Ecosystem-Led Growth: The power of your partner ecosystem

Ecosystem-Led Growth: The power of your partner ecosystem

Bob Moore 5 min

Ecosystem-Led Growth is a revolutionary new go-to-market motion that focuses on partner ecosystems as the primary way to attract, convert, and grow customer relationships. 


ELG turns your partner ecosystem into your company’s most efficient and scalable source of revenue growth. The customer relationships it generates have higher contract values, close faster, see higher win rates, and expand more meaningfully over time. The companies embracing it are out-executing their competition at a blistering pace.


They are doing this by using modern account mapping methods, powered by ELG platforms like Crossbeam, to unlock a powerful new data layer made up of intelligence, context, and next best actions from across your partner ecosystem. 


The Account Mapping matrix


This new wellspring of partner data and influence ripples into every stage of their revenue funnels:

  • Ecosystem-Led Marketing is changing the way Stripe executives think about their funnel using Ecosystem-Qualified Leads, Gainsight designs customer events by building curated audiences, and Okta Ventures moves the needle for its portfolio with qualified introductions. Partner-influenced revenue increased from 3% to 80% of a company’s new business in a single year.


  • Braze, Fivetran, and many others have built an Ecosystem-Led Sales motion inside of their revenue teams that use proprietary ecosystem intelligence, personalization, and co-selling playbooks to increase contract values, win at higher rates, and speed up deal cycles. One company increased close rates by 40%, grew its pipeline by 44%, and increased its average deal size by 50%.


  • Innovators like RollWorks and Bombora have systematically infused Ecosystem-Led Customer Success to key parts of their customer experience post-sale, reducing churn by 3.5x and expanding revenue per account over time.


  • Gong, Intercom, and others have rolled out ELG playbooks to create a virtuous cycle of ecosystem development, thoughtfully prioritize partners, invest resources intelligently, and grow flourishing ecosystems at low cost and with lean teams.

[Read these case studies and more in the book Ecosystem-Led Growth]


The raw ingredients here are not new: partnerships, data, people, focus, and grit. What’s new is the technology that pulls them together and the market moment that makes their potential so clear. 


I’m writing this at a turbulent moment in economic history. In the early part of this decade, cheap capital and low interest rates from the pandemic era drove a bubble in the valuations (and burn rates) of growth-stage technology companies. 


Just as rapidly, those valuations soon came crashing down and those same companies were forced to quickly refocus on efficiency. The ensuing whiplash has led to the demise of many once-promising companies and made new superstars out of those who cracked the code of efficient growth. For most, however, unanswered questions about the best paths forward still remain.


Meanwhile, advances in artificial intelligence are undermining the strategies of old, making traditional growth playbooks commoditized at best and obsolete at worst. Add in the most complex regulatory, privacy, and security environment ever seen and you have a market that will punish those who cannot adapt quickly.


So, what happens when the ROI on every growth playbook goes upside down, yet the market demands lean and profitable growth? You get a once-in-a-career market moment where only the strong will survive and the definition of every “best practice” for growing an enduring company will be rewritten.


Companies must now discover new avenues of growth that are proprietary to them and unable to be commoditized. These strategies must scale without a ceiling along with the company’s long term trajectory. And they must be lean and efficient in how they deliver their results. 


These new growth playbooks must be Ecosystem-Led.

What we mean by ‘partner ecosystem’

Let’s start simply: A partner is an outside company, organization, or person with whom you “win together.” Typically, these wins are achieved because you have shared customers, markets, and/or goals. Partners have some direct economic incentive to help you win, which can be quite diverse in nature. Generating new business, increasing the loyalty of existing customers, earning commissions, and building relationship capital are all common incentives at play.


This is different from your vendors (i.e. accountants, lawyers, SaaS tools you buy), who are paid directly by you to provide a service back to you. It’s also not the same as your customers, who are transacting directly with you to buy your product. Partners are a distinct beast. They are more like a third party in a “value triangle” with a shared customer, user, or stakeholder.


partner ecosystem is an interconnected network of businesses, communities, and individuals that work together and often rely on each other to offer end-to-end value to their shared customers or prospects.


