Nearbound Daily #495: How To Take Ecosystem Partners Out of A Channel Hole

Nearbound Daily #495: How To Take Ecosystem Partners Out of A Channel Hole

Ella Richmond 4 min

Stop building your ecosystem partners “channel style”

Picture this: you’re a partner manager building ecosystem partnerships. You’ve taken advice from your leadership, read some articles, and talked to industry vets, only to find yourself struggling to get results and frustrated.


It’s a common tale—partner pros are tasked to build a partner program without previous experience, so they try to fill in the blanks.


Problem with that method is, there’s not much education on partnerships out there.


As a result, many partner pros try to build ecosystem partnerships as though they were channel partnerships.


In today’s daily we’re going to:

  1. Delve into the differences between ecosystem and channel partners

  2. Explore why so many partner professionals build ecosystem partnerships as though they were channel partnerships

  3. Game plan how you can fix your strategy today

Channel versus ecosystem partnerships 

Channel Partnerships are transactional, involving resellers, affiliates, or solution partners, and focus on promoting and selling specific products or services.


Ecosystem Partnerships are non-transacting and focused on uncovering additional value throughout each stage of a buyer’s journey (nearbound GTM). They thrive on collaboration, mutual benefit, and joint innovation.


Read more on the difference between channel and ecosystem partnerships, and if you want more context on how ecosystems ate the channel, read this article by Allan Adler.


Ask yourself: What is our goal? Why are we building partnerships?


If it’s to uncover long-term strategic value across the buyer’s journey (marketing, sales, success), you should be building ecosystem partnerships.


If it’s to tap into immediate sales and distribution expansion, you should be building channel partnerships.

Why do we make this mistake?

Partner pros make this mistake all the time for many reasons, including:

  1. Familiarity
    Channel partnerships are charted territory, meaning there’s education and existing playbooks. It takes experimentation and time to make ecosystem partnerships work. Lots of leaders choose to do what’s familiar.

  2. Traditional metrics focus
    When leadership stresses immediate revenue, it’s easy to overshadow the broader potential of ecosystem partnerships. That’s why Partner Managers have to play two games at once: the short-term game of getting quick wins and the long-term game of establishing partnership momentum.

  3. Incorrect assumptions
    Young Partner Managers often underestimate the amount of work and joint innovation it takes to build successful ecosystem partnerships.

  4. Learning gap
    The transacting channel has been around for 40+ years; there are playbooks on the transacting channel. Whereas the non-transacting channel is less than a decade old; everyone’s still experimenting and figuring it out.

How to build your ecosystem partner strategy

Now it’s time to build your new ecosystem strategy.


Here are four simple steps to get started:


  1. Adopt the nearbound mindset
    The nearbound mindset is the belief that every person, team, and company unites under one mission: the only thing that matters is the customer and the people they work with.

    Step outside of your siloes and poor incentives. Recognize that B2B has changed, and we need to evolve with it.

    It doesn’t matter if your goal is to attract new customers or retain existing customers, buyers demand more and are guarding their most precious assets: money and time.

    You’ll win if you think customer-first.


  2. Start where you are
    Take a look at all the work you’ve already done and ask yourself:

    - Are we already running nearbound motions (co-sell, co-market, co-success) with any of our partners?
    - What are my company’s existing go-to-market motions? How can I leverage partnerships to support them?
    - Which of our partners do we have the strongest JVP with? Can we begin running a nearbound motion with them?

    Construct your new strategy, starting where you are. Find opportunities to bring partners into the go-to-market motions you’re already running, and the pivot will be quick and efficient.


  3. Engage the entire organization
    Unlike channel partnerships, successful ecosystem partnerships require engagement across the entire organization.

    After all, every stakeholder along the customer’s journey must be aligned if you’re going to unlock value in their areas of expertise.

    It’s tough at first, but the result is worth it.

    Check out the 2024 guides to nearbound: nearbound GTM, product, marketing, sales, and success.

  4. Do the work
    Lastly, nothing beats ol’ fashioned hard work.

    By now you should’ve identified a few potential ecosystem partners and opened the ecosystem conversation internally.

    For the next 6+ months, you must become obsessed with stacking up your small wins and setting the foundation for long-term success. 


You’ve got it, partner pro!




P.S. If you’re interested, apply for Firneo’s Mastering Partnerships Strategy (4-week cohort program) to learn how to diagnose and solve your partner program’s biggest challenges. Find more info below.

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Ella Richmond 4 min

Nearbound Daily #495: How To Take Ecosystem Partners Out of A Channel Hole

Channel partnerships and ecosystem partnerships are not the same thing. Learn why and how to make the distinction.

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