Leading with the Product Is Not the Solution in Ecosystem Marketing
At the center of every ecosystem initiative is a client with a major business need. All divisions and functions within a tech vendor, integrator, service provider, or consultant operate with this principle in mind; every sales engagement, product development, integration, and customer success team interaction revolves around a broader outcome sought by the customer. The marketing department is no different.
Where a decade ago, technology marketers tended to “lead with technology” in order to sell products and services, today “we’re leading with solutions, technology is secondary, and the customer is at the center,” shared Claudia Kuzma, CA-AM, managing director and global ecosystem program leader at consulting firm Protiviti. “Our main goal is to sell broad solutions, not point solutions.”
Kuzma and her colleague Chris White, ecosystem marketing manager at Protiviti, shared their firm’s basic principles in “Building an Ecosystem Marketing Strategy,” the title of ASAP’s latest webinar, which took place Jan. 25.
Ten Times Isn’t Enough
Protiviti employs marketing personnel for specific solutions, vertical markets, and regions of the globe, as well as other marketeers dedicated to the company’s principal corporate brand.
“When you add a layer of ecosystem on top of these marketing challenges, it can make them even more complex,” said White.
There are already many silos within the organization, and the marketing folks across all product areas, geographies, and industries all want to target the same customers. Several of these parties, plus the partners, have to approve campaigns, which adds plenty of red tape to the process. And there are so many marketing requests to consider—webinar, podcast, event, email blast, and other marketing ideas come from all over Protiviti and partner organizations.
“We could have a marketing team that’s ten times the size of the team we have now and there probably still wouldn’t be enough to get everything done that everybody wants us to do,” said White. “There’s only so much money in the budget.”
A Map and a Playbook for a “Culture of Collaboration”
The alliance team has worked hard to instill what White believes is now a “culture of collaboration” within Protiviti. At the heart of this ethos are a “partner capabilities map” and an “ecosystem playbook” containing summaries of Protiviti’s joint offerings with each partner, as well as the associated messaging, use cases, and buyer profiles, which are put together by the alliance team for the solution and industry marketing leads. All of this content has been vetted to ensure that it aligns with broader business and marketing priorities. The other marketing leads can determine how partners augment their strategy and execution from there.
“We let [solution and industry marketing team] leads take the lead in integrating the partners into their programs. They know what the programs are. They know where the partners are going to fit best once we help them understand who the partner is and what they offer. We’re not trying to force a campaign that doesn’t make sense for the broader strategy,” said White.
Help Us Prioritize What Can’t Fit in a Box
In an effort to help the alliance team do more with less, alliance leads are given “a campaign in a box, then they can do more with a campaign with minimal marketing support,” said White. And when the alliance marketing team is maxed out on hours and budget, it turns to partners that might have more time, budget, and/or market development funds (MDFs).
Still, the alliance team and Protiviti’s partners can’t fulfill every desired partner marketing activity on each stakeholder’s wish list. When it has to turn down a request from an internal stakeholder or external partner, White said the team tries to involve the executives soliciting its help in the process by letting them state their case for prioritization.
“We can help them understand why we’re saying no to an activity and what exactly it’s going to take for us to say yes,” said White. “Is this conference strategic enough that they’re willing to move some campaigns to another quarter or perhaps drop something altogether? Getting them to help make those decisions really helps the marketing teams significantly.”
White mentioned separately that there are workarounds when the issue is lack of budget; Protiviti can often propose activities that don’t require additional dollars, such as webinars and email campaigns.
The Dos and Don’ts of Ecosystem Marketing
White concluded the presentation with a list of basic dos and don’ts in ecosystem marketing.
Align partners to the overall marketing program.
Build marketing strategy around partners.
Communicate regularly and often with internal and partner marketing teams.
Don’t try to do everything yourself: “The various teams have their various strengths, so leverage those strengths wherever you can, especially with the partners,” said White.
Involve the business in big decisions: “Tell us what is going to be most strategic to the business to grow those opportunities they’re working [on],” said White.
Try to do everything for every partner.
Ensure that marketing is focused on business problems and outcomes…
…not products, features, and functions.
Work with other leaders to add or remove items from the marketing plan on a quarterly basis.
Fully plan an entire year at one time.
There were more helpful insights into Protiviti’s ecosystem marketing strategy in Kuzma and White’s presentation. Access “Building an Ecosystem Marketing Strategy” in the ASAP Content Hub now to drill further down into the firm’s culture of collaboration.