Blistering rates of digital transformation across almost all industries has made it near impossible for SaaS companies to keep up with their customers’ need for innovative, cutting-edge, end-to-end solutions. As a result, the SaaS companies that have a competitive advantage are those that leverage their ecosystems to provide the holistic solutions their customers want.
Deloitte agrees: “Well-structured and well-managed business ecosystems have become a source of competitive advantage for those that can execute well, as customers demand holistic, well-integrated solutions that can help them quickly realize results.”
Just as two heads are better than one, so a diverse ecosystem of switched-on, partner-centric organizations can provide a customer experience and solution set that puts you far ahead of your competitors. “An ecosystem’s value is that it brings together multiple players of different types and sizes in order to create, scale, and serve markets in ways beyond any single organization’s capacity,” explains Deloitte.
Ready to leverage your ecosystem and leave the competition in the dust? Here are three ways you can use your ecosystem to get ahead:
1. Prioritize integrations that will have the most impact for your customers (and your bottom line).
Itai Bengal is the Director of Product BD and Tech Partnerships at Yotpo. According to Bengal, the tech partnerships that have the most impact on their revenue are those that are based on ‘meaningful and unique product synergy’. Bengal spots integrations that have the X-factor by using tools to capture feature requests and feedback from Yotpo’s client-facing teams. They also use surveys, interviews, and calls to gather data on which integrations their customers wish they had.
“Build integrations with the one or two partners that are most impactful in each technology type that is most synergetic with your own product,” Bengal advises SaaS companies looking to leverage their ecosystem. “If done right, these integrations could serve as the example that those tech companies’ competitors will then try to copy, by coming to you to build the same integration.” As more and more partners request integrations, Bengal says it’s important to rely on partner and integration adoption data and customer feedback to continue prioritizing the most impactful integrations.
2. Closely align your product and partnerships teams.
To truly leverage your ecosystem, your product team needs to be closely aligned with your partnership team. Bengal recommends putting processes in place to ensure that both teams are working towards shared goals. “If Product BD was investing in a new opportunity that required dev resources and Product was not behind it, it would be a waste of time and energy,” he says. To make sure that the development team is always working closely with the tech partnerships team, Bengal instituted quarterly ‘integration steering committees’ and monthly ‘BD & Product’ roundtable meetings.
Ensuring clear communication and alignment between your development team and your partners isn’t only necessary when you’re running an integration project, however. It’s also important that your product team shares deep technical expertise with resellers and VARs. B2B decision-makers in any department are more tech-savvy than ever before, and your resellers need to have a real working understanding of your tech in order to successfully pitch and sell your product, as well as to onboard and train your customers.
3. Use a solution prioritization process to decide which capabilities and solutions to develop in-house and which to outsource.
When a gap in your solution is identified, you have a few options to consider when it comes to deciding how best to close that gap. Should you develop a new feature in-house from scratch? Should you co-create a new tool with a partner? Should you build an integration with a partner’s existing product? Should you completely outsource a new capability?
Deloitte recommends considering the following aspects when making this decision:
- Speed – How urgently do we need this capability?
- Control – How important is it that we control the outcomes?
- Specificity – To what degree do we need to tailor this capability to our business?
- Competitive advantage – To what extent does this capability provide us an edge over competitors?
- Operational leverage – How much do we want to take on in fixed/on-balance-sheet commitments?
Based on these five considerations, strategically decide which solutions, tools, and capabilities you should develop, acquire, access via an integration with a partner, or simply outsource.
This decision is critical, as your company can gain a great competitive advantage either way. In some cases, developing your own highly-tailored tools in-house is essential to differentiating your product. In other cases, the vast time- and resource-savings of partnering or outsourcing a capability can set you ahead by getting your product in front of new customers faster.
For example, if part of your strategy is to focus on accelerating monetization via partnerships, a commerce-enabled marketplace specifically designed to sell B2B products and services online is an invaluable tool. The risks, overheads, and time-commitment of building this kind of marketplace from scratch in-house, however, isn’t likely to win out based on the considerations listed above. Strategically, it’s smarter to outsource your marketplace capabilities by using a white-labeled marketplace platform such as that provided by Morphed.