In our previous post, How to keep up with the evolving B2B purchasing process, we spoke about the importance of selling B2B services via sophisticated online marketplaces.

Selling SaaS products and associated services via commerce-enabled marketplaces is becoming increasingly essential to staying relevant in the evolving B2B world. “Modern B2B customers want to be able to browse listings, compare prices and providers, submit briefs, collaborate on proposals, discuss project details in a private comms portal, sign deals, and make payments, all within the same marketplace infrastructure.” What’s more, modern B2B online marketplace infrastructure makes it easier for your partners to both collaborate on projects and connect with customers.

B2B marketplaces aren’t just useful for keeping up with the changing buying behavior of B2B customers, however. They’re also helpful tools for growing a partner ecosystem. That’s because having a thriving, successful SaaS marketplace in place can simplify and accelerate the B2B sales cycle, create new partnership opportunities, and provide partners with a new revenue stream. The upshot of all these great benefits? Your marketplace becomes a magnet for attracting potential new partners and resellers to your partner program, thereby growing your partner ecosystem.

Here are three tried-and-tested ways to build an ecosystem-boosting SaaS marketplace:

1. Focus on providing useful, customer-centric product integrations.

Think about it: you don’t buy tyres here, an axle there, some spark plugs here, and a steering wheel there, and then try to assemble everything in a way that gets you from A to B. Of course not. You simply head to the dealership and buy a car.

The same principle applies to your customers: they don’t want to transact with scores of different software and service providers only to end up with a range of different apps and products they have to somehow string together to get the day’s work done. They want comprehensive, end-to-end solutions available in a single, smooth transaction. That’s why creating and selling useful, customer-centric product integrations and service bundles should form the basis of your SaaS marketplace strategy.

Great product integrations tick three important boxes:

·  They provide an excellent user experience

The best integrations embed your product into your customer’s daily work flow in an effortless, seamless manner. To achieve this, make sure that your product integrations solve real business needs hand-in-hand with your customers’ other favorite apps and systems. 

·  They support two-way data integration

A seamless two-way flow of data between integrated apps and systems is absolutely essential to improving the stickiness of your product. Manually transferring data is notoriously tedious and error-prone. When up-to-date data is freely available across apps and systems, however, your customer’s productivity — and accuracy — is instantly improved.

·   They’re easy to demo

A key aspect of a great product integration is that it makes your customer’s life easier by helping them achieve their tasks more efficiently. The best way to communicate this benefit to your customers is with a simple, easy-to-follow demo. Some of the best product integrations are those that both you and your partners are able to demo with ease. That’s why good partner programs often include ‘solution development funds’ in their partner benefits. These funds are used to co-invest in demos and proof-of-concept tools that help your partners to more easily sell your new product integration.

2. Create product and service bundles that meet your customers’ needs.

Successfully growing a partner ecosystem requires constantly bringing your focus back to the needs of your shared customers. After all, working together to better serve your common customers is one of the fundamental goals of creating a partner ecosystem in the first place.

Use your marketplace to create new opportunities for your partners and solve for your customers by putting new collaborative offerings in front of your customers and making the sales process as frictionless as possible. For example, pre-packaging your SaaS product with your partner’s services in a bundle allows for a super-easy, frictionless buying process for those customers who are ready to buy. Alternatively, customers can easily select popular service bundles from your marketplace’s ‘Top Seller’ category. If tweaks are needed, these can be easily discussed via your marketplace’s deal room.

Pre-packaging bundle solutions really works – we’ve done it ourselves. We implemented pre-packaged solutions at On The Bench (a marketplace dedicated to offering HubSpot services to customers all over the world) and as a result, our average sales cycle improved. Here’s how:

3. Use a marketplace specifically designed to sell B2B services.

Not all marketplaces are created equal. Growing a partner ecosystem via your B2B marketplace requires having the best-in-show infrastructure possible. B2C-style marketplaces aren’t well-suited to selling B2B services, because they don’t have the functionality needed to support the sometimes-complex B2B sales process, payment options, and ongoing project communication requirements between the vendor, partner, and customer.

The best B2B services marketplace infrastructure includes the following capabilities:

·   Digital RFPs

If your customer’s RFP looks like a great fit for one of your ready-to-go packages, you’re able to easily share the bundle description with them. Because the description includes all the relevant details (deliverables, cost, timelines, Ts & Cs, customer reviews, etc) it does the job of an instant, ready-to-go proposal. Your sales cycle just accelerated, fast. (Watch this tool in action.) 

·   Different payment collection options

B2B services marketplaces need to allow for a range of payment collection options. Shorter projects might require a once-off payment, while longer projects require milestone payments based on stages of work delivered. Subscriptions and retainer agreements require recurring payments. Your marketplace needs to be able to handle all of these. (Watch this tool in action.)

·   A Customer Portal

Disjointed communication between multiple contacts and over multiple channels is a common headache of complex B2B projects, especially when more than one provider is involved. B2B marketplaces solve this problem by way of a secure Customer Portal where all customer communication – from first touch all the way through to project delivery and review – can take place. This makes for clear, cohesive communication and fewer misunderstandings. (Watch this tool in action.)

Morphed’s commerce-enabled marketplace infrastructure is specifically designed to help you sell your partners’ products and services alongside your own.

Growing partner ecosystem

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