More conversations are happening around partnership ecosystems. You might have heard the word “ecosystem” in your grade school science class, defined as a biological community of interacting organisms and their environment. Well, B2B partner ecosystems are mostly the same. Together, business-to-business partnerships form a community of systems interacting — but with a purpose. Ultimately, partnership ecosystems improve the customer experience and make the job of the customer as easy as possible. B2B ecosystems are what happens when many B2B partnerships are working together.
Some B2B ecosystems you might have heard of include Microsoft, SAP, Salesforce, Shopify, and Amazon. So, if you’re not a partnership manager, why should you care? Wrong attitude Steve. If you care about revenue you should care about the partner ecosystem. The partnership ecosystem has insight that can be leveraged by partnership, marketing, and sales teams. And, ultimately, the partner ecosystem improves the customer experience, which also increases revenue. It’s definitely worth your time and resources to invest in learning how to leverage these partnerships to make your customer experience a good one.
Then, there’s old reliable. Quite literally, trust and reliability. The customer journey begins before hello. It begins when a prospective customer is exposed to your brand from an affiliated partner. They have a relationship with that partner, they have already established trust in that brand or service or product. By seeing your brand, service, or product in affiliation with something they already know, the foundation of trust is already established and an improved customer experience has already begun. A cold call does not create a feeling of trust, but more a feeling of annoyance and even weariness. How did you get my phone number? Why are you wasting my time? But, if the courtship of prospects begins through the partner ecosystem, prospects aren’t meeting you with resistance, because they are already aware of who you are.
The biggest element of the B2B partner ecosystem in the year 2021 is technology. Specifically, how the technology interacts with other technology. Customers don’t want to have to make an effort to do things any more. And let’s be honest, who can blame them. If two pieces of technology are even remotely compatible then, arguably, they should be connected. But, how does the company know that their product is compatible and how does the company know that the consumers want that integration?
There’s a couple of schools of thought around this. Businesses can study the behavior of their customers through platforms like Contentsquare, Quantum Metric, or Freespee. They can do their own independent research which, honestly, doesn’t give the same sort of insight as these platforms, but gives enough insight to know the direction that they should go. Or, they can check their partner ecosystem.
That’s right, the partner ecosystem holds the answer to the question, “Where should I integrate?” The answer is there. By seeing existing accounts where your partner is present and prospective accounts where your partner is present, you’ll be able to see an overlap in compatibility. If your partner is present in 5% of your accounts, maybe that’s not an integration to consider. But, if your partner is present in 80% of your accounts, that’s definitely an untapped opportunity that needs to be tapped.
In addition to integration, there’s customer experience driven innovation supported by the partner ecosystem. Take Zoopla Property Group (ZPG), a UK real estate company. ZPG is attempting to leverage their B2B partnerships with cable companies and moving services to take all the hassle out of moving and lump it all into one price. No need to call the local electric company, schedule the movers or stress about losing track of all these moving pieces. Customers will gravitate to ZPG because this sort of end-to-end experience is convenient — and because moving sucks.
Learn from the most notable leaders in partnerships and alliances. For example learn how to leverage your ecosystem from Jay Mcbain, how to plan your partner program with Mike Brigman, and what to include in your KPIs with Elliott Smith.