Getting Started With Ecosystem-Led Growth: Your First 3 Plays

Getting Started With Ecosystem-Led Growth: Your First 3 Plays

Zoe Kelly 11 min
By Zoe Kelly

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In her Supernode 2022 fireside chat, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz Sarah Wang shared why it’s necessary for companies to have strong partner programs in order to weather economic storms.

“Partnerships are more important than ever. Specifically, because you are bringing in pipeline, shortening sales cycles, and increasing conversion rates,” she shared. “Partnerships are a ‘need to have’, not a ‘nice to have’, especially in this environment.”

This kind of partnerships-forward strategy that Wang referred to is also called ecosystem-led growth (ELG). ELG is the acceleration of customer acquisition, account expansion, and access to new markets using partners and partner data to power go-to-market (GTM) motions. For example, a company using ELG might use partner data to help their sales team close deals faster and at a higher conversion rate via ecosystem-led sales. 

Companies who are either on the fence about leaning into ELG or unsure of where to start, this article is for you. We’re covering:

Why it’s the era of ELG

The rise in popularity of sharing partner data securely combined with changes in privacy laws has created conditions for ELG to become a predominant business strategy for tech companies. Here’s why.

ELG is trending upwards among tech companies

How many tech companies are actually using ELG today? How has that number changed in the past few years? To find out, we’ve calculated the ratio of the total number of tech companies using ELG out of all of the tech companies in the world with existing partner programs. 

Starting in January 2020, we took the total number of companies in Partnerbase, a database that tracks every company worldwide with a partner program of some kind, and made that the denominator in our ratio. Then, we pulled the number of companies sharing account level partner data on Crossbeam from the same time range and made that the numerator. What we found was that the number of companies using ELG is growing exponentially.

We know it works

As we’ve interviewed partnership leaders, CMOs, CEOs, and other GTM professionals who use ELG, we have seen (and recorded) firsthand how they’ve increased revenue for their companies. Some examples: 

Privacy and data-sharing guidelines makes ELG an attractive choice

The way companies can legally buy and sell data is changing; third-party data is getting more difficult to acquire and second party data (including partner data) will have to take its place if companies expect to generate high quality leads and personalize sales and marketing outreach. 

In its “Next In Personalization” 2021 report, McKinsey & Company found that 71% of respondents “expect personalization” from brands and businesses and 76% “get frustrated” when this expectation is unmet. Simultaneously, companies like Apple and Google are proactively responding to changes in third-party data laws. This has included Google announcing a 2023 ban on the use of third-party cookies on its Chrome browser and ad networks

As the supply of third party customer data dwindles, a company’s commitment to sharing data with partners will most likely become increasingly valuable. For example:

  • AEs can use partner data in the sales cycle to stand out to prospects who are already customers of your partner with a warm intro.
  • Partner data can help you and your product team uncover high-demand integrations to build with your tech partners, improving your product and alleviating the need for your product team to build custom features.
  • Your sales and marketing team can use partner data to target opportunities who are customers of your partner using case studies highlighting your joint value proposition. 

Why you need a PEP

74% of companies implementing ELG use a partner ecosystem platform (PEP). PEPs helps companies securely share data with their partners and drive ecosystem-led growth. A PEP connects directly to your data source, such as your customer relationship management (CRM) system or CSV file, and surfaces overlaps between your data and your partner’s data. For example: If you have a high amount of customers in common with your partner, this is a signal that you should develop an integration to help your mutual customers get more value from your products.

The fastest way to know where you and your partner should invest in a potential partnership is by real-time account mapping using a PEP. . (We’ll get to the most common types of overlaps and how to use them in a bit!)

PEP usage continues to trend upward among US and European companies (with a 16% increase in the US since 2022!). In a volatile economic climate where 31% of respondents reported reductions in their SaaS spending, PEPs are growing in popularity. Future Market Insights reported that the PEP industry will reach a $201.6B value by 2032.

Source: 2023 State of the Partner Ecosystem report. Read more here.

Because PEPs are the tools that enable partner data sharing (the very backbone of ELG) they are an integral part of ELG-led companies’ tech stacks. Partner data bolsters the success of every GTM team and can power their respective tech stacks.

