Whether you’re just starting to conceptualize your own channel ecosystem or already have an established network of resellers and partners at play, the question remains a valuable one: Which considerations need to be taken into account to create and support a thriving, revenue-rich channel ecosystem?
This article from BCG kicks off with a small caveat: “[Business] ecosystems, similar to residential districts, cannot be entirely planned and designed—they also emerge.” If you ask us, that’s part of what makes channel ecosystems and partner networks so exciting; they’re adaptable, future-focused, and always changing.
Here are our top tips for shaping a healthy channel ecosystem that benefits you, your partners, and your customers:
1. Begin by asking six fundamental design questions.
The below graphic from BCG outlines six fundamental ecosystem design questions you need to work through before you start recruiting partners and resellers:
- What is the problem that you want to solve?
- Who needs to be part of your ecosystem?
- What should be the initial governance model of your ecosystem?
- How can you capture the value of your ecosystem?
- How can you solve the chicken-or-egg problem during launch?
- How can you ensure evolvability and the long-term viability of your ecosystem?
Source: BCG Henderson Institute
2. Deliver a frictionless customer experience by providing holistic, pre-bundled solutions.
Despite being made up of a number of separate companies and organizations, ecosystems need to deliver end-to-end solutions and a holistic, seamless customer experience. Delivering this frictionless experience requires the use of a unified, custom platform that allows partners to easily start conversations, generate quotes, collaborate in real-time, and collect payments. It’s also essential that your platform allows customers to self-serve (here’s why).
Besides implementing partner-smart, customer-centric technology, your partnership team needs to carry out practices like account mapping and partner discovery to better understand the strengths of each partner and spot opportunities for co-innovation and collaboration. One of the simplest and most impactful ways this can be done is by bundling your product with complementary partner services, creating a complete, pre-packaged solution that meets a specific customer need.
3. Create highly-collaborative networks made up of different profiles.
“The need to provide outcome-based, bundled solutions to corporate-department leaders and small business owners has resulted in transformations in vendor solution delivery and channel collaboration,” says Forbes’ Theresa Caragol. Caragol explains that it’s no longer enough for tech companies to depend on individual relationships within one- or two-tier channel ecosystems. Instead, SaaS companies need to focus on building highly-collaborative networks that see vendors, service providers, advisors, influencers, and strategic partners working together to deliver complete, 360° solutions.
4. Align your organization with your supply chains.
“As end-to-end delivery understanding increases within client organizations, there is greater recognition and need for closer relationships between the client organization and their supply chains,” says Elaine Hobbs and Ian Ballentine in this article from Turner & Townsend. The first step towards achieving this alignment is to treat partners and resellers as part of your own organization. When you treat your channel ecosystem as one unified team, inspired co-innovation and collaboration becomes second nature. As Hobbs and Ballentine advise, this approach requires vision, clear objectives, shared outcomes, and partner recognition on your part. In addition, partner collaboration works best when the organizations in question have aligned cultures and behavioural approaches, and have clearly mapped out ways of co-selling and working together.
Demand planning is another useful tool when it comes to achieving alignment and seamless solution delivery. “Creation of a seamless organization and supply chain requires end-to-end visualization of project and programs and support through the right level of proactive data/reporting so that the client organization can proactively manage strategy and anticipate future issues which may emerge,” says Hobbs and Ballentine. “It also requires identification of where waste can be driven out of programs and establishment of a flow between the overall delivery program, and the specific daily activities each supply chain partner needs to deliver.”
5. Quantify the opportunities available to partners.
In our article Is your partner program holding its own in the Decade of the Ecosystem? we highlighted Jay McBain’s insights into the importance of communicating to your potential partners in concrete financial terms the opportunities your channel ecosystem presents. For example, every dollar that HubSpot makes represents a $5.80 opportunity for their wider ecosystem.
Start with a quantified opportunity, then decide how best to educate your partners on how to unlock this revenue downstream. “But you’ve got to map it out for them. You’ve got to show them where they need to develop skills, and you can help them develop those skills, map out what the repeatable processes and practices are,” says McBain. “But in the end, you’ve got to elevate their confidence from a sales and marketing perspective, to go ask the customer for $10, or $3, for every dollar you sell.”
Morphed’s B2B marketplace infrastructure allows you to easily bundle your product with supporting services and products offered by your partners and resellers to provide holistic, end-to-end solutions