Our 5 Takeaways from Forrester’s Understanding Ecosystems and the Trifurcating Partner Channel

ITA Group
ITA Group

jay mcbain delivering keynote speach

How companies go to market is changing. This has been the statement for years, but now it’s changing at speeds no one could have predicted. And part of that change is traditional channel partner types are shrinking. 

Aligning and selling through, to, and with evolving partner types is the new normal.

In a survey, 76% of business leaders agree that current business models will be unrecognizable in the next five years—ecosystems will be the main change agent.

Ecosystems are different from traditional indirect channels in that they are untethered to the financial transaction in most instances and focused more on intrafirm value creation, access and attachment to external networks and partner innovation.

Here are our five takeaways from the recent Jay McBain webinar, “Understanding Ecosystems and the Trifurcating Partner Channel.”


1. “Analyze partner capabilities, capacity and will.”

Who are your current partners? Particularly, take another look at their capabilities and capacity in this new world. Look at their will, look at their survival, are the partners you have today going to be the same partners you have 3–5 years from now?

More so, who else is influencing the buyer? Selling through dealers is one thing, but the actual influence around the product is changing. Who is that trifurcated channel—what does that influencer look like? Different than your transaction channel. Different than your retention channel. (Still learning the ropes on this? Read more about ecosystems.)

In other words what does your ecosystem look like? Identification of partner’s on a deeper level and mapping out your ecosystem is a great place to start.


2. “Focus marketing, sales and partner approach to the new buyer.”

Companies are in the process of figuring out how to make their product more recurring in nature. To do so, companies are increasingly going to XaaS (anything as a service) and software/cloud solutions. More recurring revenue means you now have to earn your customers every month, quarter or yearly billing cycle you subscribe to, which means retention channels, partners and people are more important than ever—so build programs for them!

Start focusing your new marketing sales partner approach to the new buyer. Get obsessed with those buyers who engage in transactions digitally at the early part of the journey without talking to sales people. If brands are not striving to influence buyers as early as possible, they may lose the deal without even knowing there was a deal. Which is a shame because they account for 68% of your overall buyers.

Figure out (and get obsessed with) who’s there as you build out your ecosystem.


3. “Explore a community and superconnector approach to finding new customers/partners.”

There is a new “channel normal,” one that is more agile, responsive, and cross-functional than before in response to this fast-moving crisis. For those who don’t adapt, it could hasten their decline.

McBain stresses that companies must learn what customers read, where they go and especially who they follow. When you start to answer those questions you can answer what the influencer channel segment of your ecosystem looks like.

Who provided those early moments? Who delivered that webinar, that conference, that ebook?

Start to look at communities and superconnectors. Figure out what those logos look like in your ecosystem and who those people are behind the logos. Who are those key people? How many of them do you know? More importantly, how many of them know you? And how many of them would endorse you?


4. “Help partners become hyper-specialized”

You’re not going to be found on page 1 of anything on the web without a certain level of specialization towards those buyers, the sectors, the industries, the solutions, etc. As the ecosystem comes front and center, the age of generalists will pass.

Try getting your partners to codify some of their knowledge and perhaps become one of these product-centric companies that builds on top of your products as well as a service company. (Actually, it’s worth noting, as McBain points out, your services can be codified a certain way to appear as a product, which makes you easier to be found—digitally that is.)

You may also be seeing a resurgence in appreciation for the geographically relevant partners because of the impact happening in the economy and having a trusted advisor or local support to help in times of need.


5. “Explore ecosystems and marketplaces—both internally and externally.”

In some cases you’re the platform in some cases you’re the partner. Think of it like a celestial body. You are not the sun that everything rotates around but you might be the sun in your own solar system. But your solar system is circling another, which is likely circling another, and another, and another. Understand not only where you sit as you build out your ecosystem but also where you fit in other ecosystems.

Once you commit to the new partner ecosystem mentality you can find your path and start to realize all the benefits that await: Benefits for your partners. Benefits for your company. And benefits for your customer. Learn more about identifying and mapping your partner segments as well as the benefits of doing so in our white paper, Introduction to Channel Partner Ecosystems.

Introduction to Channel Partner Ecosystems