Want to build a successful business ecosystem?

Do you want to build a successful business "ecosystem"?

Shopify has one of the best models and track records for building an "ecosystem" of committed and loyal partners. They identify some of the key principles to maximise each of the partnerships.

My personal experience and recommendations for precursor activities to this building of the ecosystem is to first review and revisit your Business Canvas or Lean Canvas, i.e. a one-page sheet that summarises your business. This provides insights  (Please see my other blogs on this, e.g.https://www.kenbusinessdoctor.com/are-business-plans-relevant-any-more/ )

Secondly, it is also good to define and refine your Go-To-Market Strategy, which helps further give clarity on your market and client segments and on your partners or potential alliances.  (Forthcoming blog on this).

(Note that in this blog I have quoted extensively from the business writer, Ruth Even Haim, of Grow Your Business.  Thanks Ruth).

If you are interested in exploring more about building effective ecosystems, please feel free to set up a free initial consultation with Ken to explore how this applies and will benefit your company:  kenbusinessdoctor.youcanbook.me


"Define clear goals for each type of partnership.

Ask yourself how this new partner will help you grow your business and how you can help them do the same. 

There are typically different goals for different types of partners (e.g. using Shopify as an example).

Some of the different kinds of partners could include:


  • App developers, e.g. creating integrations.
  • Shopify agencies
  • Experts in different fields
  • Ecommerce and Shopify influencers
  • Merchants who refer other merchanges through your affilliate program.

The key to any successful partnership is to give as much value as you can. Try to always give more value than you take, and your will be surprised at how effective this mindset is for your business' growth.


Add clear value to your clients.

While partnerships are a wonderful marketing tool, your ultimate goal should always be to provide more value for your clients.

With each new potential partner, think about what this new partnership can do to improve your clients' experiences with your business.

Some of the value you could offer clients through new partnerships could be:

  • New features for you app only available through integrations
  • Discounts on new and useful apps
  • Discounts for services of agencies and experts
  • An additional service that you don't currently offer, through a partnership with another expert
  • Knowledge in a field that in which someone else has higher expertise than you.

This should be the filter through which you decide who to partner with and who not to—even if you are partnering with someone whose marketing potential for you is relatively small, it might be worth it if it gives your customers something they have not gotten from you up until now.

"Your ultimate goal should always be to provide more value for your clients." 

Build your exposure to new potential clients. 

This is probably your end goal when partnering with anyone: you want to attract new clients to your business that have not been exposed to you yet.

et this is something that I see a lot Shopify Partners, and specifically app developers, miss out on.

This is the other side of focusing on giving value to your customers—don't forget to also advertise the new value you are offering, not only to your existing customers but also to new ones.

To get the most out of each partnership, you need to aim to use any marketing that your new partner has to offer to advertise yourself. It goes both ways, of course, as you will also use every marketing tool at your disposal to advertise your new partner.

Marketing your partnership

Once you’ve entered a new partnership, there are a number of ways you can communicate it to new and existing clients.

Emails: When offering a new functionality or service to your clients, send an email explaining this new feature and linking to your new partner. Make sure they do the same thing, linking to your website.

Guest blog posts: For each of your partners with a blog, no matter how large or small, see if you can write a guest blog post containing valuable information, with some links back to your website and service. This will not only benefit you in terms of direct exposure, but also in terms of off-page SEO, which we will talk about in a moment.

Videos and podcasts: If you or your partner communicate with your clients through video and/or voice (which you definitely should), feature each other on your podcasts, YouTube channels, and anywhere else relevant.

Partners page: Create a partners page on your website, and link each new partner with their logo on this page. Don’t forget to also check if your new partner has such a page, and be sure you appear there as well.

In-app links:  This is extremely useful for developers. Have an in-app integrations page where you link all of your integrations.


Also, make sure in advance that you get a link to your app from your new integration partner’s dashboard. 


Offer mutual incentives.

You can increase the likelihood of your new partners sharing your service as much as possible by incentivizing them for each new client they get you.

Affiliate programs are not just for affiliate marketers and influencers to share your business for a certain fee—they are also one of the best ways to make sure that your partners get something back for the business they send your way, without having to spend any money in advance.

This goes both ways. If your partners have an affiliate program of their own, sign up and send clients their way with your referral link, so that you get a percentage of these clients’ fee.

This kind of mutual incentive helps ensure that both sides benefit from clients they refer, and can be a good fit for any kind of partnership: you can use your affiliate link in your in-app links, blog posts, website links, and more.


Create a system

Make establishing new partnerships as easy an automated as possible.

Create a system that defines clear goals [and KPIs] for each type of new partnership.

Have a protocol that you or your employees can easily follow when deciding about a new partnership and what it would look like.

Once you have a system in place, you can approach different potential partners in bulk, and start creating a more personal connection with the ones that get back to you.

"Don't compromise the quality of your service or product for a partnership that does not fit the standards that you have set, even if it has the potential to be very lucrative."

With a checklist of things that need to happen for new partnerships, it becomes very easy to decide if a potential partner is right for you or not, as well as to not miss out on any of the value that you or your clients can get out of it.

Don't compromise the quality of your service or product for a partnership that does not fit the standards that you have set, even if it has the potential to be very lucrative. The market is large enough that you will find the people who fit your mindset and goals.

Some practical ways of automating your partnership process:

  • Offer an easy sign-up form on your website for new partners
  • If you are a developer, create an API for integrations with your app
  • Create a media template for announcing new partnerships
  • Create a checklist of all the things that need to be done with each new partnership 
Key takeaway

Partnering with other Shopify Partners [as an example] can be a significant part of your marketing and growth strategy. It is important that you know how to make the most out of each partnership you establish, so all the work you did does not go to waste.

When establishing a new partnership, stop and think about the marketing potential that this new partner has for you, and what needs to happen for you to make full use of this potential.

This does not only apply to new partners—are there existing partnerships in your arsenal that you did not make the most out of?  If so, contact them and try to squeeze the last bit out of your marketing opportunities for each other.

This is not about being over-calculating or demanding, it is about making sure that you give each other the biggest value and exposure possible. And that will only serve to help you, and your users."

If you are interested in exploring more about building effective ecosystems, please feel free to set up a free initial consultation with Ken to explore how this applies and will benefit your company:  kenbusinessdoctor.youcanbook.me

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