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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistThu, Jan 17, 2019 19 min read

Why The Cyclone Beats The Waterfall Every Time

Marketing and Sales Planning

Understanding Your Prospect’s Buyer Journey Is Critical To Orchestrating Marketing And Sales Activities

Marketing and Sales PlanningIt might not sound like a big difference  water running over the cliff and falling into a pool of churning water, or the whirlwinds associated with being in a cyclone  but when it comes to understanding your prospect’s buyer journey, the differences are night and day.

The problem with the waterfall is that gravity is involved, and the journey down the falls is straight and without interference. Its also fairly predictable, as the water continuously flows all day, every day.

This is where the challenges with today’s buyer journey start. Nothing is predictable in today’s buyer journey, and more variables are interfering with it than ever before.

On the other hand, the cyclone is unpredictable. The winds are constantly influencing the direction of the buyer journey. The better you plan your sales and marketing execution, the better you can influence those winds to drive the buyer journey toward its completion. 

What’s even more specific about our version of the Cyclonic Buyer Journey is it has eight mini-cyclones instead of one massive cyclone, making navigating a buyer journey even more complex and challenging.

You have to take into consideration the added complexities associated with today’s chaotic buyer journey to produce better results and more significant business outcomes for your company.

Heres what you need to know about the new cyclone vs. the traditional waterfall funnel, and how to plan accordingly for both marketing and sales in 2019.


The funnel has almost always been a sales-related visual, but to truly get a handle on how to drive revenue, you have to start looking at the prospect’s buyer journey as a continuous set of experiences that start before a prospect even knows they have an issue and finishes when they become a customer.

But keep in mind that the experience continues even after they sign your paperwork, because their customer experience drives reviews, references and referrals.

All of this means you must be prepared in 2019 to take a more holistic approach to the strategy behind revenue, one that runs all the way through the time they are an active customer at your company.

When you start putting together your marketing strategy, make sure you have a deep understanding of your prospect’s buyer journey. Here’s a quick checklist to make sure you have all of the strategy elements locked down:

  • A clear and detailed profile of the company and the people you want to attract (this is typically referred to as a persona). The profile needs to include a comprehensive understanding of their online behavior, and more specifically, where online they get information and/or advice.
  • A collection of messages or stories that allow you to emotionally connect and, at the same time, disrupt the status quo of the people in the above bullet.
  • An obvious differentiation strategy. What makes your business remarkable? This means no other companies in your space can do or say anything similar. This is critical, but it’s almost always missing at companies that are interested in working with us.
  • You know all of the questions that prospects ask throughout their prospect journey, including both marketing and sales interactions.
  • You’ve identified every touch point within marketing and sales where the prospect comes in contact with any company assets (like the website) and the individuals at the company (like a sales rep). You’ve also created experiences that help you stand out and communicate your value to prospects.
  • You understand your revenue cycle and know exactly how many website visitors, leads and sales opportunities you need to generate the revenue youre targeting.

If you can’t put a check in the box next to these six elements of revenue strategy, you should hold on any tactical execution and go back to finish your strategy work.

If you can check each of these boxes, you’re ready to move into the tactical planning part of optimizing your prospects buyer journey and mapping tactics to each stage of the Cyclonic Buyer Journey your prospects find themselves in.


The tactics are the easiest aspect of this entire effort. It might make sense to you when I explain that everyone knows what tools to use. The tools are not the mystery here. Everyone knows you need a great website, content assets, email campaigns, social media amplification, events and video assets to help tell your story.

Some people even now about advanced tactics, like influencer marketing and account-based marketing (ABM) campaigns, but what most people don’t know (and where the waterfall funnel continues to fail) is when to apply what tactics, how to orchestrate the execution and what to expect in terms of results.

Looking at the eight stages in the Cyclonic Buyer Journey gives you a map for how to apply tactics at each stage. ABM is perfect for the Pre-Awareness Stage. Content and conversion rate optimization tactics fit the Education Stage. Organic search engine optimization and paid search are ideal for the Awareness Stage. Sales process design works for the Evaluation, Rationalization and Decision Stages.

While the funnel used to be fine, its not specific enough to give you the insights you need to create the highly complex, omni-channel multi-touch marketing and sales experience you need to bring on today’s prospects.  

Here’s another checklist to make sure you have all of the tactics you need for both marketing and sales to help you meet or even exceed your revenue goals:

  • Your level of investment is aligned perfectly with your growth goals, because you’ll need that money to build out enough tactics to drive the activity you require to get to your goals.
  • You’ve selected the tactics and aligned them to each stage in the buyer journey, and you’ve created a set of performance expectations for each tactic. Each of those performance expectations add up to give you a level of confidence that you can hit your goals.
  • If you’ve been executing a tactic before, you already have a baseline level of performance, and you’re only expecting more if you’re adjusting the way you execute or you’ve changed some major element of the tactic.
  • If you have new tactics planned, you have confidence the new tactics will perform at expected levels, or you have help from outside expertise to guide you along the way.
  • You have the marketing and sales automation tools required to make execution efficient, and you have the analytics required to give you real-time insight into how your tactics are performing.
  • You’ve created the reporting, scorecards or dashboards required to share tactical performance and analyze data from disparate systems.
  • You have a track record of uncovering insights from the tactical performance data that allow you to optimize your tactics in real time, improving performance month over month.

If you can’t put a check in the box next to these seven elements required for successful tactical execution around revenue growth, you should rethink your selection of marketing and sales tactics, and perhaps get some additional guidance from more experienced executioners.

If you can check each of these boxes, you’re ready to move into the actual execution work, including building the dashboards required to keep tabs on your daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly performance metrics across your entire buyer journey.