The partners in your ecosystem could be technology integrations, offer services or solutions that enhance your offering, or simply resell or distribute your products. No matter what they do for you, this universe of companies have a simple thing in common: They win when you win. 


In the modern business world, partner ecosystems have become so prolific, interconnected, and important that they are often referred to simply as ecosystems for short. 


Thus, Ecosystem-Led Growth is a go-to-market motion that focuses on the partner ecosystem as the primary way to attract, convert, and grow customer relationships. 


As a differentiated go-to-market motion, ELG leverages your network of partners, communities, and marketplaces. It does this via data, technology, and processes to drive growth at scale, in essence operationalizing the value of the data and relationships in your ecosystem.


Unlike direct sales or marketing, ELG is infinitely scalable. It allows you to expand your market reach by orders of magnitude rather than linearly. ELG also delivers on operationalizing these indirect channels at scale by using data, automation, and brand new playbooks.


Initially, you may think of your company’s ecosystem as a big hub and spoke diagram, with your company at the center of many partnerships that revolve around it like the image below.


Hub and Spoke


As it turns out, however, virtually no one’s ecosystem is shaped like this — and that’s a good thing. In reality, a healthy ecosystem contains many companies that each have their own ecosystem as well. 


In other words, while you may consider yourself the “hub” in your ecosystem, you have to remember that you are also a “spoke” in each of your partners’ ecosystems. Even more important is that many of your partners may in fact also be partnered with each other in addition to their partnerships with you.


As a result, ecosystems aren’t hubs and spokes at all. They’re network graphs. 


Network Graph 


This network graph ecosystem shape is far more robust than the hub and spoke, and the density of connections inside of that graph are a desirable healthy characteristic of any ecosystem. “Density” in this case is simply the number of connections within the graph itself. Higher density means that the average company in your ecosystem also itself has a healthy ecosystem and that a large number of its partners are also your partners. 


In the modern data stack, the density is off the charts. You can see this in just a tiny subset of the network graph for Snowflake, a leading data warehouse, below. 


Snowflake’s High-Density Partner Ecosystem via


Snowflake is a monster company but their ecosystem is no hub and spoke. It’s extremely dense and reflects the maturity, stability, and promise of the industry in which it exists. 


The density of connections in this ecosystem means that Snowflake is likely no farther than one existing connection away from any new partner it might want to pursue. It also has plenty of redundancy, meaning that even if companies disappear, get acquired, or change their models, there are plenty of others in the “mesh” with similar connective tissue who can grow to fill the void left behind.

Why focus on ELG now?

The success of a business movement like Ecosystem-Led Growth doesn’t just hinge on good ideas — it also requires good timing. A major reason why ELG is having its moment is because the sun is setting on a deep bench of growth strategies that just don’t work like they used to.


Artificial Intelligence (AI) is having a transformative impact on everything we know about how companies are built and run. We’re in the most complex and fraught regulatory environment that we’ve ever seen. A volatile tech economy has put valuations onto a rollercoaster that requires an incredible agility in how tradeoffs are made between growth and efficiency. 


In the midst of this rapidly changing environment, many companies have found themselves as part of an equation where the old numbers no longer balance. Companies everywhere are scrambling for new growth paradigms as the old playbooks let them down.


Ecosystem-Led Growth is the shining star in this galaxy of expanding darkness. 


This post was adapted from an excerpt of Bob Moore’s book  Ecosystem-Led Growth: A Blueprint for Sales and Marketing Success Using the Power of PartnershipsOrder the book here, and subscribe to Crossbeam Insider for expert ELG insights and advice.

Bob Moore 5 min

Ecosystem-Led Growth: The power of your partner ecosystem

ELG turns your partner ecosystem into your company’s most efficient and scalable source of revenue growth. Learn how it works, and why it's transforming SaaS GTM.

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