PEPs bring partner data to your other tools

You can integrate your PEP with the existing tools in your tech stack, helping your GTM teams generate leads, close deals, and retain more customers at scale.. For example, Crossbeam integrates with: 

  • HubSpot. Partner data can be synced and saved as contact lists in HubSpot. Overlap data can trigger workflows, build reporting dashboards, and automate sales tasks by being pushed into the Crossbeam Overlaps Custom Object.
  • Salesforce. Sync data on your partners, accounts, and overlaps directly to your Salesforce environment. Partner data becomes automatically visible on account pages, indicating to your team that they should ask for an introduction from a partner or get intel about their target account from the partner.
  • Snowflake. Push data directly from your data warehouse into Crossbeam.
  • Slack. Flag new overlaps via DM or in a Slack Connect channel by setting up customizable alerts.
  • PRMs. Automatically retrieve overlap data on your leads within your PRM. (Read about the difference between PEPs and PRMs)
  • BrowserWeb extensions. Get notified of any overlaps, matching partners, and populations on the site you are browsing.

Your first three plays using a PEP

You realize the importance of a PEP and you sign up for Crossbeam… Now what? We took a look at our product data to surface the most common actions that our customers take. This is a great place to kick off your PEP journey and can make sure you’re taking advantage of the easy wins that can help you prove value faster to your higher-ups. 

When you map accounts with your partners in Crossbeam, you get to see nine “standard” overlap types (not including custom populations created by users). Here are the top three most common overlap reports that our users create (and their corresponding use cases) to make identifying your first three PEP plays easy.

The account mapping matrix on Crossbeam.

#1: Customers <> customers overlaps

Your first play: Vet an integration

The customers <> customers overlap identifies the group of people who will benefit from an integration between your product and your partner’s product. If you are considering building an integration with a partner, a high customer <> customer overlap count is a major green flag. Instead of asking your higher-ups to invest time and resources into building an integration based on good faith, show them the amount of customers you have in common. The overlap data will show just how many people are eligible to adopt the integration immediately. (Plus, you can add that integration users are 58% less likely to churn than non-integration users.) 

Once you’ve built the integration, your customers <> customers overlap list becomes your target group of early adopters. Your marketing team can create co-marketing motions such as a webinar or joint blog posts explaining the new integration to potential adopters. 

Customers <> customers overlaps are also a good indicator of the overall health of a potential partnership. Having shared customers shows that you and your partner have a similar ideal customer profile (ICP). This is a signal that you’re likely to have overlaps between your prospects and opportunities as well. And mapping accounts between these populations will give you proof in seconds.

Read: Attn Partner Leaders: You Can’t Scale Until You Know What to Say “No” To.

#2: Prospects <> customers overlaps

Your second play: Get a warm intro

Having a prospect who’s already an existing customer of your partner’s is kind of like knowing someone who already works at the company you’re applying to: having someone on the inside who can put in a good word can go a long way in helping you stand out from your competition. 

When you surface prospects <> customers overlaps, you’re identifying a group of accounts (and AEs) that can benefit from a warm intro. Warm intros help show that your partner trusts you and your product aligns with theirs. This can reduce the time between initial outreach and the prospect booking their first sales call. This is what we call ecosystem-led sales

To get started, we recommend working with your AE to create:

  • A short blurb that explains the status of the account. What background information should your partner reference in the warm intro? 
  • A draft of what you want the intro to say. Make the assist easier on your partner while also giving your AE the chance to make sure it’s reflective of their sales pitch.

Read:How Spirable shortens their sales cycles when partners validate their product before their initial sales call. 

#3: Open opportunities <> customers overlaps

Your third play: Accelerate a deal with insider information

As The Beatles once sang, we get by with a little help from our friends (or in this case, partners). When a deal stalls, an AE is ghosted, or they need more support pushing the deal across the finish line, a partner can help. 

For example:

  • Has the company recently greenlit an increased budget for their tech stack? That might be a good time to revisit a stalled deal. 
  • Are you being ghosted because your contact left the company? Your partner can connect you with someone new. 
  • Is the opportunity looking for a product with a specific feature? Highlight it in your next sales call.

Plus, they can educate the opportunity about the value of your product or integration during their sales conversations and onboarding with new customers. 

For your opportunities <> customers overlaps, we recommend: 

  • Making sure your AE and your partner are able to backchannel. The faster your AE can ask your partner questions about their open opportunity, the better. Facilitate an introduction via a quick Zoom call. Then, help them establish a means of communication that doesn’t require you to be the middleman. 
  • Creating a one-pager version of your sales pitch for your partner. Because of their existing relationship, your partner is uniquely positioned to put in a good word and share relevant use cases about your product to your opportunity.

Read: How an AE at SEO platform Botify went from being ghosted by an opportunity to closing the deal just two weeks later, thanks to a partner. 

Zoe Kelly 11 min

Getting Started With Ecosystem-Led Growth: Your First 3 Plays

ELG is trending upwards among tech and services companies. Learn why you need a PEP to map accounts and power your GTM motions using partner data and your Ecosystem. The first play: identifying mutual customers to vet an integration with a potential tech partner and drive adoption.

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