Modern marketing has evolved beyond just demand generation and filling the funnel. The methodologies that support this need to acknowledge that customer experience, lifetime value and customer retention are as essential, if not more so, than demand generation. The way in which we measure and record success also needs to reflect this new reality.
The SiriusDecisions Waterfall is slowly catching up to the best in practice methodologies of today, with more of an emphasis on Decision Making Units and Account Based Marketing over just lead generation and management. However, this is not enough, and organisations must configure their funnel to align with their business goals. This is essential to Sales and Marketing alignment, as well as proving the value of Marketing to the wider business.
Organisations need to coin their own terms and create and validate their own processes. This may mean that the ‘single pursuit of filling the funnel’ that the Sirius model promotes is not right for your business. You need a configured funnel with processes and language that is relevant to your business goals and vertical. Read on to find out more.
The SiriusDecisions Waterfall
The ways in which we market our products and services is constantly adapting as buyer behaviour changes and new technologies alter how we think and approach our work. Customer retention is now by far the most important revenue stream, yielding far greater successes than those found in customer acquisition. In fact, on average, to replace one lost customer, organisations need to find a staggering 30 new ones.
This makes clear the importance of Sales and Marketing alignment, and indeed Sales, Marketing and Customer Service alignment. However, alignment isn’t just about process, but about technology and team integration, with data passing seamlessly between all departments in order to create a holistic view of the customer. Demand Generation models are useful in ensuring this works because they better align Sales and Marketing to the same goals, and in doing so encourage cooperation, as well as signpost accountability.
This is where the SiriusDecisions Waterfall model comes in. Launched in 2002, first revised in 2012, and last revised in 2017, the SiriusDecisions Waterfall has long been an integral part of the methodology surrounding the demand generation process.
SiriusDecisions were a sales oriented consultancy with little understanding of the role of marketing in general, and especially that role outside of high growth tech businesses.
The first major revision, the 2012 ‘Rearchitected Waterfall’, was built around this assumption that the whole reason for marketing (and junior sales) existing is purely for lead generation and filling the funnel. This aligned with SiriusDecisions' wider thinking, which did indeed see marketing as all about lead generation, and while this is a major role of marketing and helps with top line revenue growth, there are more subtle requirements of marketing too. Innovation, Customer stickiness and satisfaction, are just three of these. In fact, at an early Sirius conference they were advocating web to CRM as a fundamental integration, not realising technologies such as Marketing Automation even existed. So naturally their views of the role of marketing were a little limited too.
There is also the issue that there are on average 5 people in a decision-making unit, each with their own needs and requisite experiences, ultimately requiring a sophisticated set of varied customer journeys. Marketing and Sales are very rarely – if at all – selling to just one person in an organisation, and this model didn’t reflect that.
The 2012 model was static, built around set stages and simple but standard definitions. MQL’s, SAL’s (and all the other three-letter acronyms) are only really suited to high growth lead generation environments, ones again where the entire Marketing and Sales departments revolve solely around lead generation, much like Sirius themselves. However, most businesses are more transactional and so this subtler model is needed. Sales and Marketing alignment was also difficult under this methodology simply because they weren’t speaking the same language, and the number of acronyms verged on the unnecessary.
The Shift from MQL's to MQA's
From Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL’s) to Marketing Qualified Accounts (MQA’s)
The 2017 revision moved the model away from looking at individuals as leads to adopting a more subtle approach – Marketing Qualified Accounts. The Marketing Qualified Account (MQA) dictates that marketers work on specific groups of prospects belonging to target organisations, rather than individuals.
Marketing Qualified Accounts work in conjunction with Decision Making Units (DMU) and Account Based Marketing (ABM). DMU’s and ABM are marketing principles that have been around for years, but they work simply because they are a reflection of how business is often done. This kind of marketing isn’t just about the volume of leads, but the depth of the engagement at the decision-making level, or in the case of ABM it is about targeted focus and relevancy, and not the volume of transactional leads.
