Across the country, companies in a wide variety of industries are taking steps to prepare themselves against a potential recession. However, even an impending recession isn’t enough for boards, venture capitalists, shareholders and stakeholders to stop expecting increases in revenue and market share.
For B2B companies, this is where building a business ecosystem comes in. A business ecosystem is “a purposeful business arrangement between two or more entities (the members) to create and share in collective value for a common set of customers. Every business ecosystem has participants, and at least one member acts as the orchestrator of the participants.” In this ecosystem, the participants are the business, its partners and any other involved groups.
Though the merits of a business ecosystem can be seen in any situation, they can become especially valuable in the face of an economic downturn. Expanding your sales team to achieve your revenue goals may be impossible during a recession, but involving additional channels and other partners through an ecosystem expansion can allow your company to achieve these goals without expensive new hires.
As you prepare your business for the future with an expanded ecosystem, you will increase your resources to develop customer experience and loyalty. Consider partnerships outside of your channel, seek partnerships that expand your solutions, and choose partners with the best customer experience to create an ecosystem that will keep benefiting your business for years to come.
1. Consider Partnerships Outside Your Channel
For many expanding ecosystems, business partners’ roles have become increasingly diverse. With the emergence of new partner types, many partners now require changes to their business relationships.
However, research from Accenture affirms that no matter the partner channel, partners still desire a process that is frictionless, drives innovation, creates monetary benefits, provides valuable analytics capabilities and fosters positive, meaningful provider experiences. Your business can provide these benefits to a wide range of partners that are eager to help you expand your network and produce new growth.
Here are some examples of partners outside your current channel to consider involving in your business:
- Independent software vendors
- System integrators
- Managed service providers
As you consider new partnerships outside of your channel, you will be able to better meet the needs of your customers and create growth opportunities for your business that you may never have anticipated.
2. Seek Partnerships that Expand Your Solutions
As you begin considering new partnerships, it’s key to make sure that those partnerships will add real value to you and your customers. Seek out partners that can expand both your solutions and your brand, and you’ll be able to extend your platform and reach even further for certain audiences.
When choosing partners, consider the following factors: 1) the data in the context the business will provide and 2) the business’ operating resources and capabilities. With those two factors as a basis, you can then evaluate potential partnerships on their ability to collaborate and innovate in the ecosystem.
In a successful ecosystem, partners work together to conduct and aggregate business solutions. Because collaborating to create new solutions is necessary for the partnership’s effectiveness, this new ecosystem has been aptly termed “co-innovation.” As partners choose to emphasize collaborative development, former silos will be replaced by cooperative relationships across multiple channels. With a new focus on innovation, “market development funds’’ will be replaced by “market innovation funds” to encourage new expansions of existing solutions. By securing partners who understand and value innovation and collaboration, your ecosystem will thrive and allow you to better serve stakeholders across the board.
3. Choose Partners with the Best Customer Experience
As most of us could guess, companies that provide an excellent customer experience succeed—both externally and internally. Considered one of the fastest, easiest and most effective software solutions by its partners, Salesforce is one example of the importance of great customer experience in a partnership. In the last 20 years, Salesforce has leveraged its incredible customer experience to attract partners and create one of cloud computing’s largest and most engaged ecosystems. IDC predicts that, by 2026, the Salesforce ecosystem will generate $1.6 trillion of new business revenues and 9 million new jobs and that ecosystem revenues will grow almost six times larger than Salesforce itself.
With figures like these, it’s easy to see how important the customer experience is in choosing partnerships for your ecosystem. Select partners that are easy to work with and that clearly value their customers—all of them. Make sure that both you and your partners have a vision for your collaboration and an effective leadership team that is determined to achieve that vision. As you choose partners who care and are great at what they do, your ecosystem will expand and flourish.
Tips for Expanding Your Ecosystem
Now that you know what to look for in future partnerships, it’s time to begin the process of expanding your business ecosystem. With the future of business lying in innovative collaboration, it’s imperative that your go-to-market strategy reflect these changes. Although adapting your business to a new model will take time, business technology and culture are evolving rapidly in this direction—and you don’t want to be left behind.
Here are some guidelines when considering your company’s next steps in pivoting your business ecosystem:
- Teach your executive team about the importance of the ecosystem, especially the product profit and loss owners.
- Create a new, interdepartmental team to begin structuring your ecosystem model.
- Audit and design your ecosystem from the customer’s perspective and include your partners in it.
- Make a list of desirable partners and compare their offerings to your current portfolio.
- Define the value of the model for each partner.
- Create very specific roles for you and your partners before introducing the proposition.
- Analyze your tech stack requirements and match them to your current capabilities while remembering that your partnership platform may be front and center in your ecosystem portfolio.
- Write a detailed, long-term business plan for your partnerships.
Building a strong business ecosystem may require a lot of effort, but your business will certainly reap the benefits for years to come. As you create new partnerships outside of your channel, seek partnerships that will add value to your current solutions, and choose partners that prioritize the customer experience, you will be prepared to weather any recession that may come your way and thrive throughout.