Partnership Insights
The Need for Ecosystem Success Managers

There's no doubt that Customer Success plays a pivotal role in customer retention and satisfaction. Should companies be creating a similar position to enable partners? Ecosystem Success Managers may be the next role you want to hire.

While the concept of Customer Success has been popular within SaaS for over a decade, Partner Success is still relatively new. However, greater emphasis on leveraging partnerships for revenue growth has made the idea more intriguing. Today, nearly 68% of North American technology sales and more than 80% outside of North America go through partnerships. Just as you dedicate resources to your biggest direct customers, you might also benefit from supporting those coming in from indirect channels.

Customer Success is not only a function, but also 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.

“Traditional” Partner Managers have a different focus

An Ecosystem Success Manager (ESM) is relatively new role that is different from the traditional Partner Manager role. A Partner Manager focuses on partner outreach and relationship management, which includes responsibilities to:

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

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

The role of an Ecosystem Success Manager is much broader than a typical Partner Manager’s role. ESMs focus on creating a win-win scenario – not just their organization’s success but also their partner company's success. An 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 bottlenecks

  • 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 Partner Managers and Ecosystem Success Managers 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.

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