Critical Points of Trust Within Your Ecosystem

Explore the strategies and best practices to optimize your customer experience and drive customer satisfaction.

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Tell us, are you doing right by your customers? Most organizations would say, “Yes, of course, we do right by our customers”. No SaaS company would deliver a poor user experience intentionally. But when you spend your day managing different elements of your business — or are laser-focused on one particular area, if you’re in a larger organization — it’s hard to see the big picture and to truly understand your end customer.

Gartner’s research finds that when buyers are in the consideration stage of the customer journey, they only spend about 17 per cent of that time meeting with sellers. And even when they are meeting with sellers, they’re splitting that time among multiple potential vendors. They may spend as little as five per cent of that valuable time with one vendor.  So, the question becomes: How do you cut through the noise to make that time with customers valuable and infused with trust so they can feel confident with their purchasing decision?

We’ll show you how to get full visibility over your customer journey, building trust into the relationship at every step during an ecosystems buying cycle.

As a quick refresher, Here’s How we Define ecosystems:

A partnerships ecosystem is a network of relationships that make it easier to sell products or services while delivering more value at a lower cost. In an ecosystem, all involved companies orchestrate all indirect distribution channels to scale.

To get the expert insight, we talked to PartnerStack’s Director of Channel Partnerships and Alliances, Nikita Zhitkevich. With years of SaaS experience under his belt, he helps to break down the critical points of trust within a partner ecosystem.

Standing out in the market: It’s all about awareness done right

Today’s marketers use over half a dozen channels to build brand awareness.

Nikita zhitkevich

Why? Because there isn’t a budget holder in the world who wakes up in the morning and thinks, “I want to commit my entire budget to a product or service over the next three years.” Instead, they wake up and think about their primary objective — which differs depending on their specific business.

A vice president of sales at a paint manufacturing company, might be thinking about how they can engage with more customers. Their goal is to convince end users that their paint is the best, whether that’s for making a room look nice, or to protect the exterior of a large commercial building.

But whether you're helping people color their world or are a distributor promoting a SaaS business, knowing how you fit into your niche and exactly what value you offer customers is a key first step in your go-to market strategy.

Identify communication touch points and pain points
Like many businesses across most industries, getting communications and cadence right can be a game changer. Issues like sales representatives having too many meetings, information falling between the cracks and a lack of visibility into pertinent discovery call topics is something all too familiar for SaaS professionals. The trick is an ability to identify pain-points and have a strong understanding of process and workflow — this understanding is what's known as awareness when it comes to business problems.

Build market awareness for the problem your SaaS solves

“The best way to think about customer awareness is: How do you put your product in the best position to make customers aware of it?” says Zhitkevich. “How do you enable your partners to talk about your product even to customers that may not be in the market for that product?”

Often, organizations jump to brand awareness. But depending on how much the market knows about the problem your SaaS solves, there may be a pre-step: Generating awareness and articulating the problem that your business solves.

For instance, business messaging companies like Slack had to first convince organizations that there was a better way than email. They then had to highlight the problems associated with a full inbox, as well as the benefits of having a corporate equivalent of texting or instant messaging. Once you’ve generated enough materials to help organizations understand the nature of the market problem your tech solves, it’s time to move on to building brand awareness.

The best way to think about customer awareness is: How do you put your product in the best position to make customers aware of it?
Nikita Zhitkevich, PartnerStack

Arm ecosystem partners with brand awareness

Within an ecosystem sales model, excellent brand awareness is all about empowering your partners. It’s easy to assume that your ecosystem partners will automatically see the benefits of your products, but in reality, they are trying to make a commission while making their customers as happy as possible.

They understand what their end customers’ problems are, but if it isn’t clear how your products help them solve those problems — and therefore, make that partner money through commissions — then they’ll set aside talking about your products in favor of others that are easier to explain and understand. So, how can you invigorate this vital customer journey touchpoint from within an ecosystem model?

A partner communication checklist could look like:

  • Generate partner marketing materials
  • Ensure partners can clearly articulate your product’s value proposition
  • Provide regular touchpoints with partners to share new product information
  • Create materials in a variety of media formats to reach customers through multiple channels
Ask yourself:
If one of my ecosystem partners was about to step into a meeting with an end customer who had the exact problem our solution solves for but they only had ten minutes to prepare, could they easily find materials on our solution to hand to that end customer? If the answer is a hard no or, “With a little bit of work,” then it’s time to give some extra love to your awareness touchpoint.

Increasing interest: Understanding funnel conversion

Much of the content marketing that B2B tech companies produce is created for the purpose of generating interest and awareness — and ultimately, moving a buyer through a conversion funnel.

At the interest or prospecting stage, your customer feels a desire to learn more after consuming top funnel stories you’re producing. They might want to learn more about the problem they’re facing or about the solutions on the market — this curiosity moves the buyer deeper to the middle of the funnel. At this stage, the goal is to keep your potential customers engaged.

