This title 👆 should be THE North Star career aspiration job for all Partnership Pros.
We believe that in the next 24 months, the core skill set of folks who aspire to the C-Suite, and to become CEOs for that matter, will be the ability to unlock the potential of the Ecosystem that surrounds target ICPs and customers.
The ecosystem language has advantages. As evidence, recently (and subtly) partner tech company Crossbeam changed its main tagline from Partner-led Growth (PLG) to Ecosystem-led Growth (ELG).
ELG is another way of describing the Nearbound approach that has become a necessity as the ROI of outbound and inbound decline.
Three characteristics of ELG
Why is this useful framing for partnering and B2B SaaS companies? Because ELG has three primary characteristics that differentiate it from its PLG progenitor.
1. ELG is Customer First.
- When CROs and other C-Suite leaders hear talk of being partner-centric, most of them tune out. Many think - “Oh yeah, partners and partner people, they just talk and never really create consistent leads. Don’t waste my time.” Or, “Oh yeah, channel partners, they’re a nice GTM add on but not essential.”
- The mic drop moment comes when they learn that an ecosystem of influence surrounds customers and that 85% of ICPs want to start their buying journey with a recommendation from partners in the ecosystem.
2. ELG is Data Centric.
- Having data about partner influencers and how aligned they are to customers is a game changer. It allows companies to map opportunity data to the ecosystem and make product, marketing, sales, and CS decisions like never before.
- Partnering obviously becomes much more important as a tactic in a 360 ecosystem strategy.
3. ELG Drives GTM Transformation
- 1 & 2 above create a business case for transforming from selling parts as a SaaS tools provider to delivering end-to-end value as an ecosystem-led business.
Partner pro vs. ecosystem pro
Let’s contrast the fundamental differences between a great partner and a great ecosystem pro?
👉 Partner Pros obsess over adding value for and with partners to benefit their company and joint ICPs and customers. They act as a conduit to and connector between their org and the partners’ org.
👉 Ecosystem Pros obsess over how to unlock the potential of the spheres of influence that surround their ICP and customers and orchestrate their entire organization (including partners and communities) to unlock that potential. They act as strategists, change managers, and GMs of the ecosystem, aligning their org, their customer spheres of influence, and their org’s ecosystem of partners and communities.
In truth, most partner teams are partner + ecosystem hybrids - they are, in fact, driving some transformation. Anyone who is leveraging Reveal or Crossbeam for overlap data is already unlocking some of this ecosystem potential for their orgs to the benefit of joint ICPs and customers.
Unfortunately, because the B2B SaaS C-Suite does not understand the opportunity & the how of unlocking ecosystem potential, they are not looking to hire and empower ecosystem pros and the strategic, change management, and matrix skill set that they bring.
And so, the hybrid teams are not given much latitude or authority to drive the ecosystem and therefore find themselves mostly delivering on the left side of this continuum:
We can do better.
Survival vs. transformation
We can pick our priorities and drive transformative partner-led motions which pay short and long-term benefits.
👉 Your CEO wants you to deliver EPS (efficient, predictable, and scalable) sourced revenues from partners. Can you do that and transform the GTM at the same time?
👉 The Head of Ecosystem and Partnerships should prioritize sending leads to partners and teach the GTM org the transformative power of ‘giving first, giving always.’ Your CRO might not understand this but your partners will.
- Be Customer First. Work with your CS team to determine which customers would benefit the most from an intro to a certified partner.
- Align with top partners to agree to a reciprocal flywheel. I give to you, and you give back to me. Pressure test to ensure that the partner can and will reciprocate.
- Set up MVP systems. Typeform customer surveys, partner referral databases, and reporting, slack channels, etc.
- Establish Leading Indicator Metrics. Leverage metrics like our ‘lead-to-demo’ ratio best practice to track the value of your leads and the likelihood that the partner will reciprocate.
- Align with RevOps. Ensure that partner-sourced leads (what comes back) are tracked in CRO dashboards aligned with #3 and #4.
Don’t fall prey to the limited thinking that “we don’t have the resources or leadership alignment to do Ecosystem Transformation.” Do what’s right for everyone and teach your org how to GoToEco.
This is not easy, but it will be very doable in 2023.
This will prepare you for your next job: Head of Ecosystems and Partnerships.
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