4 Ways To Thrive as the Waterfall Evolves

As a B2B marketing leader, you see firsthand how the demand-gen business is evolving, with new buying-process influencers, new buying triggers and, perhaps most important to you, new strategies required to succeed.

The challenge we face in keeping pace explains the buzz around the new Demand Unit Waterfall model from SiriusDecisions. The point of this blog isn’t to weigh in on the model itself (there’s loads of good insight on that already) but, instead, to share Activate’s view on how demand marketers can respond to these changes—in a broad sense and within the model more narrowly—to drive demand-gen outcomes.

We recommend four strategies that are consistent with practices that work for our clients already; however, these practices must evolve with the model itself.

1. Round out your persona roster with new influencers
In conversations with clients, I’ve been explaining the Demand Unit as a team of influencers or buying team members, including those who may become buyers of your products or services but have not yet engaged with your brand. Think of this unit as your target “audience” to serve with optimized content and messages relevant to their influence and buying stage.

Personas are a staple of demand marketing, the tool to codify buyers’ priorities and then market based on those priorities. While we’ve been working with customers for years to build personas and put them into action, their importance must be re-emphasized now that a new class of influencers has been officially “added” to a key model of the buying process.

At a practical level, plan for more research, and at least a little more time and money to document these new influencers and communicate with them for the first time. Talk to your sales team, your customers and independent market experts to identify and understand key players in the Demand Unit for your products/services and how best to communicate. Your persona work will lay the foundation for success.

2. Expand your breadth of content to engage new influencers
The logical follow-on to an expanded set of buyer personas is a content inventory that will ensure content assets and messaging speak to the new titles or roles with influence in the purchase process.

Like personas, content inventories are core to demand-gen strategy. What’s new is the need to have content—strategy, topics, messages, assets—for individuals whom you didn’t previously target. Expect to launch new content that may well reach outside your marketing team’s area of expertise. This likely implies additional resources for planning and documentation (as well as development) which, in turn, may require juggling your budget to re-allocate resources to content.

Consider the downsides to gaps in your content inventory. If you lack financial buyer-focused, top-of-funnel messages and the financial buyer is a key player in the buying decision, you can’t compete—especially if your competitors have those budget-focused messages.

3. Set and enforce priorities for follow-up by sales
Establish rules for following up with the correct action for each name captured. If an individual accepts two assets and you understand their use case, turn that name over to sales for rapid follow-up. Alternatively, if customers can’t articulate their use case, they’re not at the bottom of the funnel and not ready for follow-up from sales; in that case, consider more appropriate steps including additional nurturing. Accurately determining the next right action will hinge on the ability to understand where the buyer or prospect is in the funnel, why they are engaged and what’s driving them.

It’s important to note that broad intent/propensity data (example: “this account is in market”) doesn’t tell you or your sales team what’s motivating a Demand Unit participant. Demand-gen campaigns must uncover pain points, deliver content that aligns closely with those pain points, and help marketers understand the motivations of buyers in order to deliver the highest quality names to sales.

4. Build and execute programs that reflect the waterfall’s evolution
We strongly believe the days of narrow, single-buyer-targeted programs are numbered, being replaced by more comprehensive programs that fill the funnel with names at various points in the buying process, thereby creating a steady flow of near-term revenue and future pipeline.

The Demand Unit concept is new enough that our customers can seize competitive advantage by moving quickly—without radically altering their strategy or budget.

We think there is a case for engaging partners with a track record of building such programs, but you should first decide if you can deliver one or two types of names while engaging third parties to deliver a more full funnel.

Let us know if we can help when it comes to advising or carrying out a cutting-edge demand-gen program that draws in the latest members of the buying team.

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Edward Grossman

Edward Grossman is Co-founder and CEO of Activate. Ed’s background includes media, digital and editorial experience. Most recently Ed was the President of Business Technology Media at UBM Tech, where he was responsible for market-leading content brands such as InformationWeek. Ed has held positions at Ziff Davis, ZDNet, internet.com, Jupiterimages and The ACM.