more attuned to tracking deals through the funnel.
2) Target Demand becomes second nature to all. Many marketers are good at defining their total available market, target account prospects, building a list and working to develop customers out of that list. The Demand Unit Waterfall emphasizes this planning phase at the very top to ensure success. Successful planning will be agreed up by both the sales and marketing teams and drive alignment.
3) Active Demand phase drives the need for “propensity-to-buy” evaluations and research. Marketers will be more proactive to work to detect buyers and buyer groups earlier in the sales cycle.
4) Marketers are more likely to identify Buying Scouts rather than the Buying Group. Since buyer groups are usually not fully revealed or formed until later in the sales cycle, we believe that marketing is more likely to identify the person assigned to research the purchase for their company. We call that person a Buying Scout.
5) Measuring marketing impact continues to be essential. Measuring activity at target accounts with the Buying Scout and their Buying Group will be a top priority for marketers to improve sales and marketing efficiency. Tracking goals and impact that marketing and sales activities have on the goals will drive better alignment between sales and marketing teams.
Nick Bhavsar, SVP of Marketing, Get Smart Content
When moving to the new SiriusDecisions Waterfall, marketers need to consider the strategy implications of transitioning from driving MQLs to driving Demand Units. It’s no longer about standalone buying personas; the Demand Unit is about understanding and activating groups of personas. Dynamically engaging individual personas of the Demand Unit requires a 360-degree understanding of the firm, the individual, their behavior, and intent at all phases of the new waterfall. Revenue marketers will need to re-evaluate the people, process, data and technology they are using to understand their audience and drive growth, specifically asking if they can predictably scale Demand Units in a repeatable manner.
The other big shift for marketers will be identifying Active Demand. SiriusDecisions highlighted two ways to identify this demand: measuring intent and de-anonymizing website traffic. Marketers will invest resources to identify and understand Active Demand so they can focus marketing resources on the audience that has the highest propensity to engage. Personalized messaging through a multi-channel marketing mix on a select audience has already been the fuel behind the success of ABM—the concept of Active Demand allows this success to scale to the Demand Unit level.
Sean Zinsmeister, VP of Product Marketing, Infer
Each time a new go-to-market model is released I think, “Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.” The new waterfall should give firms a basic hardened foundation in aligning new strategies with the right technologies to improve customer experience. Once these new funnel stages are mapped to your business, you can artfully customize to your domain expertise, workflows and market culture. Remember, while a plethora of vendors is already leveraging the new waterfall in their product marketing to provide a clearer value message—technology should be the last mile for your operations. Focus on process and metrics and less on software to start.
Tracy Eiler, CMO, InsideView
As heavy proponents of sales and marketing alignment, we’re thrilled to see that the new Demand Waterfall no longer isolates distinct sales and marketing actions. Instead, it focuses on the idea of jointly-owned pipeline progression.
Take one glance at the before and after and it’s clear that this new, simplified version breaks down silos and encourages cross-departmental collaboration.
In addition, the added layer of "target demand" is critical. Especially for organizations implementing an account-based approach. What good is it to go after accounts—even in an aligned fashion—if the accounts are right in the first place. The need for Total Addressable Market targeting work is critical, and SiriusDecisions has underscored that for us.
David Crane, Head of Thought Leadership & Marketing Tech Strategy, Integrate
The Demand Unit Waterfall will affect B2B marketing initiatives in two fundamental ways:
1) Marketers will put greater emphasis on streamlining pre-inquiry, top-funnel efforts. The top two layers of the Demand Unit Waterfall—target demand and active demand—are completely new. Marketing frameworks had previously neglected pre-inquiry stages, and this has led to a sort of top-funnel complacency, which in turn has resulted in siloed channels, manual, time-sucking processes, opaque performance measurement and most importantly, overspending on top-funnel media to compensate for these inefficiencies.
The new Waterfall’s up-funnel expansion reflects industry trends and needs for greater top-funnel efficiency. And I expect it’ll result in new martech investments that allow marketing teams to centralize and automate top-funnel efforts to focus on more strategic, down-funnel concerns, such as opportunity creation.
2) Marketing will slowly adopt the demand unit framework. The new waterfall replaces the old lead framework with the more sophisticated concept of demand units. By beginning to broach the complexities of demand units, I’m betting that more marketing organizations will gradually allocate greater resources to identify and engage account buying committees more holistically. And, by optimizing these early demand stages, they’ll find that they get better performance throughout the entire funnel.
