Today, businesses and consumers alike are putting more value than ever before in business ecosystems.
Think about it: most products and services are already sold through dealers, channel resellers, online marketplaces, or some other form of a business ecosystem. What’s more, B2B customers, in particular, have come to expect more holistic, end-to-end solutions and services from SaaS companies and professional service providers. To meet this ever-evolving need, more companies are realizing that they need to connect with others within their ecosystems to provide more global, unified solutions.
As business ecosystems and networks become more ubiquitous, a host of new opportunities are becoming available to future-minded companies ready to embrace the benefits waiting at their fingertips.
Here are three ways your organization can embrace the benefits of modern business ecosystems.
Sophisticated, tailored technology now enables B2B companies to effectively sell products and services via online marketplaces.
Online marketplaces have long been a staple in the B2C sphere. But because the B2B sales process can be much more complex than the B2C sales process, effectively selling B2B products and services via online marketplaces is harder to ace, but is definitely a buying dynamic that should be explored. According to this Gartner article, sales reps have roughly 5% of a customer’s time during their B2B buying journey, meaning you need to provide a more sophisticated experience via your marketplace. B2B customers should 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.
Modern B2B-powered marketplaces allow companies to nurture their relationships with end-users while also stimulating opportunities for their channel partners and resellers. As I mentioned earlier, B2B customers have come to expect more unified, end-to-end solutions. Online marketplaces geared towards selling products and services allow B2B companies to collaborate with other organizations within their business ecosystem to deliver holistic solutions. For example, SaaS products can be bundled with relevant professional services and co-sold as a single, seamless offering.
Additional benefits of embracing marketplaces include the following:
· Having the right marketplace infrastructure in place can differentiate you from your competitors. Special features like Customer Portals, digital proposals, and the ability to make milestone payments can provide an unbeatable customer experience.
· Marketplaces selling a range of products and services help attract new audiences and customers.
· Private marketplaces make it easy to connect your customers with a host of trusted, accredited partners and resellers.
We’ve written previously on how B2B online marketplaces can take a few pages out of the B2C playbook; check out How to boost B2B e-commerce sales: 3 lessons from the B2C world for some pointers.<
Online communities provide value for both you and your customers.
Online communities exist on a number of platforms and channels. Sometimes, they spring up organically, while other times, they’re intentionally set up by companies, marketers, or community managers. They’re useful to members because they create a shared space where questions are answered, guidance is offered, and like-minded people and users build connections. Because online communities are hyper-engaged and provide real, voluntary, person-to-person interaction, they tend to provide high-quality insights and useful, actionable information (as opposed to a Google search, which, 9 times out of 10, requires sifting through reams of useless results before finding something truly useful).
Embracing and encouraging online user communities around your brand and products provide a host of excellent benefits:
· Modern customers value access to highly engaged user communities and networks, viewing it as part-and-parcel of the customer experience.
· User communities do your selling for you by voluntarily promoting your brand and products.
· User communities do your customer support for you by voluntarily helping one another.
· Valuable customer data and behavioral insights can be gathered from user communities.
· The most vocal, active user communities can create a ‘cult’ following that differentiates your brand.
Read more about how you can reap the rewards of this kind of online user community in our article, How to build online communities that grow your tech company.
An aggregator business model allows a brand to scale without taking on the usual overheads and risks.
The easiest way to explain the aggregate business ecosystem model is by way of an example we all know: Uber. As the ‘aggregator’, Uber signs contracts with a cohort of independent service providers (drivers), and sells their services under the Uber brand. Although their services are sold as Uber services, these drivers never become employees of Uber; they’re better described as partners.
Similarly to some marketplaces, aggregators earn revenue by charging commission or marking up prices. In contrast to a marketplace ecosystem, however, the aggregator model gives the aggregator the power to standardize prices and service offerings.
The aggregator model provides some attractive benefits:
· It’s a win-win situation: service providers get more customers as a result of the aggregator’s massive marketing efforts, while the aggregator is able to grow exponentially without taking on the usual associated overheads and risks.
· Once established the standardized prices, quality assurances, and mindshare of an aggregator ‘giant’ ensure a steady stream of customers.