Taking the Ecosystem Bull by the Horns
Taking the Ecosystem Bull by the Horns
There has been much written about the growth of non-transactional partners, the shadow channel, and the new breed of alliances and influencing partners. The popular phrase “Partner Ecosystem” is used to describe your types and tiers of partners that may include all these new profiles.
Congratulations if you have managed to incorporate a programmatic way of working with these new partners and rewarding them for the part they play. However, ecosystem should mean so much more than simply adding new partner types to your partner landscape. It should describe how you have enabled and empowered your partners to connect and engage with one another in a flat structure designed to promote mutual business.
To go from partner landscape to partner ecosystem you need to adopt a social-community approach both online and in person (when we are allowed).
Anyone who knows me will recognise I have been “banging-on” about this for years as I feel passionately that an ecosystem and thriving partner community is the way forward. With more and more solutions in market daily, there has been a power shift towards the partner (in all its different profiles) as they hold the keys to the customer and the route to market for so many vendors.
The channel is the way to scale, and partners need each other. So, the vendor, needs to offer an easy way for them to interact.
If your rules are up to date and accommodate all forms of brokers, intermediaries, and alliances, they have all signed T’s and C’s and so you can bring them into your partner portal. This is where you need to add a social community to facilitate business. But how do you make this successful and not a drain on your channel team and a venue for sharing complaints and discontent?
Here are some practical tips – a Partner Community Action plan.
1. Strategy – establish and articulate the reasons for developing the community,
giving it purpose and direction so that others can understand the reasons for joining and you can steer the content and conversation accordingly.
2. Content – create, edit, curate, delete and encourage content that builds on the strategy, removing anything that doesn’t support your strategy. You should allow content sharing by the community members, for the community and if possible, enable peer referencing as this offers a far stronger advocacy than hearing from someone directly how good they are.
3. Connect – I know we all have zoom-fatigue but enabling connections online is a hugely useful way to develop relationships and you can facilitate partner-to-partner engagement. Face to face interaction is hard to beat but an online community can pave the way towards business partnerships by enabling you to find and engage with the right kind of business partner.
4. Advocates – encourage key supporters to engage in conversations. Engaging a few individuals or companies who are existing supporters will make your job a whole lot easier as they can be the first to start the dialogue. No-one wants to be the first to a party and therefore having supporters already in your community will encourage others to join.
5. Growth – the speed at which you grow your community will depend on your goals and objectives, matched against the resources you have for community management. There is nothing wrong with being “exclusive” to begin with until you are confident you have the curation and management nailed.
6. Moderation – remove obstacles to participate and encourage engagement of a positive nature. The objective is to encourage engagement and debate as this gives more reasons for individuals to revisit and thereby be immersed in your portal content and messaging. Any community can fall victim to unsolicited or unsavoury content, and you need to be diligent and moderate the community to ensure content is always clear and relevant. A dedicated curation manager is preferable.
7. Promote –promote your key influencers and advocates and allow them to show-case their contributions so long as it maps to your objectives. This will encourage key members to interact and engage with other members and draw them into the conversations.
8. Current – ensure you moderate and update the content and conversations, ideally investing and hiring a community manager. This can even be done by a young apprentice so long as they are social savvy.
Start small with a community of those in your “Partner Council” and enable them to connect, engage, and interact and see how the conversation and community grows.
Ecosystem implies not just a group of partners but also a link. Vendors need to link their partners together to facilitate business between partners with their solution at the core. It is important to measure the effectiveness of your community but remember to play the long game here as connections may bear fruit way into the future.
In summary, the last 18 months has seen us battening down the hatches.
To be bold and brave in 2022 we need to set ambitious goals to:
1. Understand and align our stakeholders to pull together
2. Put the partner experience first and change what needs to change
3. Move with the times and provide an interactive community in which your partners can thrive and do business with you and each other.