This, however, isn’t to say there won’t be problems implementing the demand unit framework. It will require major procedural changes for marketing organizations. The transition from targeting an individual (or even account) to a buying unit made up of disparate individuals with varying needs will require marketers to multiply efforts across a wide combination of individual roles and requirements.
Yet, enough organizations will lead the way by implementing the Demand Unit framework, encouraging a few martech vendors to evolve their capabilities to support these efforts. Adoption of the new framework will spread from there.
Lena Shaw, Director of Marketing & Growth, LeadGenius
The new SiriusDecisions Demand Unit Waterfall reflects the revenue strategy LeadGenius sees taking shape at industry leading revenue teams such as Google, eBay, and Square.
The immediate implication of the Demand Unit Waterfall is that marketing and sales teams need to reevaluate their KPIs, reporting, and workflows. This new framework gives color to the age old conundrum of Marketing-Sales alignment in the contemporary technology landscape. The long term benefit of the Waterfall is that these two departments will emerge from the fog marching in step.
Successful B2B marketers have always built value by identifying unique attributes of their most profitable customer segments earlier in the planning process. This notion aligns with SiriusDecisions’ focus on “Demand Units.” It makes sense. A Total Addressable Market (TAM) isn’t made up of contacts. It isn’t really made up of companies either. B2B audiences can be more effectively broken down into buying units - companies, contacts, orgs, subsidiaries, etc. SiriusDecisions Demand Unit Waterfall should prompt B2B marketers to go back and reevaluate their TAM.
A frequent challenge for B2B marketers is differentiation in a crowded market. Given this challenge, we anticipate more marketers obsessing over what Sirius defines as the “Active Demand” stage. Marketers must move beyond the basic criteria found in an "ideal customer profile" and will be tasked with identifying “why” certain buyer groups have propensity to buy over others.
Using the right data and having a deep understanding of your demand units will drive strategic alignment.
Justin Gray, CEO, LeadMD
The Sirius Waterfall has been the framework by which marketers have designed their sales and marketing processes for years, and therefore a strong case can be made for its irrelevance. In a time where the volume and velocity business model as it pertains to high-ticket enterprise B2B is under attack, and rightly so, this update feels too little too late. In an attempt to salvage the funnel-style waterfall, and perhaps find usefulness for the multitude of printed materials that bear its likeness, the Demand Gen Waterfall has become the Demand Unit Waterfall with modifications so minute it requires a double take.
Now, SiriusDecisions will tell you that there are troves of research underlying this framework and that the graphic is simply a header, but frankly, that’s the point. This outdated graphic is a symbol of yore and with the “quality over quantity” flipped-funnel message gaining so much momentum, they would have been better served to strike the death nail in this antiquated symbol. Change is upon us, and a symbol of change this new waterfall simply isn’t.
Doug Bewsher, CEO, Leadspace
The most crucial impact we’ll see from the Demand Unit is pushing the industry towards an audience-based approach to demand gen—connecting people and accounts to Demand Units, both known and unknown.
By directing B2B marketers to start the whole process of knowing and analyzing their Total Addressable Market, the Demand Unit Waterfall encourages them to approach their marketing through the prism of their entire potential audience, and then drill down to be focused on their activities, rather than more random “spray and pray” approaches.
The Demand Unit approach starts with a knowledge of your audience, which will lead to more targeted, relevant outreach and improved ROI.
Marketers often use “accounts” as a poor proxy for Demand Units, and Buying Centers. However, while that might work for SMBs, when targeting enterprise companies, using ABM is a very blunt tool. More marketers are developing buying center and demand unit approaches, which require a more sophisticated understanding of the people in an account, their personas and how they work together in the purchase process.
Today we see a lot of interest in lead to account matching as step one on this journey; however more and more companies are implementing persona mapping, product to buying center mapping, TAM analysis and Demand Unit reporting as next steps in this evolution.
As a result, we’re likely to see a lot more personalized, targeted and relevant marketing in the B2B industry. That’s a win-win situation for both customers—who’ll be receiving more relevant information and content—and companies—who will inevitably get far greater ROI on their marketing campaigns by speaking to prospects’ real needs.
If this just means that marketers will receive fewer, more relevant, higher value, more focused programs than today, I think it will be a win for everyone.
