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We’ve talked a lot about the Sirius Decision’s Demand Unit Waterfall over the past few months as we’ve rolled out our Mobius Platform and we still receive some blank stares as we talk about this concept. So, let’s try and simplify this concept by comparing it to something we’ve all gone through – planning a vacation (or in this case, a family ski trip up to Sugarbush Vermont this past winter).

Starting with the basics, the original Demand Waterfall was rolled out in 2002 by SirusDecisions and was designed to track activity once a buying journey had begun. They determined that it made the most sense to begin targeting buying units instead of individuals or businesses as a whole. These buying units are comprised of people within an organization that each have their own needs and leadership to answer to. By addressing these groups, it’s easier to understand exactly what a potential client needs. From here, they created the Demand Waterfall which outlines the stages of the buying process unique to these buying units, giving a better picture of what steps must be taken in order to complete the sales/marketing cycle. Through this transition, the marketing and sales responsibilities have continued to become intertwined, also ushering in the new thought of “Smarketing,” giving us a whole new view of the demand cycle.

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Credit: D!gitalkist Magazine

The concept has evolved over the years and Terry Flaherty from SiriusDecisions explains that the progression was positioned to help companies better define and target their total addressable market now that we have the technology to identify intent and behavioral cues even before the existing “Demand Waterfall” started.

The Demand Unit Waterfall adds two new stages—target demand and active demand—which are aimed at identifying target buyers before they have raised their hand or self-identified on your site. The new Demand Unit Waterfall addresses many of the gaps and inconsistencies B2B organizations have faced as they have tried to shift to focus more account-based strategies and better align with the metrics of their sales teams. – Terry Flaherty

The challenge with our traditional way of thinking was that the process only started when an individual reached out for information, however, the reality is that in B2B, it’s rare that it’s only one person making a decision and the reality is that they are multiple stakeholders across the organization that have to be involved with moving forward on a purchase. These folks are researching solutions at different stages and for different reasons and may require a completely different set of touchpoints that help address their individual needs. We need to move away from only concentrating focusing on leads alone because this doesn’t cut it anymore within the B2B environment and we need move to a personalized audience-centric approach that uses a 1-to-1 approach with a perpetual content creation process drive by all of the various data points that we can collect as users interact with the content. This gives us the ability to hone in on the true nature of demand generation.

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“These are the fundamental units of demand that we really need to go out and identify, attract, engage and qualify if we want to sell anything,” Kerry Cunningham, SiruisDecisions

With this in mind, let’s jump back to the slopes and breakdown how the decision was made for us to get to Vermont. Before we start, we need to keep in mind that each purchase decision (aka ski trip booking) typically includes various buyers and influencers across an organization (in our case, families) and provides a system for tracking these connected folks. These buying groups (aka “Demand Units”), flow through the following stages of the Waterfall for the decision to book the family ski vacation.

A look at the complete progression of the Demand Unit Waterfall for the trip:


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We have multiple families joining us on the trip with kids of different ages that look at the trip from a bunch of different angles. We can break this down into the following demand units:

  • Parents (Subsets of 2 that all have to agree)
  • Skiers (All in and the drivers for the trip)
  • Non-Skiers (Just along for the adventure, though hold a lot of influence)
  • Grommets (Kids that want to ski!)
  • Toddlers (To provide comic relief after a day on the slopes)

*Demand units are defined as a buying group that has been organized to address a need the organization is challenged with – Buyer, needs and solution must match for a demand unit to exist.


When we take a deeper dive, we can see that the demand units have different reasons for wanting to go on the trip varying from wanting to get out on the slopes to having no choice because they have to go where their parents do. The key here is to focus in on the Demand Units that are showing the most evidence of an acute need (Skiers want to ski; Non-Skiers want a vacation (and a hot tub); Groms are looking for a terrain park!)


The “Skiers” demand unit responds to Sugarbush “Quad Pass” promotions, newsletters, and special packages offered during the Warren Miller Film Tour. The “Non-Skiers” demand unit respond to promotions revolving around the ski house amenities (Hot Tub!!) and local attractions (Lawson’s Finest Liquids).


Both the “Skiers” and the “Non-Skiers” are sold and now start comparing ski houses and mountain packages and reach out to the Sugarbush resort.


A Sugarbush representative now engages with the members of the demand unit and works to entice them to come to visit their mountain instead of a different resort.


As the example is based around a B2C experience, this wouldn’t be too applicable, though to continue playing out the scenario, the “Skier” demand unit would now be entered into the resorts CRM to prepare the booking and confirm availability during the dates selected.


A picture says a thousand words – All demand units were considered and different approaches were used to help educate, convince, and ultimately book this ski adventure!!

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A great time was had by all and this may have been a bit of a stretch to line up with the Demand Unit Waterfall process, though you can get the gist that at any point in time, there’s only a limited amount of folks (or clients in the B2B world) that are actually in the market for your product or service at any given point. We have to move away from the notion that marketing starts the process and then wipes their hands clean when a demand unit is passed through the process.

Instead, we need to work together to reach and convert the target demand units across each stage of the new framework. This type of alignment is a key driver of success within our own Mobius framework. In fact, if you look at the most successful data-driven account based organizations, you’ll notice that their sales and marketing teams work together from the very beginning to deliver relevant, engaging messages across the flywheel (or maybe the chairlift in this example) to deliver the best possible experience.

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Giddyup –