The Rise of the Ecosystem Mindset – Four Ideas for Partner Success
The pace at which ecosystems are growing and restructuring is rapid means that we need a new ‘ecosystem mindset. Rob Reynolds’ 360-degree perspective of the partner community shows that no single partner can build the entire technology stack. This crucial route to market requires a shift from technology push towards a strategic dialog, sharing information, building joint value propositions, and building strengths that bring both organisations to the end customer – regardless if partner size. With more companies joining forces, the IT market is becoming increasingly interconnected. McKinsey calls this “ecosystem 2.0” and predicts that technology businesses will collaborate and work together more.
Coterie Marketing and University of Huddersfield conducted research that found that the ecosystem was experiencing a greater restructuring in 2020. The traditional tiers and levels of the ecosystem were confusing. Partner marketers needed to monitor and respond to both end-user and partner needs.
Jay McBain, Forrester’s 2021 channel marketing predictions author, introduces the concept the ‘ecosystem mindset.’ He discusses the “Rise of the Ecosystem Orchestrator” and how much attention is placed on the technology, programmatic and process elements of ecosystems. He also asks: What about the people? What is the ecosystem mindset?
My role is unique in that I oversee both technology partners who come into our business and channel partners who resell our products. I have a complete 360-degree view on the partner world, from activating inbound partners to reselling our services, i.e. I am the partner and also outbound. I am working with our partner. This holistic view requires an ‘ecosystem mindset’, which I have been advocating for a while. I see an increased need to act due to the move towards digitisation and more functionality within the cloud. No one tech company can do everything; no one partner can create the entire technology stack. Partner marketing is an important route to market for businesses, and requires a new approach.
These are my four ways to adopt this new mindset.
Share your ideas
To help the market respond, bring new ideas and innovations to your partners. Partner portfolios are becoming more complex because of the growing ecosystem and move to Anything-as-a-Service (XaaS). It is important to begin with a strategic dialog that includes sharing information and building joint business plans. It is not possible for a business to operate in isolation. It is all about cooperation – “we’re better together”. We all respond to common trends, such as the workforce pivot in the wake of the pandemic. To help their partners adapt to the changing market, vendors need to be innovative and distinctive.
To create a campaign that is easy to build and execute, take a different approach to developing a joint value proposal. Once you have a joint plan that includes the target market, it is time to create a compelling joint value proposition. This should include the customer’s pain points and what each partner brings. These are not transactional relationships in which the vendor takes the partner’s value proposition. It must be distinctive and stand out from the crowd.
Coaching sales teams to handle objections will help you empower them. A healthy channel ecosystem can only be built if you listen and coach your partners. Technology vendors may often try to run sales campaigns through their partners by promoting their ‘products’. These are not small tasks for the partner. They often don’t get all the sales collateral and training they need to properly educate their sales team. Or they are directed to a portal where they can add their logo and customize, and push the go button. This is the old technology push mindset. An ecosystem mindset involves investing time and resources to understand your end customers. To support them in this new approach with their time and resources.
Be succinct and specific
It is crucial to support major bids and account-based advertising. It’s now all about bringing the strengths of both organizations to the customer, regardless of how large the partner is. This is important because I have found that small partner organizations are more agile than large ones. Therefore, their value to a vendor should not be diminished by their size. It is important to be specific and direct in your assistance to partners.
Rob Reynolds is the Global Partner Marketing Lead at Verizon. The views and opinions expressed in the content are solely the responsibility of the author.