The Need for Ecosystem Success Managers

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While the concept of “Customer Success” has been utilized within SaaS companies for over 10 years, the requirement for a similar model in partner ecosystems is being recognized due to shifting business models and increased emphasis on building a successful partner ecosystem. About 68% of North American technology sales and greater than 80% outside of North America go through partnerships. This shows how important it is to manage your partner ecosystem as effectively and efficiently as you would manage your largest direct customers.

Customer Success is not only a function, but is a philosophy built to ensure customers achieve their desired outcomes while using your product or service. It is something that is usually pushed by management from the top down. Customer Success is relationship-focused customer management, that aligns customer and vendor goals for mutually beneficial outcomes. Similarly, Ecosystem success is relationship focused partner management, that aligns partners and company goals to build a win-win relationship and achieve a higher collaborative ROI. Therefore, the need to create the role of Ecosystem Success Managers (ESM).

“Traditional” partner managers have a different focus than ESM’s

This relatively new role is different from the traditional partner manager role. A partner manager is focused on partner outreach and relationship management. They

Build out partner ecosystems

  • Identify and source new partnership opportunities 
  • Research partners, identify key players and generate interest
  • Collaborate with senior management and other teams to align on internal goals with new and existing partner relationships
  • Negotiate and finalize partnership deals in accordance with company’s contract guidelines and policies

Measure and report performance

  • Forecast, measure, and report the results of various partner engagements

Build and maintain a great relationship and experience

  • Deliver a consistent experience to their partners when working with their organization 
  • Keep a great ongoing relationship with current partners and offer new ways to grow the partnership

Typical partner manager metrics

  • Number of partners 
  • Revenue through partners
  • Number of deal registrations
  • Number of people trained
  • MDF utilization and ROI

At its core partner managers search for, recruit, and onboard partners to their ecosystem. They measure performance and work to maintain “great ongoing relationships”, but traditionally the role takes a somewhat narrow approach, looking at what success the partner brings to the organization, and may not be as focused on partner or even joint success.

The Ecosystem Success Manager

But the role of an Ecosystem Success Manager is much bigger and broader than a typical partner manager’s role. In this new role, the ecosystem success manager is focused on creating a win-win scenario – not just focused on the organization’s success but also on the success of the partner.

An Ecosystem Success Manager (ESM) manages a portfolio of partners and ensures the whole organization is aligned to make the partners successful. An ESM is responsible to help partners achieve great outcomes including

Recruiting, Educating, and Socializing

  • Ensures partner is onboarded and has access to all the products, tools, technologies, and trainings that will set them up for success
  • Ensures partner is socialized internally with other teams within the organization – With product teams whenever there’s a co-development activity involved, and with marketing and sales teams whenever there are co-marketing and co-sell activities involved
  • Ensures that partner is aware of the vision for the relationship, how success is defined and measured and what strategic and tactical activities need to be undertaken to achieve the vision

Being the partner champion 

  • Be the voice and advocate of the partner within their organization
  • Collect and share partner requirements, feedback, pain points
  • Identified new expansion opportunities for the partner – Tie into other products & services, new GTM motions, new geographical expansion opportunities etc.
  • Call out opportunities for upsell, cross sell to partner business development and partner account teams. Generate more value for joint customers, their own organizations, and that of the partners’

Being the Orchestrator

  • While developing new innovative solutions either within the target market or expanding to new markets, bring together multiple partners with the right set of capabilities and create new multi-party relationships

Resolving issues and bottle necks 

  • Acts as the go-to person to resolve issues and challenges faced by the partner while trying to interact with other organizational functions – Engineering, Marketing, Sales, and Support/Service escalation teams

Being a coach

  • Work closely with partner and assist them in developing new capabilities that align well with the vision the organization has for its ecosystem
  • Share best practices and ensure partners are well equipped to serve common customers and achieve a higher CSAT

Typical Ecosystem success manager metrics

  • Partner satisfaction
  • Engagement index
  • Innovation index
  • Relationship depth
  • Partner profitability
  • Customer Satisfaction with partner

Although both roles, Partner manager and Ecosystem success manager, ultimately focus on generating top line growth, the Ecosystem success manager is focused on joint success, and each entity’s success as well. With companies across all industries rapidly moving to adopt an Ecosystem approach, it’s time for organizations to adopt a customer success philosophy with their partners as well and create the ESM role.

With ESMs, enterprises can move closer towards building a symbiotic relationship between partners and themselves that will drive mutual success.

If you want to learn more about our take on the Ecosystem Success Manager role, contact us at [email protected]