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PHOTO: Alex Kuk

The widespread adoption of cloud software shows no signs of slowing down. Gartner predicts the largest cloud market segment Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) revenue will reach $151.1 billion dollars by 2022, up from $85.7 billion in 2018. SaaS providers are disrupting their industries and changing the way professionals work across all departments. 

Organizations rely on SaaS technologies to run their businesses. And professionals use multiple SaaS software tools (or apps) on a daily basis to improve productivity, efficiency and data accuracy. They’re also opting to work with best-of-breed software design by choosing standalone tools for specific areas instead of purchasing all-in-one software systems.

As end users continue to adopt multiple cloud technologies and new processes, SaaS marketers must change the way we sell. This is an opportunity to rethink our own growth strategies that go beyond direct sales channels to technology or channel partner programs.

Customers Have an Ecosystem Mindset

A consequence of using multiple SaaS apps or best-of-breed software is disparate systems. Standalone software doesn’t always work with other systems out-of-the-box, causing problems for today’s users. Software tools increase in value when integrated into the rest of the technology stack. When software is disconnected, organizations are left with the well-known problem of siloed data, which leads to poor performance.

How often have you heard a prospect consider your software’s ability to integrate into another system as a critical part of the buying decision?

End users are building technology stacks made up of multiple systems. If their tools don’t easily work in unison together, then the all-in-one solutions start to look like a better choice. Either way, users face a predicament: Do you choose to work with a standalone app that’s the best in its category or do you sacrifice functionality for an all-in-one solution for convenience?

Technology providers don’t want users to make this choice. Instead, they’re rapidly building technology partner ecosystems that include direct integrations into dozens and even hundreds of other software systems for their end users. These ecosystems represent a network of open data flows between a user’s endpoint systems. It allows the user to create a set of core tools that work seamlessly together. It’s no longer a question of sacrificing functionality for convenience.

Related Article: 5 Ways to Create a Marketing Technology Frankenstein

Marketers Should Tap Into Technology Partner Programs

To grow these ecosystems for end users, SaaS providers are creating sophisticated technology or channel partner programs. These programs focus on building strategic relationships with other software products that integrate directly together. Technology providers then work together to market and sell a unified solution.

For SaaS marketers, a partner network allows you to “outsource” marketing to other agencies or third-party vendors in an ecosystem. Instead of direct sales, you create a network of partners that can refer, resell or white label your software product. Partner programs can open up another revenue stream for your organization. It’s an additional way to grow leads, close more deals and reduce churn. Not only are you exposing your product to a broader audience, but you’re increasing the value of your product as it becomes a player in a bigger ecosystem.

Technology partner programs come in all shapes and sizes. Within an ecosystem, there can be partners you simply share content with versus creating reseller programs. It all depends on your buyers’ needs and how your software solutions work together for them. Partner program activities can include:

  • Co-marketing — Blog posts, events, training, webinars, case studies.
  • App marketplaces — One place to purchase and connect software products.
  • Lead referrals — Work together to identify leads and refer business, ensuring you both close the deal.
  • Reselling — Focus on your product, and let a channel of partners sell and support your software.

Another benefit of technology partner programs is that it gives buyers less software providers to deal with. As they evaluate and research different technologies, they have more vendor information than they know what to do with. This overload of information can be difficult to navigate. Users need help dissecting this information and feeling confident they’re making the right software choices.

By partnering together, software providers can cut down on the need to evaluate technologies separately and sit through multiple sales processes. Technology providers can work together to co-sell and close deals. Users often look to one software provider to make recommendations. They want the peace of mind that their new software choice plays nicely with the rest of their technology stack.

Technology partner programs and software ecosystems are an evolving strategy. Their success hinges on understanding product-market fit, a product’s API (how systems integrate) maturity, and the ability to support and provide resources for partners and end users. Going forward, SaaS providers will look to technology ecosystems and partner programs to drive untapped revenue streams.

Related Article: The Dirty Secret of the SaaS World: Customer Churn