We think that organisations often have / need a different focus or priority depending on their vertical. For example, some businesses focus on customer experience over lead generation, which might lead to a different format through which to record marketing’s value and revenue metrics than if they were just purely filling the funnel. Or, in another case, the priority might be solely existing clients, with the aim being to ‘land and expand’ in these accounts, again rather than filling the funnel with net new.
Create your own Configurable Funnel
The updated 2017 waterfall better reflects the good Marketing and Sales processes we see today, and we welcome the fact that SiriusDecisions have now caught up with the best in practice methodologies. However, it’s still lacking due to a rigid and clunky structure. The ‘Demand Unit Waterfall’ struggles to acknowledge that the model needs to be made relevant to each business use case, that is, made into a configurable funnel.
Organisations need to coin their own terms and create and validate their own processes. This may mean that the ‘single pursuit of filling the funnel’ that the Sirius model promotes is not right for your business. You need a configured funnel with processes and language that are relevant to your business goals and vertical. It could be again that your configurable funnel is based on nurturing and engaging existing clients, rather than just generating more and more leads.
Connect your martech to your configurable funnel
Sales and Marketing can no longer exist in siloes, especially when considering the volume of data the departments have to deal with, and it is the technology that drives them together, not just process. Organisations need a fully configurable funnel, with strong integration to the technology. The Martech Spine is a great example of the way in which strategy can integrate with technology because it prioritises the technology according to its business use, and doesn’t encourage organisations to just buy new tech, but instead to ensure that the tech bought works well together according to your organisation’s specific processes. To find out more about the spine, download our full methodology here.
A configured funnel in action: Funnel dashboarding
Dashboarding and reporting tools such as Tableau provide Marketing (and Sales) with the ability to map a variety of engagements all in one place, from opportunity management to engagement by account.
Funnel overview dashboards in particular allow you to understand how contacts are progressing through the Marketing and Sales journey on their way to becoming customers. This can be a strategic, high level overview of the entire process, or campaign specific, enabling you to better understand the success of your marketing operations campaign by campaign, and discover areas for improvement.
Funnel dashboards, when successfully implemented into your marketing playback and reporting strategy, allow you to:
- Show how many leads Marketing pass and contribute to Sales
- Demonstrate how Marketing have enabled Sales to better action and convert leads into revenue
- Drive efficiencies in the entire Marketing and Sales process, and spot opportunities for improvements
- Understand how much demand you need to create for Sales to ensure the business hits revenue targets
This kind of reporting is fully configurable, providing a comprehensive picture of your unique Marketing and Sales funnel, whether that be defined by opportunity engagement as a whole, or dialled into specific accounts and campaigns. They can also be filtered effectively based on a myriad of different conditions, from time period and demographic to company and funnel stage. These dashboards can be fully tailored to your organisation’s language and process, providing you with a comprehensive picture of your Marketing and Sales successes.
This really all comes down to the need to create a well-integrated set of technologies, defined clearly by business use, and built around a strategy and methodology tailored specifically to your organisation. Marketers don’t need to blindly follow the SiriusDecisions Waterfall. Instead, take it as a template from which to adapt into a model that works for your business and your vertical, one that can then be applied to your tech strategy, built around technology that has been chosen for specific use cases and prioritised and integrated into a Spine™.
External Consultancies, such as Clevertouch, effectively bridge the gaps between method, process and your technology, providing the technical knowhow to make your business model operate from a practical standpoint. An external consultancy operates through a mix of marketing technology professionals and expert consultants in data, marketing and technical architecture, enabling you with the strategy required for success, and the technical delivery expertise required to make that success happen.
External Consultancies can take a model such as the SiriusDecisions Waterfall and work out how it best fits your specific organisation and processes, and then build a technology infrastructure for success.
Download our ‘Marketing Return on Investment Report 2021’ here to gain further insight into market trends surrounding marketing value, and the journey towards proving it.
About the Author
Adam has over 30 years experience working in Fortune 500 organisations including IBM and Iron Mountain. He has a degree in Applied Psychology from Cardiff, an MBA from Southampton, and is a Fellow of the IDM. Adam currently works as CEO of Clevertouch, Europe’s leading marketing technology consultancy.