By Gary Sabin, Vice President of Product Management, Impartner
We live in an era of partnerships, and the term “partner ecosystem” is becoming increasingly popular. With a cloud and consumption economy in the limelight to facilitate buying journeys, ecosystems are crossing industries, and companies are catching on to the fact that they need to center their solutions around them.
The idea of buying or leveraging one application or solution for a single job is being replaced by the idea of an ecosystem that enhances and adds value to customers’ abilities to achieve their objectives.
Companies that already understand the importance of ecosystems such as Airbnb, Uber, Apple, IBM, and Salesforce are emerging as industry leaders because they have recognized the need to shift their business focus from selling things to selling experiences, driving customer acquisition.
Here are more reasons to hop on the partner ecosystem hype train:
1. Partners are spoiled
The channel is changing, and it’s not just because of current affairs in the economy or the rise in technology driving this change. How we buy, sell, and distribute our products has evolved, and with it, so have the expectations of our partners.
In 2020, an Accenture study noted that 77% of partners surveyed said they have more provider options than ever before when it comes to whom they choose to work with. And it’s time to face the ever-emerging truth: that the balance of power no longer rests with providers, and it’s more competitive than ever to recruit dedicated and loyal partners into your channel program.
However, it’s noteworthy that although faced with increased competition, providers are also experiencing much more opportunity than ever before. Partially due to this power shift, we’re seeing an influx of new partners looking to work with providers on innovative programs that will help them enhance their relationships with customers and create new revenue streams.
This is why it’s increasingly important for providers to understand their partner ecosystem and how it impacts their success with partner recruitment.
2. Customers expect smooth end-to-end experiences
A partner ecosystem can be defined as “the collection of firms or individuals that collaborate or compete to achieve a common goal.” This definition emphasizes that there is no clear distinction between competitors and collaborators. Instead, they are all working toward the same goal: creating value for customers by providing them with a seamless end-to-end solution.
The endgame is to make it easier for customers to purchase products and services from multiple vendors without having to jump through hoops or change vendors often. This allows companies to focus on their core competencies rather than having to reinvent the wheel at every customer touchpoint.
As such, companies must be receptive to the idea of open collaboration with partners in different forms. The answer lies in creating an ecosystem that provides solutions for your customers’ needs every step of the way, delivering the best customer experience.
3. Modern ecosystems are out-scaling traditional partnership management tools
Partner ecosystems offer companies a way to expand their reach without having to build out large internal teams, which can significantly cut costs and time-to-market for new products and services. However, as partners shift to expand into more channels and markets, companies must reassess their organizational models to help them manage this complexity.
Most businesses have relied on antiquated tools like spreadsheets and email lists over the years when managing their partnering relationships. While these tools were adequate at one point, they no longer fit into today’s ecosystem and require too much manual effort to keep track of everything in an increasingly complicated business environment.
It’s safe to say that more advanced, cross-integrated channel technology is necessary to remain competitive in the marketing space. As reported by a 2021 Accenture study, partners are now seeking positive and valuable partner experiences, frictionless processes, and analytics capabilities that share data and insights.
Consider exploring efficient partner relationship management solutions to help you build your ecosystem and manage that expansion. With low barriers to adoption, the right tool can facilitate the scale and growth a high-octane ecosystem requires to thrive.
4. There are newer metrics to incentivize partners
Partner programs have been around for years but have always been limited to financial incentives and discounts. However, as customers’ buying patterns become more complex, it becomes clear that there are newer metrics available to incentivize partners.
There is an emergence of non-financial incentives like training, innovation funds, services, or consumption funds, and partners now expect more collaboration and joint innovation. This stems from the fact that partners — not unlike customers — seek value-driven and unmatched experiences based on reciprocity and cooperation.
In other words, the emphasis is now on co-innovating for growth, where companies should look at partner ecosystems as mutually beneficial together with their partners and offer them the support they need.
5. Companies are more susceptible to disruption than ever
Accenture noted that 76% of business leaders surveyed agreed that current business models will be unrecognizable in the next five years, and ecosystems play the biggest part in that disruption.
It’s estimated that ecosystems enabled by digital platforms could unlock $100 trillion of value for businesses over the next decade. A significant number of channel leaders have already developed or are in the midst of developing partner ecosystems to disrupt their own industries. That number will only grow with time.
The Rise of Partner Ecosystems
It’s undeniable that partner ecosystems are causing tectonic shifts across industries. It would be wise to start partner ecosystem expansion for your organization before it’s too late to catch up.
Gary Sabin is the vice president of product management at Impartner, the world’s most complete channel management platform and Partner Relationship Management (PRM) provider. Born in the SaaS industry, he has 20 years of experience delivering rich, consumerized user experiences and cloud solutions to the B2B market. Sabin has broad industry experience working with successful SaaS startups, governments, and large enterprises including Workfront, RoyalMail, and IBM.