If you’re not yet familiar with the term waterfall marketing, it’s no surprise. There are countless marketing strategies and project management philosophies out there and it can be hard to keep up with all the terminology, much less understand which ones are best for your business. You can go to two resources to ask about the same tactic and one will swear devoutly that a particular methodology is the only one that works, while another resource will claim that it’s impossible to implement effectively. This is why it’s so important to do your research before jumping in and committing to one set marketing strategy.

Waterfall marketing is a useful methodology that may be able to help you develop an effective marketing automation plan and build your sales pipeline. 

Waterfall Marketing In a Nutshell

Originally created for software development, the waterfall marketing methodology is a process for creating deliverables in a linear sequence. The waterfall model gets its name because it depends on a top-to-bottom logic flow that hits key points before landing, not unlike a waterfall starting at the top of a cliff and cascading down a series of several rocks before landing in a body of water below.

Waterfall marketing breaks projects into several phases, with each phase dependent on the timely completion of the previous phase in order to begin. In marketing, these phases are typically broken down into:

  • Conception
  • Initiation and information gathering
  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Construction
  • Testing
  • Implementation
  • Maintenance

Owners and core stakeholders can be set within each phase, and tasks within each phase can also be broken down into smaller waterfalls with dependencies. For instance, a second-round revision task in the design phase will require the completion of round one review.

Agile vs Waterfall Marketing Methodology

Agile is another common model used for planning out marketing strategies and ensuring that deliverables are created on time. While both are logic-based project management methodologies with a clear, dependency-based task flow, there are some core differences between these two philosophies.

Waterfall marketing has more clearly defined phases for each project. Agile, on the other hand, hinges on short “sprints,” typically 1-2 weeks, with regular, short, structured, update meetings at the start of each sprint. While waterfall marketing is designed for longer implementations and larger projects, agile is more focused on quick delivery, response to triggers and remaining adaptable to rising issues or needs.

When to Use the Waterfall Marketing Model

Waterfall marketing is extremely useful for larger projects and implementing new processes. This can include web design projects, system migrations, repetitive content strategies, and long-term nurture campaigns. Waterfall marketing makes the most sense for products with longer sales cycles, such as B2B services and bigger-ticket B2C products and services, because it requires benchmarks to be met before proceeding to the next phase and allows ample time for a long-term marketing automation workflow to be as effective as possible. Waterfall methodology is also extremely useful in product development and evolution, and it can help ensure that a product release or update goes smoothly while giving adequate time to research, user testing and feedback before your “go-live” date.

When Not to Use Waterfall Marketing

While waterfall marketing is extremely useful for long-term campaigns, large-scale projects and bigger strategic goals, there are drawbacks to the methodology. Because the phases are largely inflexible, there isn’t room to bounce between phases of the project or begin work on the next phase while the team is still in an early phase. Because goals, requirements, and metrics for success are determined at the beginning of the project, your team may head down a path before realizing that you need to change course. Waterfall marketing isn’t ideal for projects that require quick turns, testing and regular optimization, such as SEO  marketing or social media strategy.

What Marketing Model Is Best for My Business?

There is no one-size-fits-all project management system. In order to determine if waterfall marketing is right for your business, ask yourself and your team some basic questions about the length of your sales cycle, your average time to purchase and the way your team currently functions.

  • Do you have a lot of small tasks that need to be done regularly?
  • Do your customers require frequent regular touchpoints?
  • Is there a single path to purchase, or do your leads come in from a variety of sources and diverge regularly before converting
  • Does your team prefer to respond quickly and have short-term goals, or do they have larger quarterly and annual goals to focus on?

By understanding the way your team and your customers behave, you’ll be able to better choose the best framework for your business to maximize the success of your marketing efforts.