Contributor John Steinert explains how SiriusDecisions’ Demand Unit Waterfall serves as a wake-up call for marketers who are looking to find real, active demand in their markets and rapidly funnel it to sales.
I love B2B marketing. I came for the diversity of challenges. And I’ve stayed for the continuous change. Throughout, I remain acutely aware of the balancing act that’s part and parcel of life in this job. We practice in the space between the scientists who create great products and the warriors who help sell them. We weigh strategic vision against tactical reality.
Last month, I wrote about the potential unifying power of SiriusDecisions’ Demand Unit Waterfall as a strategic concept — bringing all the constituencies in this value chain together around a common understanding of the market and the activity occurring in it. This month, I’m diving deeper into one particular part of our reality: the area where field marketing and sales connect.
I want to share what I think is the fastest, simplest way to add real value to our businesses right now — how marketers can find more of the real, active demand in their markets and funnel that more quickly to sales.
Begin with a diet of humble pie
To be clear, by suggesting we eat some humble pie, I’m not saying we’ve got anything to apologize for. What I mean is, at all times, we need to stay focused on the real goals: adding value to the business and growing faster than the market.
We need to approach our work with a clear understanding that no matter how good we are at what we do, the world’s simply too big and moving too fast for us to get everything right. To have any hope of succeeding relative to our competition (and certainly in the eyes of our diverse constituencies), we need to be super-clear and aligned on what matters most.
To achieve this level of clear-sightedness, we need to be hyper-aware of what’s going on around us. Specifically, we must be honest with ourselves about how long it will take us to reach our objectives if we stay focused on our current course and speed.
We must constantly be asking ourselves: Could there be a faster way to value? Are the workstreams I’m focusing on the only ones that can deliver?
The Demand Unit Waterfall: A major reality check
While some pundits in the industry are choosing to take a contrarian tone, I think SiriusDecisions has delivered an important wake-up call. By recodifying the waterfall, they’re forcing us to take a look in the mirror and ask ourselves some questions: Are we thinking clearly about all this? Are we being realistic about our own capabilities and impact? In our endless search for more efficiency, is our current approach working? Is it capturing enough of the available demand? Is it delivering enough of that to our closers?
Demand Unit Waterfall Stage 1: Target demand
For each of us, there really is a total addressable market (TAM). There is only a finite (and eminently calculable) number of companies out there who might ever buy our stuff — the sum of all companies that map to our Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs).
Furthermore, within the ICPs there is a finite number of potential demand units. Once we admit this, we can begin truly focusing on targeted marketing and sales activities. To me, that’s the first step to changing a culture from one that chases any response or any business into one that pursues the right business for the company. Calculate your TAM and the total demand units you can expect it to contain.
Demand Unit Waterfall Stage 2: Active demand
This part’s a bit subtler: At any given point in time, only a relatively small part of the whole TAM — a combination of new and replacement demand — is actually in market. It’s a fact! There are only so many active demand units available — you can call them prospects, leads, opportunities, whatever is easiest — at any given time.
As marketers and sellers, our job is to find and engage them with our value propositions. So, look at your marketing and sales strategies and ask yourself the following:
- How much active demand is there in my market?
- How does this compare to what I can see coming inbound to my website and in the activity in my outbound MAP, tele and field activity? For practically 100 percent of us, these numbers are very different! This is what I call our Available Demand Gap (ADG). It’s a brutally honest measure of how we’re really doing compared to everyone else.
- What can we do about it?
Closing your ADG
You’ve established your ADG. Now it’s time to get real and work hard to close the gap.
Closing your ADG is hard work. It takes time and focus. But there are two pieces of good news that should help you and your constituencies work this through:
- When companies make the commitment to use marketing strategically, they accelerate past their competition.
- While you’re evolving your strategy, you can leverage some key opportunities to catch up in parallel (see more on this below).
Step 1 — Finding more available demand.
Before you can engage real active demand, you need to be able to see it. That means you have to do more than buy lists — lists don’t show activity. And even “leads” only show activity for the contacts you’ve successfully engaged — you still know nothing about other prospects who round out the demand unit.
Predictive modeling can help, but it takes time to work, and it can’t predict where demand activity is happening right now.
You’ll want to identify where this activity is likely to be taking place and then figure out ways to access it. If you have a good handle on the search terms that lead to solutions like yours, that’s a perfect place to start.
Do an analysis of Google results on a set of terms to see what sites they lead to. Look for first-page results from properties you might be able to do business with through advertising, syndication or data-based relationships.
Step 2 — Look for new shortcuts
While marketing is working on filling the funnel, sales is out there prospecting on its own. In fact, at many B2B companies, 75 percent or more of all prospecting activity is executed by sales. By shifting some of your attention to supporting their efforts, there’s a good chance you can add more direct value to your business right now.
Part of this involves injecting an ABM strategy into what you’re doing. But there may also be offerings available in your market that can deliver value faster. New service providers are doing a better job than ever of off-loading the effort involved in active, late-stage demand identification. (Full disclosure: TechTarget, my employer, offers this type of service for B2B tech.) If you can find and act on this information from a reputable supplier, you can begin feeding your salespeople active deals.
Step 3 — Influence more of the available demand
Once you can see more of the total active demand, you need to figure out how to influence it in your favor. This takes time, effort and money. CEB has shown how Cisco has leveraged social media in this process. More recently, some web properties have begun offering extremely rich data about their audiences’ current content consumption patterns.
If you can find a provider who covers your audience well, there’s a good chance they can also help you understand the targeting, messages and content types to use to increase your consideration rates with them.
Step 4 — Engage more of the available demand
With their latest waterfall, SiriusDecisions has codified the Demand Unit as marketers’ and sellers’ correct object of pursuit. They’ve pointed out that a single “lead” is not enough to truly qualify one demand signal — one lead or account — over any other. They note that to truly optimize your efforts, you need to understand the intensity of the demand — the urgency and scale of need — because only then can you know where to focus your resources right now.
To address this, you’ll want to consider new third-party data offerings in the “intent” category. Beyond leads that you can already see, and beyond look-alike propensity models derived from predictive analytics modeling, real purchase intent insight can show you the intensity of signals in a given account. And the best offerings out there can identify active and permissioned prospects by name that aren’t yet in your funnel. What’s more, they can even tell you what those prospects are consuming so you know what you’ll need to do to attract them to you.
Use the steps above as a starting point, and work from there — and you should be well on your way to force-feeding your marketing funnel.
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