Make customers and ecosystem partners love learning about your product

It’s important to make your solution compelling, interesting and relevant. The smartest ways companies do this is by focusing on what their tech does for the customer, not what the customer should or should not be doing. Remember: You’re not there to police them — you’re there to provide solutions.

For instance, brands often like to spend time talking about their features and technical elements. The interest stage is way too early for this. As this Medium article discusses, people buy on emotion and justify with logic and flooding potential customers with too much information can result in analysis paralysis.

The B2B buying cycle may be longer than a B2C purchase journey — and contain from six to ten times more decision makers, according to Gartner — but the same idea applies. At this stage, you want buyers to feel good about choosing your product and you want those good feelings to compel them to stick around to hear about the technical details.

“As partners are creating awareness about a specific tool, that will naturally filter into interest," explains Zhitkevich. “This will then allow that partner, if they’re well equipped to talk about that solution or that problem, to work with that vendor to that customer into the consideration or buying stage. That customer will have a trusted third-party — that they know — that has made them aware of that specific solution, they can go to, chat about that solution to, and register that they’re interested in learning more about it.”

If the awareness stage is about getting attention, the interest stage is about keeping that attention and engaging. Your potential customer will want to keep returning to their research in order to get reassurance that this is a problem worth solving. It’s up to you to make them keep returning to your website for information. They are going to be pulled in by one company or another, so the goal is to make it your business that arms them with educational and informative content.

Surfacing relevant content about your product and the value your business offers throughout the buying cycle is helpful when building trust with your future customers. As you level-up your ecosystem, we have resources to help:
Competing at the consideration stage

It’s never been harder to be a sales person. In the past, sales people had the benefit of being one of the primary sources of information for prospective buyers, delivering value to prospects from the very first interaction. Today, there is so much information available online — even when it comes to complex B2B problems — that buyers often wait to do their own research before ever having a serious conversation with a sales representative.

During the consideration stage, your customer has clearly identified their problem. They’ve put a name to it. What started out as, “My sales team isn’t closing enough deals and they say it’s because they have to spend so much time on admin work” becomes “My team is spending too much time transcribing sales calls and ordering transcripts. Sometimes they forget to even get their calls transcribed in the first place!” They’ve now clearly articulated their problem.

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “A problem defined is a problem half-solved.”

Make your solution the most trusted option

At this stage, your customer is ready to start exploring solutions. Since they know what they want and need, they’re ready to start comparing available products and services.

Zhitkevich explains that partners play a critical role during this step since they’ve built up trust with the end customer and understand the problem they need solved. This means that the customer is likely to put more value on what the partner recommends.

Here’s what Zhitkevich recommends when leveraging a trusted-third party partner who knows and understands the customer’s needs better to move the conversation along faster. “It’s important to maintain really clear messaging with the partners around your value prop and how they can and should communicate it. It’s working with them directly to create the right marketing messaging and to generate awareness among the customer base. The biggest thing you can do to protect this stage is to make sure that everybody is on the same page."

Specific assets you can create with your ecosystem partners to increase customer trust include:

Co-marketing webinars

Create webinars that go over different use cases and how your product or service applies to those specific use cases.

Case Studies

Produce content that details how other customers have used your product or service.


Detail your product’s features and the problems that it solves.

Cost-Saving Calculators

Produce content that details how other customers have used your product or service.
Providing tactical content to support your partners matters. To stand out in the market, take support one step further by providing templates your ecosystem partners can actually use.

Streamline Your Partner Program With Ready-to-Use Templates

Preparing a premium purchasing experience

If you thought digital purchase experiences and self-serve buying experiences were only for B2C customers, think again. Today’s B2B buyers want the same convenience. Research from Gartner finds that 83% of B2B buyers want to buy through digital platforms.

But just because the bulk of the conversations at this stage happen with the sales team, doesn’t mean the rest of the organization gets to throw its hands in the air and exit the chat. For instance, the marketing team can still contribute value at this stage – and they should.

At this stage, your customer knows they want to make a purchase, so they need final reassurance that they’re making the right decision. They also want to know that they’re getting the best price possible. They’ll be doing a lot of their own independent research, and they’ll be coming to you with multiple questions based on that research.

Provide assurance to boost trust for the long haul

“Getting through the purchase stage is awesome and it’s what a lot of companies focus on, but if you think about it, that’s really just the start of the journey and relationship between you, the partner and the end customer that’s purchasing the solution,” says Zhitkevich.

He details questions to ask yourself that better establish a trusting relationship at this point in the journey:

  • How do you, between all parties, create a really good first impression for that client and weave it into the fabric of what they care about?
  • Now that they’ve purchased your solution, how do you help them implement it?
  • How do you tie it back to their revenue goals in a clear and concise way so that their leadership team is aware of what the 
ROI is?
  • How do you ensure all parties are informed about what the tooling is and the role everyone plays?
T-shaped partner leader

Reaping in revenue

Treating people well is good business, but just in case you needed the numbers to tell you that, increasing customer retention by just 5% can increase your profits by up to 95%.

