If Ecosystems are the New Market, What’s Our New GoTo?

December 6, 2021

A few weeks ago, I wrote about How Partner Ecosystems Ate the Channel. Today, I’d like to consider, by extension, how Ecosystems have become the new “Market”, raising the question, is Go-To-Market now an obsolete construct?

The idea that “going to market” is incongruous with an ecosystem construct came up in a conversation I had with Jared Fuller in Episode 37 of the PartnerUp Podcast. We both strongly agree that the Go-to-Market mindset is insular, self-centered, transactional, and increasingly ineffective in an ecosystem-led world and needs to be replaced with a new model: “Go-to-Ecosystem” (or GTE as the acronym).

Why is GTE an important paradigm shift for CEOs, CROs, Chief Product Officers, and Partnership Leaders?

The foundations for the pivot from GTM to GTE lie in the fact that Markets (as the organizing paradigm for where and how commerce happens) have been fundamentally altered by digital transformation and business partnerships. Ever since currency replaced barter as the way goods and services are transactionally exchanged, buyers and sellers and/or partners and suppliers have interacted based on linear, stove pipe relationships, from making, to marketing, to selling, to distributing, to consuming goods and services.

Digital transformation has blown up the outdated Markets model by restructuring long-held customer value, relational and customer economic principles. Look no further than your last Uber ride to see this in living color. We now take these mobile-first, digital-first, asset-free, network-effect business models for granted. They have changed everything in B2C and are now in the early innings of transforming B2B markets.

Digital Business Ecosystems have now emerged as a modern way to talk about Markets that are characterized by the following economic and technological drivers:

-Networks of participants, none of whom own the market, who work together relationally to dynamically define, build, and execute market-creating customer solutions that are adaptive, sustainable, and synergistically beneficial to all parties involved.

-Modern, cloud-first digital technologies such as APIs that drive new use of data, new functionality, and new use cases for growth, accelerated innovation, and new business models.

-Ecosystem orchestrators who often leverage a platform business model to make dynamic connections between people, businesses, and things to transform how participants operate and deliver value.

These forces, in turn, encourage us to think about how we “Go-to-Ecosystem” rather than “Go-to-Market” by allowing us to:

-Engage the ecosystem collectively to drive joint, interdependent outcomes vs. going to the market as an isolated entity to drive transactional outcomes.

-Focus on shared, aligned customer value benefiting from partnering synergies, moving away from a zero sum, partner-unfriendly, competitive model.

-Act based on a dynamic set of combined influence and co-innovation partnerships rather than in linear, sourced product-to-customer motions.

The new marching orders for CEOs, the C-Suite, and Partner Leaders are:

-Re-imagine how you create customer value across our business and seek to leverage platform business models whenever possible. This starts with R&D and applies all the way to customer retention. Ecosystems force us to get past the four-walls, linear syndrome that permeates the GTM mindset and to examine what is happening in the ecosystem.

-Become a partner-first company across your entire organization, by ensuring that product, marketing, sales, customer success, and back office teams always consider how to strategically leverage and build value and trust with and through partners.

-Re-invent Go-to-Market process foundations and toss out or modify past conventions.  For example, the sales and marketing funnel (MQL, SQL, Direct Closed 1) needs to be replaced with an Ecosystems top of funnel (EQL, MQL, SQL, Partner-Assisted Closed 1).

It’s time for a new Go-to that replaces Markets as an outdated term, I recommend we land on Go-to-Ecosystem (GTE).