Tom O'Regan, CEO, Madison Logic
SiriusDecisions’ embrace of “buying groups” affirms what successful B2B marketers have known for some time—that this is not a 1:1 endeavor. Today’s B2B buying decisions often involve more than six individuals with different titles and functions. A single decision may have marketing, IT and finance all involved, so you must reach and convince them all. The new demand waterfall speaks better to the stages of demand. “Target demand” and “active demand” both represent the activity of a prospect before they self-identify.
For many B2B marketers, this expanded view of the cycle is going to require a cultural shift in their day-to-day practice. The traditional waterfall began at the point of an engaged prospect. But to be competitive, we’re going to have to anticipate their needs before they engage. That means not only incorporating intent data, but applying it to explicitly identify what a prospect is researching and when they are researching it. This allows you to supply prospects with messaging and content that resonates most with their current needs. This essentially is nurturing the prospect before you know them.
If B2B marketers have not yet embraced account-based marketing, Sirius’s recognition of these two stages will certainly prime the pump for quick adoption. Implicit in ABM is an understanding of “buying groups.” Moreover, because ABM can be driven by data that recognizes when and what a prospect is researching, and can deliver that message wherever and whenever they are doing that research, I expect that ABM adoption will only increase.
Adrian Chang, Director of Customer Programs, Oracle Marketing Cloud
The SiriusDecisions Demand Unit Waterfall encourages organizations to focus on demand units versus leads to track successful customer acquisition. By introducing the concept of accounts and buying groups earlier in the funnel, this model will impact B2B marketing initiatives in the following ways:
- Data Is Paramount: Processes across marketing, sales/BDR, tele and channel must be able to share, acquire and act on information on the buying center in real-time
- Upping The Ante For Marketing: Marketing must define its impact on revenue generation in terms of pipeline and opportunities with greater discipline. Areas impacted: content creation, nurturing and persona definition.
- Tighter Alignment Across Customer-Facing Functions: Organizations must define and optimize how marketing, sales/BDR and or channel partners can collaborate at every stage
- Measuring Performance And Effectiveness: New initiatives must take into account effectiveness of all of the stakeholders in engaging the buying unit.
Natalie Staines, Director of Marketing, R2integrated
Thinking in terms of demand units rather than individual buyers is potentially a big shift for B2B brands that have followed more traditional sales and marketing models. For organizations that adopt the new demand units waterfall, they will need to understand much more about their market as well as specific accounts and the buying groups within them.
While this waterfall doesn’t displace 1:1 sales relationships or content marketing mapped to a buyer’s journey, it does require a deeper dive into knowing more about a market, an account’s organization chart, their propensity to buy and what the triggers will be within different buying groups. It will help B2B marketers think more in terms of the business problems they solve—rather than the products they sell—and therefore the groups of buyers with different roles and levels of influence.
The changes at the top of the funnel will certainly challenge some traditional B2B mindsets as it relates to lead generation and sourcing attribution, but it will also force the function of more alignment between sales and marketing. And, while SiriusDecisions would not bill this as an ABM waterfall, it should inspire more B2B marketers to think about how to grow existing accounts while also continuing to drive net new demand.
John Hurley, Senior Director of Demand & Content Marketing, Radius
No B2B marketer would deny that they aim for prospects who are most likely to buy.
As intuitive as this may seem, in the past, organizations have been resistant, afraid they’ll miss opportunities if they exclude audiences. But once you realize that marketing to everyone is synonymous with marketing to no one, the challenge becomes sharpening your focus around a refined addressable market to improve engagement, demand and pipeline performance.
This is where the new and improved Demand Unit Waterfall comes into play.
The goal is to divide and prioritize markets into distinct groups with common needs and characteristics, which provides a deeper understanding of both current and potential customers. By addressing a segment of buyers who have common pain points and needs, as well as attributes and buying signals, marketers are able to proactively engage buyers and accounts with the highest propensity to convert.
It’s going from an inclusive mindset to exclusive.
Over the past four years of providing a total addressable market (TAM) analysis as part of Radius’ core offering, we’ve seen how powerful defining your addressable market has been for many B2B marketers. It’s the go-to-market that allows them to scale micro-segmentation, personalization and omnichannel marketing. Take Infusionsoft, for example. At SiriusDecisions Summit this year, they presented how re-architecting their funnel with addressable market at the top led to a 33% decrease in customer acquisition cost.
With the Demand Unit Waterfall, companies will no longer wait for their ideal customers to come inbound, but they will identify them early and engage with them thoughtfully.
