Product and Industry

How to Lean into a Partner Ecosystem

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If you’ve been paying attention to the digital marketing landscape lately, you may have noticed the rising popularity of partner ecosystems – LaunchPoint, Marketo’s partner ecosystem, just celebrated its first birthday. From event marketing to user management to marketing automation, new ecosystems are cropping up all over the tech landscape. But what are partner ecosystems, and how do they help marketers do their jobs?

What’s a Partner Ecosystem?

If you’re wondering what a partner ecosystem is, you aren’t alone – every partner ecosystem is different, and it can be difficult to define. At the most basic level, a partner ecosystem is a system of record that displays all of the partnerships a company has created. A partner ecosystem takes a different incarnation at every company because each one reflects the needs of a different set of customers. It may have reviews, it may be an app store, it may show a mix of application and service partners, and it may incorporate a developer community.

In creating these partner ecosystems, digital marketing companies are following in the footsteps of the most successful tech producers today. The iPhone, the Android, Facebook, and Amazon.com are all leaders in their market, and all four have wildly successful partner ecosystems. This isn’t a coincidence. A partner ecosystem extends a company’s digital footprint and amplifies its market share, giving the associated company an undeniable competitive edge. Note that the BlackBerry and Myspace were once dominant players in their respective markets, but they were unable to compete in the long run – this was at least partially due to their lack of complementary products and applications.

Why are Partner Ecosystems Important in the Digital Marketing Landscape?

Across industries, marketers have bigger, more important jobs than ever before. Marketing is no longer seen as a cost center, but as a department that is capable of and responsible for driving revenue. To help marketers with these increased capabilities and responsibilities, the sheer number of digital marketing applications is growing. Emerging categories like big data, mobile marketing, video marketing, and content marketing are empowering marketers to do more. Partner ecosystems help your customers make sense of a multitude of emerging applications.

There are two ways to leverage partner ecosystems: you can join another company’s ecosystem, or you can build your own. Either way, you’ll show your customers all of the solutions and applications that complement your technology, which highlights the value of your product. Your prospects and customers have extremely high expectations of what your marketing can do, and when you associate with a partner ecosystem, it allows them to evaluate your compatibility with other solutions in a more streamlined way. To stay competitive, marketers need to present and co-sell their solution alongside a variety of complementary solutions.

How to Take Advantage of a Partner Ecosystem

You don’t have to develop a partner ecosystem from the ground up in order to experience the benefits. You can start by  evaluating the landscape you’re a part of, identifying which solutions are complementary,  and finding out which of those companies are investing in a partner ecosystem. Reach out to these companies, establish a relationship, and create a listing in their ecosystem. A listing may be as simple as a logo and paragraph description about your company, or it may be as in-depth as a dedicated landing page. Either way, it’s a great first step toward co-marketing and co-selling, lending you credibility in the eyes of your customers and prospects.

So what next? Here’s how to support your new listing:

  1. Keep your listing up to date. Think of this content as an extension of your own website, and keep it updated with the same frequency and accuracy.
  2. Create a “Set Up Guide.” If you have an integration with your partner’s solution, document the steps to implement that integration in a “Set Up Guide.” This is the type of information that marketing technologists love to get their hands on, because they want to understand the benefits and integration process before they invest.
  3. Promote your partnership. Issue a press release announcing the partnership and the availability of an integration. This content benefits industry watchers (such as influencers and analysts) as well as customers and prospects.
  4. Do a case study. Identify joint customers and document a joint case study. A joint case study will bring an integration to life because it tells the story of how using the solutions together will unlock value for a customer.
  5. Expand the partnership. Participate in your partner’s events. Whether it’s a webinar or a customer summit, events remain the biggest opportunity to get leads from a partner ecosystem. In preparation for the event, you can use the first four items to educate your sales team on the joint value proposition.

These ideas are just the foundation for leaning into your partner’s ecosystem. Use this as a starting point, and be creative in how you  engage with your partner’s. There’s nothing a partner loves more than enthusiasm for reaching its customer base.

Do you have a favorite pair of solutions that complement each other?  Or a pair of solutions you wish would integrate more fully? If your company is part of a partner ecosystem, or has one of its own, what benefits have you seen? Let us know in the comments below.