How Modern SaaS Companies Accelerate Time to Revenue Using Ecosystem-Led Growth
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Historically, go-to-market (GTM) teams have relied on third-party data, cold outreach, and even some guesswork in hopes that their messaging would resonate and their leads would convert. And ultimately, sales reps would lose 40-60% of their deals to the status quo, or “no decision”.
With shifting markets and changes in buyer behavior, sales and marketing teams have struggled to hit their goals. For example:
- 73% of sales development representatives (SDRs) report failing to hit their quota (Pavilion)
- Only 44% of marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) are a good fit for sales (Gartner)
- Only 8.5% of outreach emails receive a response (Backlinko)
In response, modern SaaS companies are adapting their strategies and using Ecosystem-Led Growth (ELG) to bolster the work of every GTM team and accelerate time to revenue. Rather than waiting months for a response, SDRs turn to partners in their ecosystem for same-day warm intros. Rather than spending precious minutes determining a prospect’s BANT criteria, partners can share valuable information with account executives (AEs) about their prospect’s business needs and help them skip ahead in the sales conversation. And instead of low win-rates, ecosystem-qualified leads (EQLs) convert faster and at greater deal sizes.
In fact, 5% of all SaaS companies in the world have shifted to embrace ELG (up from 0% in 2019). Including companies like:
- Microsoft attributes 95% of its revenue to partners and have committed to evaluating each major internal business change through the lens of its potential impact on partnerships
- Census pursues a 34% higher annual contract value (ACV) on average by identifying the right timing for reaching out to their prospects with the help of partners
- Everflow shaved four months off their enterprise deal cycles by selling with partners
If you’re not leveraging ecosystem-led growth, you’ll lose out to your biggest competitor — the status quo. And, eventually, you’ll have to play catch-up.
Below, we’ll cover the basics of ELG and how it can bolster the work of every GTM team and help you accelerate time to revenue.
What is Ecosystem-Led Growth?
ELG is the strategy for accelerating customer acquisition, expansion, and access to new markets via go-to-market (GTM) motions with partners.
A simple equation: ELG = GTM motions + partner data.
The key to unlocking ELG is real-time account mapping. By using a partner ecosystem platform (a PEP, like Crossbeam), you can identify which prospects, opportunities, and customers you have in common with your partners and determine where to invest your time and resources for the greatest ROI.
For example: In the account mapping matrix below, you can quickly identify how many customers, opportunities, or prospects you have in common with a potential partner.
If you have a high number of overlapping customers, this serves as a signal you should develop an integration to help your existing customers get more value from your product and make your product “stickier”. If you have a high number of overlapping prospects, you and your partner should develop your joint value proposition and co-sell to your mutual prospects. By knowing how many of a particular type of account you have in common, you can determine which next steps would achieve the greatest ROI.
For example: Understanding that your prospect is a customer of your partner can help you:
- Develop the most compelling sales conversation. Break into the account faster via a warm intro from your partner and get valuable context about the prospect from your partner.
- Make your product more attractive to your prospects. Launch an integration relevant to your prospects’ existing tech stacks, making it easier for them to say “Yes” to your product and achieve value quickly upon onboarding.
- Encourage your prospect to choose your product over your competitor’s/the status quo. Send sales and marketing messaging referencing the tools in your prospect’s tech stack and your integrations to help them envision your product as part of their existing tech stack. Identify where to invest in co-marketing activities that will drive interest among your prospects.
- Help your customers realize value in your product quickly. Know exactly which integrations or partner case studies your onboarding customer success managers (CSMs) and/or agency partners should cover with your new customer during onboarding. Help your new customer hit their first milestone in your product faster via the guidance of partners and high-value integrations.
Once you have partner data in hand, the next step is putting it into action. Clari’s revenue platform provides visibility into your partner data for sales forecasting, reporting, and real-time co-selling. This helps you accelerate your time to revenue because all of your revenue-crucial signals are in one place, instead of searching across disjointed platforms like CRM, BI, and spreadsheets.
How Modern GTM Teams Run Revenue at Scale
ELG should fuel the work of every GTM team to accelerate high-quality lead generation, sales cycles, and conversions. Below, you’ll see how sales, customer success (CS), marketing, and product can benefit from ELG and multiply their ROI.
Your sales development representatives (SDRs) can lean on partners for warm intros, and your account executives (AEs) can sell with and through your partners to close deals.
Example goals: qualifying leads, closing deals, increasing deal size, expanding accounts
By using ELG, sales teams hit their goals more effectively. For example:
Marketing and sales teams collaborate with the partnerships team and partners to generate ecosystem-qualified leads (EQLs). EQLs from tech partners are already using tools and integrations in your tech ecosystem (think: your tech partner’s product) and may be interested in adopting your product/joint solution.