Here is a simplified, data-centric way to think about the new framework:
- Fit: How much we like you?
- Intent: Are you in an active buying cycle?
- Behavior: How much you like us?
Doug Winter, CEO, Seismic
The new Demand Gen waterfall will have three major impacts on B2B marketing initiatives for companies that sell to large companies, because that’s where buying committees (or “demand units” as SiriusDecisions refers to them) reign supreme.
First, marketing will stop communicating its benefit to the organization in the language of leads—which is like trying to pay for a calzone in pennies (Seinfeld, anyone?). Instead, it will focus on the initiatives that contribute to getting buying groups aware and interested in purchasing. The metric for their success should be opportunities sourced or influenced.
Hyper-personalized messaging will be at a premium. Are buying groups going to respond better to a blast email from Company A, or the piece of collateral that was clearly created for only them? This content creation explosion will create an incredible burden on a marketing team’s ability to create personalized collateral at scale.
It’s not Us vs. Them—it’s We. The new waterfall reframes the role of marketing within the selling process—one of companion/partner in the selling effort, rather than perched at the top of the funnel and having a single handoff. After all, you’re either building your product, selling it or getting in the way, right? Organizations that think of marketing and sales as a single, integrated effort are better positioned to generate sustained pipeline.
Emily Wingrove, Director of Marketing, Synthio
The new Demand Unit Waterfall urges marketers to better qualify and define their audience before going to market. However, the re-architected waterfall goes far deeper than just an audience definition; it is a breakdown of the market, the account, the buying center, the buying groups and the personas that make it up.
Understanding the specific needs of your demand units will ultimately answer the question of whether or not you have the solution to fit that need. This means that marketers will be able to engage best-fit demand units earlier in the funnel with utmost relevancy. This also means that marketers are going to have to brush up on a few skills that go hand-in-hand with activating the new waterfall.
They will need to become better practitioners of micro-segmentation to accurately separate the demand units and personas that make them up; ultimately, we have to communicate to people, not units, accounts, centers or groups. In order to segment, you have to have the data, therefore, marketers need to get their data unified (with data from sales, customer success, operations, etc.), normalized and cleaned so they can actually use it with confidence. Beyond cleaning and organizing their existing data, it needs to be enriched with as many accurate data points as possible for precise segmentation and increased personalization.
Finally, once they have analyzed their market and accounts that fall into it, they need to identify the actual contacts that make up the buying centers and groups, which may very well mean that they need to look to a data partner to fulfill the acquisition of those necessary contacts. The impact of the Demand Unit Waterfall will largely fall on data and content because without them, the waterfall simply cannot be effectively executed and activated.
John Steinert, CMO, TechTarget
The new Demand Unit Waterfall solves two major problems: 1) the first Demand Waterfall being taken too literally 2) the ongoing gap between marketing and sales. While sales stayed focused on Accounts—companies—for marketing, contacts became “leads” and qualifying these individuals became all consuming. Now, we all know an individual is not very predictive of real demand so it’s no wonder the many false positives from marketing frustrated sales. By the same token, the false negatives, ignored because they didn’t “qualify” in some way, caused quite a bit of real demand to be abandoned.
Now, just like for sales when they’re working a deal, marketing must seek out and engage a dynamic grouping of people—the buying team or “active demand unit.” With the Demand Unit, we now have a coherent concept that we can start with at the very bottom of the waterfall, at closed/won and roll all the way back up to the top without having to change a thing. It’s one shared concept, end-to-end. The idea hangs together seamlessly across both sales and marketing, all the way to product management.
Here’s why that’s big: No matter what role you play in marketing or sales, we will all now care about finding, nurturing and closing the same thing. Strategists can calculate the total available demand units in a target market. Marketers can estimate and target those that are truly active at any given time. Instead of making do with only what’s coming inbound or what they see as leads in their marketing automation, executional marketers will now know to seek out all the real demand they can get their hands on. That’s a burning reason for getting off the hamster wheel of buying low-quality leads that will never pay out and instead start looking for a fuller picture of real demand that can now be found in quality third-party data.
When marketing can finally explain what’s really happening in the funnel, what demand units need aggressive attention now, sales will believe and act accordingly.
Sangram Vajre, Co-Founder and CMO, Terminus
The updated Demand Unit Waterfall model is clearly supporting the case for account-based marketing without saying "ABM.” By calling it a “Demand Unit,” the SiriusDecisions team is putting B2B marketing and sales teams into one bucket. ABM supports this alignment because one “smarketing” team is laser-focused on a best-fit set of accounts your company wants as customers.
