Ecosystem. It’s one of those buzzwords that’s thrown around a lot in the channel world. But what does it really mean? And what specifically should you be doing to build a channel ecosystem?
Let’s start with the basics. Think of the Amazon: its flora and fauna all have a role to play in the reciprocal and balanced system that allows them to thrive. The same goes for a channel ecosystem. You, your team, your channel partners and customers are all pivotal parts of your ecosystem; there’s a symbiotic relationship between each. It’s not a top-down structure, and can’t thrive with an every-man-for-himself culture and mentality. A healthy channel ecosystem is interconnected, cohesive and supportive.
Here’s how to build and maintain a channel ecosystem that will set you up for success.
1. Don’t build it haphazardly.
Partner ecosystems are delicate. You can’t just throw things together and expect them to co-exist. A healthy channel ecosystem takes thought and planning.
2. Introduce the right players.
You wouldn’t drop a tiger into the Alaska wilderness. Make sure you’re inviting the right channel partners into your ecosystem. When it comes to channel partners, have criteria you use to screen prospective partners. Ask yourself if they are a natural fit with your company and goals, and if they have the bandwidth and resources necessary to succeed. Do they have special skills that will fill gaps in your ecosystem? Don’t be afraid to say no to prospects – mismatched partners are going to disrupt your ecosystem’s balance.
3. Empower your ecosystem.
A healthy partner ecosystem means that all players within it have the knowledge and resources they need to succeed. Allbound allows you to create tiers and limit access to specific content, training, and functionality based on your grouping structure. Tech solutions like PRMs can help you empower the partners in your ecosystem, at onboarding and throughout your relationship.
4. Encourage engagement.
Everyone’s engaged in a healthy partner ecosystem. They’re enthusiastic and always want to learn more. They’re brand fans and proud ambassadors. Are you encouraging engagement? Here are a few tips:
- Keep your content organized and up to date. Partners lose interest when there doesn’t appear to be any growth within your portal.
- Utilize incentive programs like SPIFs and MDFs.
- Allow partners to easily co-brand materials.
- Remember that your partners want to engage with your portal, make it easy for your them to engage.
You should be tracking engagement, and if partners are just not as engaged as they used to be, ask yourself why.
5. Use the power of analytics.
Data is your best friend when it comes to monitoring your ecosystem’s health. Use it to keep tabs on everything from onboarding completion, engagement and which training and marketing products are most popular and effective. To learn more about which KPIs you may be missing, check out our articles about partner activation percentages and content engagement averages.
6. Be crystal clear.
An ecosystem will be healthiest when it’s open and transparent. Everyone will appreciate and become more invested in a system that isn’t hiding anything. Promote two-way communication and share information in a timely manner. Have in place a fair deal registration process. You want to prevent clashes within your ecosystem, and should also promote harmony by helping each person understand their role within it, and what’s going on elsewhere.
7. Promote cooperation.
Help everyone understand that you’re in this together – this isn’t an every-man-for-himself operation. Transparency, as noted above, helps in this, but you can go a step further by fostering a culture that prides itself on cooperation and collaboration. Create opportunities where the entities within your ecosystem can share knowledge, learn as a team, and work together on solutions.
8. Commit to continuous improvement.
Ecosystems get out of whack sometimes. It’s natural. But you can nip that in the bud early, and help rebalance it, if you are keeping a consistent eye on its health. When you notice something is awry, act on it promptly. If the environment is changing, adapt to it. A commitment to continuous improvement is going to ensure the long-term success of your channel ecosystem, even in an ever-changing world.