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It’s Time to Rethink the Demand Generation Waterfall

Posted May 6, 2021
Demand Gen Funnel

Thought leaders are beginning to rethink the demand generation waterfall for B2B. We think this is a good thing!


The original demand generation waterfall was innovative for its time, but it has some drawbacks, particularly for B2B businesses. It was ideal for one-on-one sales with individual decision-makers, and companies had to figure out how to navigate system setup to handle non-linear sales or repeat sales.


Thinking about the sales funnel


Larger B2B sales decisions are typically made through committee. Multiple people at an account need to be sold on a solution, and sometimes this happens without sales ever having a conversation with key stakeholders. Cross-selling and renewals are major focal points, and it’s not uncommon for sales to start and stop several times before closing.

This doesn’t exactly fit the Plinko-like downward trajectory of the demand generation waterfall!


What Should The Waterfall Look Like?

When it comes to selling, I don’t see us ever moving away from person-level measurements.

It’s critical to hook and sell the initial contact and then attract additional contacts at that same account to build momentum with your committee. There is value in measuring engagement, intent, and fit at the individual level.

What’s missing today is the account-centric rhythm that has to take place once the initial contact has engaged.


Thinking Through Triggers

Ideally, an account threshold is used to pass interested accounts over to sales. The account engagement score should include:

  • Contact engagement (web visits, content downloads, blog views, form fills, event attendance, etc.)
  • Intent
  • Fit (demographic/firmographic)


That said, I don’t know many salespeople who wouldn’t want to be alerted the minute a good target fills out a form even if the full buyer committee isn’t engaged. As a marketer, I don’t want them to turn down face time with a solid prospect.


So how do you strike a balance?

  • Define a threshold for individual lead elevation & pass a qualified lead.
  • Define a threshold for account elevation & pass as a qualified account.
  • Passively assign attribution in the background.
  • Keep the sales process as-is.


Account cycle


Continue to Measure Contact Level Progression

The Demand Generation Waterfall isn’t bad. It’s not even really broken. It just doesn’t do enough.

There’s no doubt in my mind that we need to continue to give sales visibility into who is engaging with which channels as they engage. Form fill notifications and high intent signals are still worthy of flagging to sales.

Our systems must be set up to recycle people who fall off of the buyer’s journey and navigate renewal and expansion sales engagements.


Contact status management


Demand Generation tracking on the lead and contact level should be a combination of campaign member capture and status updates. The status updates are intended to both serve as a flag to sales that someone is engaged and let them indicate where they are in their process.

For your organization, this may look like having a different subset of statuses for existing customers and recycle categories for people who fail to move forward in either the prospect or customer upsell cycles.


Store Campaign Activity at the Contact/Lead and Account Level

In order to aggregate engagement scores, activities and campaign members should also be aggregated at the account level. The good news is that this happens by default for tasks. The good news is also that this is as simple as adding a lookup field on your campaign member record that’s updated by a flow.


Account campaign management


The difficult piece of this effort is always lead to account matching. Many tools, including CaliberMind, do this for you, or you can attempt to build your own logic.


Aggregate Scoring at the Account Level

Engagement scoring at the account level is key. Ideally, you should be able to aggregate intent, engagement, and factor in an ICP score.

At CaliberMind, we apply a time decay to activities when we score them. The further we get out from a flurry of engagement activity, the lower the score drops. We have seen that the phrase “time kills all deals” has a lot of truth to it.

By leveraging a tool that can consider all activity across an account (including leads), you can create a flag that raises for the sales team whenever a number of people are engaged on any one account.

For more on the marketing-qualified account, check out our 2020 guide here.


The Demand Gen Engine in Action

While I’ve been describing the pieces that go into a demand generation engine, you’re probably panicking a little.


Demand gen engine


It’s not as bad as it sounds, we promise.


Chances are good that you’re already benchmarking your lead and contact activity against the Demand Generation Waterfall. The only items you’ll need to change here are adding a recycling function and adding customer stages to accommodate renewals and cross-selling.


Account engagement stages


Account scoring is only as difficult as your system is messy. Finding a tool like Calibermind to deduplicate records and associate leads with accounts will go a long way in any scoring model. We also build these scoring (and attribution) models for our customers so they don’t have to think about things like time decay rates.


Finally, you should put an attribution tool in place that passively collects campaign information about your account.


What the sales person sees


When done correctly, your sales team doesn’t have to worry about picking a campaign to “give credit” for a sale or change their sales process. As far as they’re concerned, they are alerted as usual when a contact grows hot. They’re also alerted when multiple people are engaged at a company (bonus!). They can conduct their salesforce upkeep as usual. In the meantime, your reporting platform is collecting and attributing dollars in the background.

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