If you’ve seen the Forrester statistic that an incredible 75% of world trade already flows indirectly, you’ll almost certainly have wondered what that means for the future of partnership ecosystems and channel sales.
The short answer? Building a partner ecosystem is going to become absolutely essential to the future of business.
Personally, I think that the roles of partner management and partner leadership teams are going to undergo some big shifts in the coming years. In particular, I think that it’s going to become more and more common for the partnership and ecosystem brass to have a seat at the main table and be considered as some of the most important voices to influence business and product strategy.
That’s because partner ecosystems are going to be recognized as indispensable engines that drive large portions of a company’s revenue targets, and partnership teams are going to become much more strategically relevant as a result.
Here’s why I think building a partner ecosystem has become so important to the B2B world today.
Collaborative partnerships help to close gaps by producing truly innovative and customer-centric solutions.
As we mentioned in our recent article about Avanish Sahai’s great insights from ‘Elevating partner ecosystems to the boardroom’, the best partnerships are those that combine the core capabilities and offerings of two or more parties to create a comprehensive solution that actually helps your customer become more successful. What’s more, partnerships that are inherently more collaborative – we’re talking about going way beyond the traditional, linear reseller model – provide truly holistic solutions that drive adoption and increase customer retention.
The diagram below depicts how partnering in this collaborative and integrated way creates greater value for your customers and, by extension, your organization:
Source: Forrester ‘Future Fit Companies Build Success Through Partner Ecosystems
According to Forrester, the key to building a partner ecosystem that future-proofs your company is a stronger value exchange. “The old rate card, RFP, and service-level agreement (SLA)-driven models don’t work well in a future-fit enterprise, where transformation is continuous, multidimensional, and uncertain and where strategy and implementation are tightly coupled,” said Ted Schadler, Duncan Jones, and Bobby Cameron of Forrester. “That’s why enlightened tech leaders are looking beyond capabilities and price to embrace a new technology and services paradigm built on a clearer value exchange that we call ‘co-innovation partnership’.”
In a nutshell, it’s essential to understand and leverage the capabilities, opportunities, and strengths of each partner, and then work closely together to co-innovate on new products and services, in order to truly solve for the customer in a way that differentiates your offering from others already on the market.
B2B customers are looking for secure, integrated, end-to-end solutions.
By essentially shutting down traditional B2B sales channels, the COVID-19 pandemic increased the demand for digital B2B services and accelerated the evolution of B2B e-commerce sales. Digital Commerce 360 reports that B2B digital sales increased by 9.6% in 2020, reaching a value of $9.92 trillion.
As digital transactions become the primary growth channel for B2B customers, partnership management teams need to focus on partnerships that produce secure end-to-end integrations in record time. “For example, determining whether the partner’s technology solution is a bolt-on integration that connects together using APIs, a connected-based integration that can be created quickly or a built-in integration that goes beyond API integration to integrate to the platform, OS or firmware level that can take a year to create helps determine the outcome of whether a partnership can be successful,” says Swaroop Kolli for Forbes. “By identifying how secure the end-to-end integration partnerships are — whether it’s a bolt-on, built-in or connected-based integration — is essential.”
Partnerships encourage the adoption of customer-centric business models.
Embracing ecosystems and partnerships requires more traditionally-minded companies to change the way they operate. Instead of only sticking to the services and products contained in their industry, companies can draw upon their ecosystems to deliver collaborative, end-to-end solutions that satisfy their customers throughout the entire customer journey.
“In fact, we estimate that at least a dozen sectors, including B2B services, mobility, travel and hospitality, health, and housing, are reinventing themselves as vast ecosystems, networks of networks that could add up to a $60 trillion integrated network economy by 2025,” reports McKinsey.
This customer-centric, ecosystem-driven approach sees companies going from strength to strength. Because ecosystems are able to provide collaborative ‘super products’, they’re able to attract and retain more customers. More customers allow them to gather more data, which in turn allows them to spot new opportunities for additional innovative products and services. And so the value of ecosystems snowballs and snowballs.
Check out our blog, ‘3 ways your organization can embrace modern business ecosystem opportunities’, for information on three customer-centric business models.