How do you currently track your wins and losses when it comes to marketing? What about sales? How about revenue growth in general?

Chances are you have sales goals and you track progress toward those goals. You probably have some vanity metrics for marketing, like visitors, conversion rate and social media followers.

This is why you’re not hitting your revenue goals month over month. Whether you know it or not, your strategy is hope. You hope you’ll hit your goals this month. But hope isn’t a strategy, and you probably won’t hit them.

If this is how you measured your progress last year, what makes you think this year is going to be any different? You know what they say about doing the same things and expecting different results.

Leave the funnel behind, and leave the siloed tactical analytics behind, too. Start looking at your metrics at each stage of the buyer journey to uncover insights rarely seen when you look at the individual performance of specific tactics.

Here’s a third checklist to make sure you have all of the analytics, dashboards, metrics and scorecards you need for both marketing and sales to help you meet or even exceed your revenue goals:

  • Its always a good idea to have high-level quantitative goals for the entire company to rally behind. Do you have these set up for 2019. At Square 2, our magic four numbers are revenue, net profit, client satisfaction and team member happiness. If we hit those, the business will thrive.
  • Make sure you have access to a wide variety of metrics related to your sales and marketing execution. Marketing automation and CRM software will provide almost all of the metrics you need for tracking and ongoing optimization.
  • If you’re using additional technology, like chat, event management or search optimization software, make sure you can grab those numbers and compare them side by side with numbers from your marketing automation.
  • Instead of setting up tactical dashboards, like you might have done in the old days, consider setting up buyer-journey-stage-specific dashboards, like the ones we identified in this blog article.
  • You should have goals for every aspect of your marketing and sales execution, and they should be measurable over shorter time frames (weekly in most cases, but daily in a few selected cases). For example, I like to know how many organic visitors come to the Square 2 site every day. That daily number helps me project for the month and act if we’re falling behind.
  • In addition to the analytics, do you have the processes wrapped around the metrics? For example, what should your team do if they see less-than-expected performance? Who should be notified? What action should they take? Having a process around this is necessary if you want to see numbers improving each month (and you do).

If you can’t put a check in the box next to these six elements required to measure the ongoing performance of your revenue growth efforts, you should consider delaying any additional investment until you have the measurement mechanisms in place to track how you’re doing and ensure you can optimize your program performance over time.

If you can check each of these boxes, you’re ready to move into the stage where you look at additional technology, software and tools to help you gain efficiency and accelerate improved performance.


With over 7,000 marketing and sales technology products on the market (and more coming online every day), its important to assess these tools with a solid strategy. When clients are looking for guidance around tech products, we apply the same buyer journey methodology and look for tools to automate, improve efficiency around the execution and analyze performance. Most importantly, we want tools that help improve performance.

Everyone needs platform software to do the basics associated with marketing and sales. Marketing automation like HubSpot or Marketo/Adobe, CRM like Salesforce or HubSpot and Zendesk or HubSpot for customer service are non-negotiables. Everyone needs them.

Then use the stages of the Cyclonic Buyer Journey to see where you need to focus.

For example, if you’re investing heavily in marketing and sales tactics around Pre-Awareness, you might want to build a tech stack to support an account-based marketing initiative. Terminus, Engagio, EverString and ReachForce for data quality might be good additions to build on top of your platform technology.

If you’re more focused on the middle stages of the buyer journey, email marketing and sales automation tools might make more sense. Drift, Seventh Sense and Conversica might be part of your add-on tech stack.

Here’s a fourth and final checklist to make sure you have complete understanding of how to use technology to better optimize your marketing and sales efforts:

  • Make sure you have the platform marketing automation and CRM tools in place. These should be SaaS-based and current. If you’re using something that has not seen an update in 12 months or more, consider switching.
  • Everyone in both sales and marketing should be using these tools as the backbone of their execution and analysis. When it comes to sales and CRM, all of your salespeople should be intimate with your CRM and using it for all aspects of their sales effort.
  • Software alone rarely solves marketing and sales challenges, but software, process and people almost always solve marketing and sales challenges. Make sure your strategy and execution are solid before you invest in software.
  • It’s possible that if your requirements around marketing and sales are basic and straightforward, you might not need any additional tools. Its best to see if you can get by with just platform software like HubSpot.
  • If your company marketing and sales strategy is more sophisticated or focused on one or two areas of the buyer journey, that should be a signal to start looking at other software tools that might add value.
  • Make sure you can integrate any add-on tools with your existing or selected platform tools. For example, HubSpot’s open API structure makes it fairly easy to integrate with over 200 other software products. has similar capabilities.
  • Looking at adding or building out a tech stack? Make sure you have the tactics defined before you pick your tools, and let each of the vendors know your plans. Then have them build you a demo that shows you exactly what you want to do instead of letting them show you a general demo that doesn’t highlight what you’re planning.
  • With so many tools available, look at three or four, and do an apples-to-apples comparison based on your requirements. This means you’ll need to define those requirements before you start talking to vendors.

If you can’t put a check in the box next to these eight elements required to create a technology strategy and roadmap, you’re probably not ready to invest money in these tools. The worst move you could make is to buy something, not use it, cancel it and then find out a few months later that you need it.

Also, these tools alone rarely generate results, but tools in the hands of people who know how to use them almost always produce solid results. Make sure you have the team in place to fully leverage what you buy.

If you can check each of these boxes and the boxes in the previous sections, you’re going to have an amazing 2019. When you leave the waterfall behind and embrace the cyclone, the clouds part and the sun comes out, revealing the path to sustainable, predictable and repeatable revenue growth.

Square 2 — Building The Agency You’ll LOVE!


Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.