Automating the ecosystem: Building authentic SaaS partnerships in the digital age
4 min read
The era of ecosystems is upon us - and it’s here to stay. The SaaS provider of the future moves in packs: going to market together, winning together, and maximizing value for everyone. You can close partner-influenced deals faster and more easily, and they’re usually much bigger than anything you could have landed on your own.
By the end of the decade, the winners are going to be companies that know how to leverage ecosystems. Success will depend on deep collaboration, amplifying reach, and building trust through partnerships. But what are those, exactly?
Getting down to brass tacks: What is a partnership?
We tend to think of a successful partnership as something that happens between two companies. That’s lazy. A successful partnership is actually the result of countless relationships between the people who work within companies. Distinction without difference? Not exactly, because partnering really comes down to factors that are undeniably (sometimes embarrassingly) human: trust, understanding, excitement, and even a bit of schmoozing.
But the mundane mechanics of building those relationships, the stuff that absorbs more time than you can afford - most of that can be automated, if it’s done right (more on this later). Because let’s face it: Most partner managers are already overwhelmed. As the ecosystem grows, they’re leaving huge amounts of potential growth untapped.
The challenge of scale
This is where things get sticky. What do these relationships look like at scale? In a thriving ecosystem, there are multiple points of human connection across businesses, at all levels. And, of course, these strong, mutually beneficial relationships don’t just happen. After all, it’s simple enough to focus on one individual, to excite them with your own skills, enthusiasm, and business connections. But how do you do this at scale?
The bad news: You can’t
Using conventional methods just isn’t possible. Many SaaS businesses expect their ecosystem to grow as much as ten times over the coming years. That’s a really exciting jolt of confidence in the sector. But delivering consistent growth at scale brings us up against the limits of what any individual can do. Even the biggest partnership team can’t consistently engage everyone in a way that brings results.
The good news: It’s not just you
On average, partnership teams today only manage to properly engage 10-30% of their ecosystem. The obvious solution is automation, but how? Marketing automation and sales engagement tools are great for driving sales. But your partners aren’t your clients. And they don’t want to be treated like customers. Square peg, meet round hole.
Portals and PRMs: Doors to… where exactly?
Portals are another port of call for companies trying to optimize partner management. But asking your partners to log in to a portal can be adding friction where you need it least. Worse, the people you really want to engage are your partners’ sales reps - and they definitely don’t have time for that.
The goal should rather be to bring your partners the right information, at the right time, via the right channel. And drive them to the portal at just the right time!
You might be wondering what happened to the good news you were just promised. Here it is:
You can automate 30-70% of the administrative effort it takes to make people feel valued and supported. That unlocks superpowers: your teams can now engage between 5 and 10 times the number of people they did before. More importantly, they can engage better, because they can focus their energy on the irreducibly human stuff we mentioned earlier, while programmed schedules run in the background.
But it’s even more than that. It also means an end to mindlessly copy-pasting the same message to everyone on your list. Imagine enhanced personalization, with less effort.
That combination of qualitative and quantitative growth - richer connections at scale - is the secret sauce that enables businesses to flourish in the age of ecosystems.
Specialist tech, built for nurturing partner ecosystems, balances the human touch with automation and provides valuable information through channels your partners can actually use. After all, the goal is to be useful to the partners in your ecosystem. Indispensable, even. Because if they feel enabled, valued, well-informed, and trusted then they’ll work hard to keep you happy as well.
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