It’s Time to Build a Demand Waterfall

What is a Demand Waterfall?

It’s the hottest thing in Marketing right now. It’s the way for you to finally prove the value of your technology stack, your marketing investment, the mix of programs you are doing and the disposition of the leads you are delivering.

With a Demand Waterfall, you get:

  • More accurate reporting in and marketing automation
  • A formal set of lead qualification steps
  • The ability to see what and when a lead was delivered to sales and what was done with it
  • Qualification stage timing so you can enforce an SLA
  • A complete lead lifecycle
  • Drop off (waterfall) by qualification stage
  • Results by Source, by Campaign, by Rep, by Region, etc.
  • To answer this question: “If I invest $X in a specific marketing program, how much opportunity pipeline will it create, and in what timeframe?


Yes, the Demand Waterfall can be what you’ve been after your entire marketing career.

There are different versions of a demand waterfall. It’s important to understand what’s involved in the build, and what the limitations are of each model, so you can determine what’s best for your organization.

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Demand Waterfall Types:

There are three demand waterfall types:

  • Leads only
  • Leads and Contacts
  • LeadTunity


Leads only waterfall:

The leads only waterfall is the simplest one to build, but only works on data in the lead object in Salesforce. It involves selecting a formal set of qualification stage names that are used in the default Lead Status field. Then, we create a set of custom formula fields and workflow rules to keep track of the timing of the lead status stage changes.


Leads and Contacts waterfall:

This waterfall works on data in the lead and the contact object in Salesforce. It involves selecting a formal set of qualification stage names that are used in the default Lead Status field and the same set of values in a new field in the contact object (Contact Status). A set of custom formula fields and workflow rules is built in each object to keep track of the timing of the lead/contact status stage changes.



This waterfall uses the Opportunity object in Salesforce to manage lead qualification. Opportunities are a powerful out-of-the-box object in Salesforce. It automatically keeps track of opportunity stage changes. You can choose to expand the opportunity sales stages you have now to include qualification stages, or you can choose to create a new opportunity record type just for lead qualification. With this model, the Salesforce lead object goes away (is hidden). All records that come into Salesforce from marketing automation get auto-converted to a Contact/Account and get added to a Campaign. The Campaign member status determines if a Leadtunity gets created or not.

How to Get Started with a Demand Waterfall

No matter which model you choose, you’ll need to address these topics:

  • 1) Select qualification statuses that represent your qualification process. Here’s an example:
    • Raw = a name in the database who has not responded.
    • MQI = Marketing Qualified Inquiry: a response to a marketing campaign such as a webinar registration, an asset download, or an accumulation of web page visits that have added up to a certain score.
    • MQL = Marketing Qualified Lead: a response to a high-value asset like a contact form on your website, attendance at a webinar, or a certain score threshold met. Also, the verification of interest (BANT) your inside sales or telemarketing resources made by following up with an MQI.
    • SAL = Sales Accepted Lead: Many times, sales organizations want meetings scheduled. This would be an SAL. So, the MQL or MQI is contacted and a meeting is scheduled with a sales rep.
    • SQL = Sales Qualified Lead: After the meeting with a sales rep, if there’s an opportunity to be created, this will be the status selected during the convert process (converting from a lead to a contact, or converting from a Leadtunity to a sales opportunity).
    • Exits = Disqualified, Nurture, Add to Account: When a lead is not ready to advance to an opportunity, it will need to be dispositioned out of the model. Disqualified would be selected if the lead will never be a good fit. Nurture would be selected if it’s still the right role at the right company, but one or more BANT values is missing. Add to Account is selected when the record needs to be converted because he/she is a response to a campaign from an account that is already in motion — already has an opportunity and you just want to add the person as a new contact in an existing account. Note: DQ and Nurture should also require reasons (Budget, timing, junk, went with competitor) so segmentations can be created in Marketing Automation for better targeted marketing programs.
  • 2) Set your SLAs. Work with your sales team to agree on:
    • a) The minimum number of times an MQI/MQL should be attempted before an exit disposition.
    • b) The timeframe for the number of attempts. Keep in mind the 48-hour rule: a prospect will forget his/her response/interest after 48 hours. So, it’s critical that all the attempts (calls and emails) to confirm interest and qualify must be made within 48 hours.
  • 3) Reporting. Create a list of reports you and others will want to see. Make sure you indicate the fields you want displayed on the reports, and if charts should be included specific X and Y axis and chart type.

Day-to-Day Program Execution

Once you have your demand waterfall built, the way you do marketing programs needs to change to support it.

Every program needs to include lead handover instructions such as:

  • 1) Campaign name with member status values in SFDC
  • 2) Conditions in the campaign for lead handover:
    • – If a person clicks on the email link, then create an MQI and assign it to a person or queue
    • – If a person completes a form, then do this…
    • – Are there other data changes that happen with the above such as Lead Source, Score, etc.
  • 3) There’s probably more, but that will depend on your organization. We can help you with all the steps and conditions.


Once you start delivering leads using your new model, we’ll show you what’s next. And this stuff is very cool:

  • We’ll set up your Marketing Automation with segmentations:
    • – Channels: Which work. Which don’t. Why. How well they work.
    • – Personas: What they are. Which to use. Why. How well they work.
    • – Regions: Where. Why.
  • We’ll make suggestions for nurture programs and we can help you build them.
  • Scoring: We’ll walk you through a scoring exercise that will be more accurate for your existing scoring program or a brand new one.
  • Coverage ratios: Once we have enough data flowing, we can start to be forward-looking and help your organization see the health of the pipeline a quarter and more into the future. You can answer the question: does my future pipeline cover our number? In other words, if you believe you typically need 4x the pipeline to make your number in a quarter, you’ll be able to see now what your coverage is for any quarter. And since you have an accurate demand waterfall, you’ll be able to add new budget to marketing because you’ll know how and when it will influence the pipeline.
  • Training: We can help your existing team as well as new hires get up-to-speed, maintain skills, and expand their knowledge of your investment in CRM and marketing automation. Training can be ad-hoc (a specific team member is trying to solve a specific business challenge) or scheduled (you want to raise the skill level of your entire sales team with or your marketing programs group needs to understand how to use your marketing automation system to support the model). These sessions can also be recorded for on-demand access.

Wondering how to get started & how much this costs?

This does not have to be done all at once. We can build a project plan and prioritize. Don’t worry, we’ll work with your budget.

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