I’m back from one of 2022’s major ecosystem strategy events, ImpartnerCon, held in Salt Lake City, Utah, October 19-21. The open discussions among the suppliers, vendors, and distributors regarding the ecosystem’s future and resulting industry transformations make this event truly interesting. Here are seven of the biggest trends I saw discussed, along with some smart folks to follow.
Partnerships are being redefined across every industry. The old sell-side or supply-side discussions in which firms thought of partners only as selling their goods or supplying them with services has evolved into thinking of multifaceted partnerships that:
- Create new relationships
- Produce technology platform upgrades
- Design new, exciting offers
- Drive cost-savings
- Create new businesses
- Integrate products together to create solutions
Everyone must learn to effectively manage these ecosystems for their own firm’s strategic gains. While on a panel, Kristine Stewart made an excellent point about how firms need to plan for this strategic shift and use it to propel their business forward — what’s in your plan?
Collaboration is now the killer growth skill that leads to growth for firms driving an indirect route to market strategy. Since 75% of all B2B (business-to-business) sales are done via a third-party partner, this is most firms! In the past, it was the creation of the best technology that won the day. But, in this new world of an ecosystem-driven strategic shift, firms must hire for and train to a new skill set.
During a panel on how to drive growth, Meredith Caram shared some amazing thoughts on how the market has shifted and how those responsible for growth need to identify the right partners and drive new dialogues around the metrics that matter. Then, they need to accelerate the go-to-market activities that help identify and ultimately sell to the right end-user customers.
Technology platforms are leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to overcome last-generation issues and deliver exciting new advancements for firms that manage complex ecosystems and need to do so with fewer hassles and people. Simplicity and partner experience were the Impartner team’s key themes. They shared some exciting new platform upgrades including new AI features, digital marketing plug-ins, and more support for users.
During a discussion on how each of us helps our partners win, Mark Rogers made some excellent points about how we need to better leverage technology platforms, like PRM (partner relationship management) and TCMA (through-channel marketing automation), to drive partner engagement vs. partner confusion. Further, he shared that too many firms think about automation for automation’s sake as opposed to the true partner experience.
By focusing on the experience, you quickly note what you can better automate and how this will positively impact users. This truly stuck out to me as a deeply meaningful conversation: How often do we not think about how our partners utilize our technology and the platforms we use to manage relationships? I think far too often — something every industry whose partners need to change for this coming year.
Influence is the new ecosystem currency. There was much talk about influence from a variety of sources but none put it better than Jay McBain who shared his Canalys research regarding the technology channel’s 14 spheres of influence and how to leverage influence points to fundamentally change how you sell, retain, and advance your client relationships. His insightful discussion on how to influence, land, and expand your business via the ecosystem showed how far the industry has come over the past decade.
It was also impressive that Jay did this entire talk via a holographic virtual conference box that allowed him to be present on stage in Salt Lake City while he was in Barcelona! That’s a great example of technology working for us.
Digital-first in everything continued to be a key theme across the board at this event. I really loved hearing about how Growth Hacker Barb Goworowski was using new intent-based and digital-lead generation campaigns that were driving 30 times ROI (return on investment) for the vendors who sponsored them to their sales and influence partners. We often forget that our partners need us to help them to market our solutions if we would like them to sell our solutions. Barb did a great job reminding everyone about this super important area of the business and her creativity around marketing was refreshing as always.
Data and analytics are key. The sheer amount of data available was a big issue, but the key discussions really centered around how you use that data. Loved hearing from Cassie Gholston about how her firm is driving a new data set that is truly customer inclusive and allows real collaboration between multiple parties working on the same account. It’s clear the future of partnering is all about the data.
I also loved hearing how Dina Moskowitz and her team at Partner Optimizer developed an entirely new approach to partner data. Moskowitz’s insights on finding and working with the right partners due to the data you have on the partners rather than past relationships were masterful. A single source of truth should be used for all partners.
Talent is important, but only if they know how to collaborate. Gaps in team members who understand how to collaborate, partner, and serve customers via an ecosystem strategy are hard to fill, so if you can’t find what you need, work to change from within. Jared Fuller made great points regarding how firms need to stop battling internally and instead need to come together and work together across all areas of the organization to make partnering work. Breaking down antiquated silos was a huge part of his talk track, and I appreciated his insights about how dysfunctional it is to continue to work as we have for decades when the future is so different.
As with any event, it’s impossible to summarize everything learned, but I will close with this: The ecosystem rules are changing the game. Those who want to win will need to learn the rules, find their new strategic plan, and execute with passion and a focus on performance to win.
Join us on February 23, 2023, for Partners Ecosystem Week, a digital event analyzing the business and IT imperatives around cloud, AI, automation, and cybersecurity ecosystems that define the future of partnerships.
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