HomeBlog "We Knew It Wasn't About Leads Anymore": The Inside Story of the New SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall

"We Knew It Wasn't About Leads Anymore": The Inside Story of the New SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall

June 28, 2017 | By Jessica Lillian

  • The SiriusDecisions Demand Unit Waterfall offers a new way of tracking demand and thinking about buyers
  • The analysts behind the creation of the new Demand Waterfall provide an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how it was created
  • Any b-to-b organization can benefit from taking steps to identify its target addressable market, even if it’s not ready to implement the entire Demand Unit Waterfall  

On the Summit 2017 main stage in Las Vegas, Kerry Cunningham and Terry Flaherty recently unveiled the long-awaited new addition to the SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall® family.

The SiriusDecisions Demand Unit Waterfall™ represents a new way of thinking about demand and defining the buyers that make up that demand. The revolutionary model has already garnered considerable press – more than 40 interviews, articles and podcasts so far – and Terry and Kerry’s phones have been ringing off the hook as clients begin exploring implementation.

How did the new Demand Waterfall come about? How do you know if you should be using it? I recently spoke with its creators to get a behind-the-scenes look.

What sparked the initial idea for the Demand Unit Waterfall, and how long ago has it been in the works?

Kerry: The process started well over a year ago. In our Demand Creation Strategies service, we’d been talking about the need for a Demand Waterfall that incorporates predictive analytics and account-based marketing (ABM). It took us a fair amount of time to finalize the individual pieces, but the main components of what we presented on stage at Summit have actually been in place for about a year.

Terry: There was one trigger that crystallized everything for me. One Saturday, I was reading a book called The Gene: An Intimate History, which discusses the history and future of genetics. The book was talking about the building blocks of genes – RNA, DNA and chromosomes. So I started wondering, what are the building blocks of demand? For demand to exist, there has to be a buyer, a business pain and a solution.

That idea stuck with me, and I started playing with it. Is the unit of demand like a cell of life? We started looking at different analogies, like atomic structure. The concept of these building blocks led to demand units, which formed the core of our story. We had pretty much the whole story established in about a month, and the next 11 months were for refinement and getting everyone on board.

As you were creating this research and collaborating with other team members, how did it evolve?

Kerry: One thing that’s worked really well during this whole process is that we’ve been able to improve on each other’s ideas. Early on, after a conference on predictive analytics, I was talking with Monica Behncke, who said we may need a predictive Demand Waterfall. We decided we didn’t need a predictive Demand Waterfall, but we did need something that incorporates predictive-sourced demand and account-centric demand.

We knew we needed to be able to source and prioritize accounts at the top of the Demand Waterfall. But if we’re doing that, then the whole waterfall needs to change, because we had inquiries there – and that just doesn’t make much sense anymore. Terry’s early slides with his DNA and cell analogies were a huge catalyst. We knew that it wasn’t leads anymore. It wasn’t just predictive leads, and it wasn’t accounts.

What has the response from clients been so far?

Kerry: One thing we are always concerned about is producing research that our clients can take and operationalize right away. But making such a big shift in the Demand Waterfall is something that many of our clients won’t be able to do on day one – there are many things they will have to do first, in many cases.

An overwhelming majority of clients understand that using the Demand Unit Waterfall is the right thing to do, but to implement it you first have to identify your target addressable market. Even if you don’t go any further and just stop at getting a good count of your addressable market, that in itself is beneficial. Each step toward implementing the Demand Unit Waterfall will make you a more aligned organization.

How can an organization tell if it’s time to implement the Demand Unit Waterfall?

Terry: There are a few signs: If you’re using account-based marketing already, then you probably want to consider it. And if you have a lot of people in the same company or buying group responding to your outreach, then your current Demand Waterfall might not be giving you enough visibility. Another sign: If you’re selling into existing customers, then the Demand Unit Waterfall – and the demand mapping exercises – will give you a lot more visibility.

Kerry: If marketing and sales are always in conflict about leads vs. opportunities, that’s a fundamental issue that should merit looking at the Demand Unit Waterfall.

Anything else we should know about this exciting new model?

Terry: You clearly can’t change the SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall on a whim – it’s been thoroughly poked and prodded and beat and argued and cried over. We had many, many conversations internally, and it was a great collaborative effort between the demand creation analyst team and sales analyst team.

During our opening at Summit, we had Mark Levinson and Jen Horton in the audience playing a part in our presentation. We wanted to draw attention to how sales can often be skeptical of the value of a Demand Waterfall to start but satisfied by the end.

The model also doesn’t have an org chart or show where leads are sourced – people have picked up on that and noticed that the message we are giving is that marketing and sales are working together. It’s designed to drive alignment. 

Ready to learn more? Check out Kerry and Terry's recent webcast all about the Demand Unit Waterfall! 

Jessica Lillian

Jessica F. Lillian is a senior editor at SiriusDecisions and has more than seven years of b-to-b editorial experience, including five years as the editor of national b-to-b magazines. Follow Jessica on Twitter @jessica_lillian

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