It’s no longer about what marketing did, or what sales did, but what they did as a team. Think about it: almost every B2B company has “sales & marketing” as one line item on its P&L statement. If sales is measured by only one metric, revenue performance, then marketing should be as well.
Your whole company needs to get aligned on the only metric that matters: revenue. And revenue doesn’t come from lead generation, it follows a process that’s much more similar to the Demand Unit waterfall.
Neil Passero, Chief Customer Officer, The Big Willow
Few recent ideas have received as much attention as the new SiriusDecisions Demand Unit Waterfall.
From where we sit, it appears that a key connection has been missed. Most folks have not connected the dots:
Intent Monitoring—what Bombora and The Big Willow do—is at the core of the new SiriusDecisions thinking.
Commvault's 2016 SiriusDecisions ROI award set the Buyer Intent Marketing trend in motion. Early adopters have proven the value of intent—better conversions, more opportunities, faster closes, higher ASPs. This has not escaped the analysts.
Behavioral intent data observed about "buyers in the wild" simplifies decision-making and action-taking by determining (vs. predicting) who is interested in what you offer.
But is not just about the intent data, it's also about services and effective application across the client's pipeline of the intelligence in the data.
So, it’s no surprise that few folks have practical or proactive things to say right now about the new SiriusDecisions waterfall.
So few have even seen intent data, and even fewer used it to proactively determine their active demand (a.k.a. your "Total Interested Market") and find opportunities that are not in CRM/MAP (aka "unknown Demand Units").
But in 2017-18, smart marketers gain strategic ground via Buyer Intent Marketing.
Suzanne Martin, CMO, The MX Group
Better targeting. Better insight. Better engagement. This marketing triple play forms the new foundation for the re-architected SiriusDecisions Demand Unit Waterfall, giving it more predictive power than ever before.
Better targeting. The increased role of market segmentation and persona profiles guide marketing planning to get the right prospects into the waterfall. This strategic approach to ensuring focus on the best prospects has already been important in marketing strategy however the need for it today is more important than ever to ensure proper engagement throughout the journey. Sales and marketing alignment begins here and it's great the new waterfall plays up the importance of this functional partnership more than ever.
Better insight. Knowing a buyer's intent is critical to explain why buyers behave as they do. Previously it had been quite difficult to understand the inner drivers for external behaviors. This is where technology is helping today's marketer and the new waterfall takes this new capability into account. The tech is far from mature however, so some caution must be applied in execution as it develops.
Better engagement. Well applied segmentation, personas, behavioral and intent data will culminate in better engagement throughout the buyer’s journey. For the marketer, this will mean making better choices for the marketing mix and knowing what the sales team really needs in later stages of the sale. The new demand funnel increases Marketing's role further into the funnel. Again, reinforcing the need for a strong partnership between marketing and sales.
Probably the best news about the new funnel is that both Sales and Marketing share responsibility for an effective experience for the buyer from the beginning and throughout the entire journey. What processes, tools and metrics will be exactly required to operationalize this new approach to the funnel remains to be fleshed out fully.
One thing is for sure: marketing strategy will remain the most important driver of success, and marketing technology will remain the tool not the grail in the hands of the still very human modern marketer.
Jeff Pedowitz, President and CEO, The Pedowitz Group
I think SiriusDecisions deserves credit for addressing something that the market has known for some time—that there is more than one buyer in most B2B organizations and the concept of the buying center needs to be formally addressed. However, there are several challenges with the new model that they presented. First, just like the first model—labeling stages and assigning definitions to them does not work for every company. In fact, very few companies implement models verbatim—rather, they customize it to their unique needs. Some companies have four stages; others have eight; some have multiple models. Given that, how can you really benchmark true conversion when companies use different approaches and have different definitions? Second, the names chosen for the new Demand Unit waterfall are very confusing. What is the difference between Active and Engaged? Shouldn’t Prioritized and Qualified be equivalent? Third, the concept of the funnel should be retired anyway.
We believe that the funnel should be converted into an infinity loop. Companies should develop metrics, content, marketing and sales approaches that align with each stage of the lifecycle. Further, companies should develop and benchmark metrics and best practices for every critical point of the customer experience. Marketing should rebuild programs and campaigns to reflect a customer-centric point of view. Reports and dashboards should reflect performance over the customer lifecycle, not just the sales pipeline.
