A partner ecosystem is a network of businesses who serve similar audiences but are not competitors and may thus benefit from collaborative marketing and sales strategies. In an ecosystem, the involved companies orchestrate all indirect distribution channels to scale and grow. For example, a marketing automation platform (MAP), a video marketing platform, and a content management system (CMS) are three businesses who target similar customers and would benefit from joining or creating a network together.
By co-marketing and even co-selling in strategic partnerships, companies can sell more products and support happier customers who have a suite of complementary tools at their disposal. Partner ecosystems help businesses serve their customers’ needs in ways that they can’t necessarily do themselves through their own technology. Through recommending trusted products that fill functionality gaps, companies can set their customers up for greater success, and of course, greater retention and customer lifetime value (CLTV).
Example: The Quickbooks partner ecosystem contains hundreds of companies — mostly technology vendors — who serve small businesses.
The partner journey describes each step a partner goes through when learning about, joining, and earning value through a partner program. It can be likened to the buyer journey. The steps of the partner journey can be defined differently depending on the business, as can the order of certain steps. However, most partner journeys generally follow this structure:
Interest > Recruitment > Activation > Investment > Devotion
The interest stage is where a vendor gains the interest of potential partners. Recruitment involves informing potential partners of your product and offering a partnership. Activation represents the first value earned by the partner. Investment is when the partner recognizes vendor value and invests further time and capital in the relationship. Devotion occurs when partners are ready to scale with you.
Example: Jenn found that only a small percentage of partner were making it to the investment phase of her partner journey, so she decided to spend more time and energy ensuring partners hit their activation targets within their first two months of joining the program.