EQLs from channel partners may be interested in using your product with the expert guidance from your channel partner. Channel partners like agencies and system integrators (SIs) already know what your product can do for their customers and can help educate your potential customer about the value. In both cases, your partner is recommending your product to the prospect and helping to build trust on your sales team’s behalf.
As a result, your sales team won’t have to spend extra time convincing your prospect to take the call or educating them about the basics of your product. Additionally, the prospect is more likely to convert and grow their account in the future as they get more value out of your product with the help of your channel partners and integrations.
Sales reps have reported that partners have helped them revive leads that had gone dark, increase deal sizes, and accelerate the sales cycle. On average, deals are 53% more likely to close when a partner’s involved and close 46% faster.
The earlier your customers can achieve their first business objective using your platform, the better. ELG can help improve your customer’s onboarding, accelerate activation, and improve customer lifetime value (CLV).
Example goals: time-to-first-value (TTFV), activation velocity, customer retention, renewals, reducing churn
Your CSMs can use partner data to determine which tools their new customers are using. They can then use the information to recommend relevant integrations to their new customers at onboarding to help them achieve value quickly, thus increasing their new customers’ time-to-first-value (TTFV).
Showing value during onboarding is critical for your customers’ success and for developing product advocates. As your customer sees more value in your product, they’ll use your product more often, increase their number of users in your product, and adopt more integrations. The value continues to compound as your product becomes an increasingly indispensable part of their tech stack. On average, integration users are 58% less likely to churn than those customers who don’t use integrations.
For example: RollWorks’s onboarding CSMs saw a 16% faster TTFV in a two-quarter period (among other metrics of success) when they began real-time account mapping in Crossbeam. They were able to identify the integrations most relevant to their new customers and drive their adoption at onboarding to help their customers achieve their first milestones in the product.
Marketing teams can no longer rely on third-party data. Second-party data – or partner data – provides insight into the tools your prospects are using and the types of events and information that would prove most valuable to them.
Example goals: generating high-quality leads, customer acquisition, increase customer value
Through real-time account mapping in Crossbeam, marketing teams have visibility into their prospects’ tech stacks. An overlap between your prospect list and your partner’s customer list serves as a signal that your prospect is using your partner’s software and may be interested in an integration or your joint solution. Marketing teams can use this data to:
- Send outreach that includes information about your integration or joint solution, increasing the likelihood of your prospect opening an email and clicking a call-to-action (CTA)
- Develop co-marketing campaigns or events that include content relevant to your prospect’s tech stack and business needs
For example: HubSpot and Google’s GTM strategy for their Ads Optimization Events tool led to a 232% increase in feature adoption just five months post launch. By identifying which customers and prospects they had in common, they developed a tool they knew their mutual audience would benefit from and marketed it to the right people.
Your product usage and customer feedback can help to inform the types of integrations you invest in. Additionally, your integration adoption and usage can help your product team understand where to invest their time and resources in product development, feature launches, integration adoption, and in fixing bugs.
Example goals: improving customer satisfaction, boosting product usage, increasing the number of active users in product
ELG enables more control over the user journey and experience and can help product teams build features that complement their users’ tech stacks and build integrations that make their product “stickier”.
For example: Product and marketing teams can implement custom in-app messaging or custom welcome dashboards that encourage integration adoption and features relevant to the user’s existing tech stack. By putting the integrations and product features most relevant to the user directly on their product dashboard, they’re more likely to adopt and use the integrations/features that will help them get the most value from your product. As a result, they’ll use your product more.
For example: Bynder’s product team developed its Digital Asset Transformation (DAT) feature with an open API for integrating with their strategic partner Salesforce. This helped the digital asset management (DAM) product expand into the content delivery space and access larger enterprise customers. Now, the product and partnerships team are excited to consult one another before all feature and integration launches.
How to jump start your ELG strategy
By embracing ELG, you’re investing in a forward-looking strategy that benefits every GTM team, increases value for all types of customers, and multiplies revenue. Below are three tips for getting started:
- Adopt a PEP to map accounts in real time. Master these three basic account mapping plays to vet integrations, get warm intros into your prospect accounts, and accelerate sales cycles.
- Start small, and use your early wins to get buy-in. Generate one win with a partner, and then use the results to get other members of your GTM team on board with ELG. We recommend following these five phases of co-selling for rolling out each new tech partnership.
- Learn how future-looking SaaS companies are shifting their strategy and embracing ELG in the 2023 State of the Partner Ecosystem Report. We’ve compiled four years of ecosystem analysis and surveyed more than 500+ ecosystem leaders and practitioners to share the most current data on impact, KPIs, and common org structures for partnership teams.
– Olivia Ramirez
Managing Editor, Crossbeam
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