The new Sirius Waterfall is the biggest change to the demand funnel since the first waterfall was created a decade ago. Most demand marketers will switch from a lead to demand unit waterfall in a few years. Why?
- The new metric, demand unit, acknowledges that businesses purchase in groups, not individual leads. If you weren’t thinking about account-based demand, you are now.
- The new Waterfall starts with target demand, which requires marketers to focus marketing spend on buyers that will maximize revenue instead of leads.
- Nobody wants to submit their email anymore, and until recently, demand marketers didn’t have good answers. That’s one reason why landing page bounce rates with email forms are now over 80%.
Now, with a new stage, active demand, Sirius has suggested an alternative way. Buyers are constantly signaling purchase interest anonymously prior to opt in via email. Instead of trying to capture email through landing pages, marketers can now identify accounts from anonymous visits and dynamically trigger relevant campaigns through account-based advertising, web personalization and orchestrated sales plays.
Tyler Lessard, VP of Marketing, Vidyard
The new Sirius Decisions Demand Unit Waterfall will be a forcing function to get marketing and sales teams better aligned and working as a collective to engage buying teams, rather than as fragmented stand-alone business units. In today’s B2B environment, it’s so difficult to cut through the noise and to stand out as a vendor. It takes an orchestrated approach by marketing and sales to get the attention of targeted accounts, engage them in a meaningful conversation and demonstrate the level of value that is now required to move deals forward. Marketers need sales teams to help penetrate an account, sales teams need marketers to engage their prospects in a meaningful way, and both teams need to be measured by pipeline and revenue to ensure the funnel flows fast and furious. This is a great wake-up call to get us out of the mindset of "marketing = top of funnel" and "sales = bottom of the funnel,”, and to recognize that both teams have responsibility throughout every stage of the buying journey.
Carlos Hidalgo, CEO, VisumCX
I can get onboard with assessing your market in the “Target Demand Stage.” However, where things begin to unravel is at the “Active Demand Stage.” Sirius defines this stage as, “showing evidence of acute need or buying intention.”
If we assume this definition, we disregard any self-guided buying the persons in the buying group have done and it is likely that the first signal or “evidence” that a marketer will receive is once the buyer is well down their purchase path, meaning late to the game.
I appreciate Sirius taking individuals within accounts as potential first engagers. However, what they seem to miss in their model is that not all members of a buying group (still cannot bring myself to use the awkward term Demand Unit), will equally participate in the buying process.
C-suite execs will often initiate a purchase and then delegate to their teams only to reemerge at demo and sign off. Given this dynamic, organizations need to be sure they understand the roles of the individual within each buying group and where to place the emphasis on behavioral interaction.
I appreciate the work that SiriusDecisions has done to feed the B2B marketing and sales world but am afraid there is a lot lacking in this 3.0 version of the Waterfall.
Mark Ogne, CMO, ZenIQ
With billions of dollars spent each year on B2B marketing technologies, it's amazing to recognize the gigantic leap forward the SiriusDecisions team instigated this month. For too long, marketers have been held hostage to vanity metrics that focus on volume over quality, value or accuracy of leads. Today, we can start a serious conversation (no pun intended) about how to shift marketing from the doldrums of a cost center to the pinnacle of revenue impact.
The missing part of the success equation is that all leads and all engagement are simply not created equal. People who can influence or make purchase decisions are literally the only ones who matter. SiriusDecisions calls this the Demand Unit, CEB identifies it as the Buying Group, and at ZenIQ we call it the Buying Center. Regardless of what you call it, this is the lens that marketers need to use to analyze their account-based strategies: 1) identify who you know and don't know at your target accounts, 2) evaluate the accuracy of campaign targeting, and 3) gauge success of marketing touches. Are you gathering engagement with buyers?
This buyer-centric view of account-based strategies is the single most important step in solving many of the core issues marketers struggle with today:
- Sales and marketing alignment—marketers need to impact buyers with the same veracity that salespeople apply to influence these people in the sales cycle.
- Revenue impact—econometrics and attribution models are a poor substitute for the sheer facts of buyer identification, engagement and qualification.
- A "seat at the table"—a CEO understands a sale because it required the sales team to influence the person who signed the agreement. Marketers need to apply the same rationale to gain, and keep, their "seat at the table.”
What are your thoughts on the new Demand Unit Waterfall? Share your thoughts and comments in the comment section below!
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