Today’s tech revenue models are predominantly revenue based. In the past, dollars came in based on the number of seats or licenses that a company purchased. Today, it comes in based on how much of a tool a customer uses.

This is why it’s more important than ever for customers to get value out of your product. If they believe your tool adds value to their lives, they’re more likely to work with you when there’s an issue, rather than think about a way to get out of their contract. They’re also more likely to purchase upsells and cross-sells, increasing lifetime revenue.

The bottom line matters. To dive deeper into revenue-generating tactics for your partner ecosystem, explore these resources:

Recurring business through retention

“Retention has never been more important, especially in this market and economy,” continues Zhitkevich. “Every single deal is being scrutinized across the board and CEOs are sitting down with their executives, with a spreadsheet, and saying, ‘Here are the vendors we use today. What do we not need?’ There’s an opportunity for customer success teams to go to market with their partners in the ecosystem across the board to really tell that story and that narrative.”

Partners also offer an “in” for B2B tech companies to find out more about other issues end customers face. As Zhitkevich explains: “What’s really powerful for individual customer success teams is that usually the partners that they work with and the partners that work with these vendors don’t just work on one solution to solve one problem. There’s an opportunity for customer success teams to leverage a lot of this third-party trust to speak to the executives at the top – the CFOs, the CEOs – and say, ‘Hey, this is why our tooling is important and this is the ROI it’s driving.’”

You can strengthen this stage of the customer journey by developing materials that help your customers get the most value out of your products. This could come in the form of:

Video tutorials: Demonstrate how to use different features of your product.

A self-serve documentation portal: This allows your customers to do things themselves without having to contact a member of your team each time.

Email campaigns: Put a spotlight on some of the most useful articles, videos, and other self-service documentation.

Scoring referral business through advocacy

Over half of marketers say they enjoy a lower cost-per-lead using referral programs than any other channel.

Your goal is to do more than just make your customers come back for more — although that’s very important, too! You want to make your customers so happy that they can’t stop talking about you to their network of friends and acquaintances. And those are likely to be people in their ecosystem who have similar problems to solve. Repeat business is great. Repeat business plus referral business is even better.

“Advocacy is the end goal. You ultimately want customers to get on to your tool. You want them to be so happy with the function of what you’re doing as a vendor for them that they tell their friends,” says Zhitkevich.

Delight your customers so much that they become advocates for your product. Learn more about how top partnership professionals are elevating their business.
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T-shaped partner leader

That customer satisfaction leads to so much potential for future leads, shares Zhitkevich. “They come into deal cycles. They do case studies for you. But I think the most powerful thing about advocacy, specifically, is that it’s something you can’t necessarily measure. It’s the conversations that people have off hand with their friends that are in the same space and saying, ‘Hey, I used this tool and it’s phenomenal, and it’s helped me do three times my business and it saved my job.’ That’s the kind of advocacy that you just can’t buy. Either people feel that way, or they don’t.”

Creating a B2B customer advocacy program can feel challenging. In the B2C space, this is pretty straightforward. You offer points and discounts for referrals or create a loyalty program that earn you points every time you make a purchase.

But while it’s less clear cut, there are ways to support a successful B2B customer advocacy program and strengthen this phase of your customer journey:

Reviews: Encourage  your customers to leave reviews on B2B tech review sites such as Capterra, G2, and Gartner Peer Insights.

Staying connected: Develop closer relationships with your existing customers by reaching out to them, creating events and programs specifically for them or creating email campaigns targeting them.

Rewards: Start the conversation with existing clients about supporting future deals and thinking about ways to make this attractive to them.

Feedback: Create a customer advisory board, so you can get guidance and potential advocacy from trusted clients.

Create opportunities to engage with your customers and learn more. The better you know them, the better you can support them. Learn more:


Strengthen every customer touchpoint in your ecosystem

The customer journey is important and just because you operate within an ecosystem environment doesn’t mean it has to be complicated to manage.

The key is to understand your customers’ needs at each stage of the journey and ensure that they have what they need to make the best decision possible. It’s also important to recognize the unique opportunities and challenges present when you’re operating within an ecosystem. Infuse trust and consideration into your customer journey, and you’ll reap the rewards of your efforts.

Build trust through every partnership

Automating and scaling with confidence is made easy through PartnerStack’s ecosystem. While B2B sales cycles can take months or even years to close, we know that deals close 46% faster with a partner involved, according to the State of the Partner Ecosystem 2023 report.

Learn more about how PartnerStack’s all-in-one platform can help automate and scale your entire partner ecosystem to drive more revenue in half the time and usual cost.

After all, a partner is someone you — and your customers — can trust.

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Neya Abdi

Neya is a content writer based in Toronto. She helps marketing leaders and content strategists shape the conversation around their cloud-based products and services. She steps inside the minds of marketers and product designers to understand what their solution does, how it works, and above all, how it delivers value to its customers.

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