Developing a Marketing Strategy for Today’s Business Ecosystem

Today’s businesses rarely operate in isolation. Instead, many find themselves part of a larger ecosystem. Here’s how to leverage that aspect of your business in your marketing and strategy decisions.

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Recently, a client in the software-as-a-service market asked me to update marketing materials. The messaging pivot was simple: Instead of the company’s declaring itself best-in-class and the only solution buyers needed, it wanted to take a different approach. While still arguing that services and features were market-leading, it focused on how a one-of-a-kind solution delivers additional value to customers by working effectively within buyers’ legacy technology ecosystem. This conversation raised an interesting question: Because today’s landscape ecosystems require services, technology, and teams that can work together to make a business’s vision a reality, what steps should companies take to use this to their marketing strategy’s advantage?

How Ecosystems Redefine the Competition and Cooperation

Most of the situations I walk into as a marketing consultant start with a discussion of the competition. What companies are you competing against? What products or services do they offer? What customers do they serve? What do they do better than you, and what do you do better than them? These questions form the core of a competitive analysis. However, when there are structural shifts in the market that move toward ecosystems, the conversation changes.

Who you compete with is still relevant. But it’s also important to think about who you cooperate with. An organization that has traditionally been a competitor may end up being a partner that can create a more fully fleshed-out solution. Conversely, you may find that your competitive advantage comes less from your products or services and more from your partnerships or integrations. Understanding this at a strategic level and then integrating it into the marketing conversation are critical to reaching today’s buyers.

Expand Your Brand’s Value Proposition

As you move toward active participation in the broader ecosystem, it’s important to understand your value proposition. Your firm’s value proposition happens on two levels. The first is the value you bring as an individual operator. In other words, if a company buys your products or services alone, what value can you deliver? The second is where you act as part of an ecosystem and increase your value proposition by adding value to other players. Here’s an example:

Several years ago, I wrote marketing copy and blogs for a sales presentation app. The app by itself was a huge boon for sales teams because it reduced the amount of time sales reps had to spend developing presentations for each prospect—from hours to minutes. The app was ultimately acquired by one of the largest customer relationship management (CRM) systems in the market. When the two apps integrated, the features and information worked together to further reduce the time to create presentations to less than half.

Understanding how you bring value to the ecosystem—whether it’s your integrations or access to your customers—can help you make the most of the opportunities in an ecosystem economy.

Have Resources in Place to Manage Relationships

When you assume your role as part of a larger business ecosystem, tremendous opportunities open up. However, this shift will also require new workflows and additional levels of coordination among your marketing team. Have a dedicated point of contact who oversees your partners in ecosystem marketing. Whether that’s coordinating on campaigns to make sure all parties are working together for maximum exposure or creating content that can be labeled for clear communication, having someone who can manage these relationships and be responsive on the marketing side will help you make the most of these opportunities.

Ecosystems are becoming an integral part of how companies do business today. By understanding how this benefits you—and taking steps to streamline and optimize your marketing—you’ll be well positioned to grow revenue and expand your reach by being part of your industry’s most important ecosystems.