The ultimate goal of ecosystem marketing is to build your business. And to achieve your goal, you need to excel in five major efforts. They are:
- Building the foundation of your digital ecosystem
- Gaining first time or occasional, non-loyal or non-regular visitors.
- Converting first time visitors into loyal/regular visitors.
- Converting loyal visitors into customers.
- Converting your new customers into loyal, repeat or growing customers.
Each is necessary and together they are suffient to generate business. The following discusses each of the five efforts.
1. Build the foundation
The foundation of a digital ecosystem comprises the digital links between your company, your partners, suppliers, thought leaders, and your present and potential customers.
The base of this network can’t just be a bundle of what you sell imposed on the customer. You have to focus on something the customer needs, cares about, is concerned about. The ecosytem needs a theme like “employee retention,” “sales effectiveness,” or “applying artificial intelligence” that represents a “job-to-be-done” — an important outcome the customer must perform. (see Clay Christianson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Stc0beAxavY)
2. Gain first time or occaisional visitors
The potential members of the network must come voluntarily to the ecosytem and gain genuine value in the form of thought leadership, insights about topics of current importance, diagnoses of failure, best practices that created success. They must trust the site is set up for their benefit—not to pitch them on some product.
A non-branded thought leadership site
It’s best if you set up a non-branded thought leadership site. We’ve created two such sites, the first is MarketiJournal.org focused of stat-of-the-art thinking in Marketing. The second is SalesInsights.org that offers the CEO and CSO the leading strategic ideas ideas in the rapidly evolving field of B-to-B selling.
The non-branded site protects the privacy of the executives who frequent them. The executuves are never bombarded with selling-emais. The executives come to trust these sites and the fear of being hard-sold is removed, thus eliminating a barrier to the causual reader.
3. Convert first time visitors into loyal/regular visitors
The non-branded site gives the executive-reader the opportunity to view a series of articles about a topic they are interested in without fear of being hounded by sales calls. The articles permit the reader to click on ads to continue their exploration of a topic with the sponsoring company. The executive can opt-into a continuing conversation rather than being hounded.
It’s up to you to offer a valuable point of view on the topics of interest, so that you are included in the loyal-reader building process.
4. Convert loyal visitors into customers
If you orchestrate a genuinely valuable ecosystem with a thought leadership site, you build the credibility needed for customers to opt-into a further converstion with you and eventually to select you as a buisness partner.
Credibility and trust; the ecosystem glue
The American Marketing Association recently cited a survey by the Edelman marketing firm and LinkedIn, which showed on the one hand, 90 percent of CXO’s cited the importance of thought leadership materials when evaluating potential partners. On the other, the vast majority of materials they receive diminish their opinions of potential partners. Ouch; damned if you do and damned if you don’t!
Here is a straightforward six step process for creating an ecosystem that can be the base for earning the credibility and trustworthiness to be selected as a business partner.
- Define the jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) your customers care most about.
- Identify the “clickerati” the thought leaders, business service providers, the customers, and other participants who are most active in these JTBD topics and whom you want in your digital ecosystem.
- Map the actual flow of digital traffic among the desired participants.
- Identify the strengths and weaknesses of each participant—how the win or lose in the current network.
- Define your strategy–how you will win the ecosystem, increasing share of attention, credibility, trustworthiness.
- Design and execute campaigns to implement the strategy
- Learn and evolve—test, measure, adapt
Converting trust and creditability into a business partnership
Once you have built the ecosystem and the credibility and trustworthiness of your organization it is time to convert.
The conversion process is a conversation, a two-way flow of information on the topic of a JTBD. We view prospect conversion in four stages, as pictured below.
The "Conversion Conversation"
Creating a digital-to-personal conversation
The keys to a successful conversion of a digital conversation into a personal one are:
Digital Listening. Watch digital behavior and disconver the which aspects of the JTBD are of particular concern to the customer. Build your relationship by showing respect through careful digital listening. Present additional material that directly corresponds with what hte custoemr is tellin gyou digitally.
Contribute Insight. Add value by helping solve the customer’s problems as a “free sample” of what it’s like to partner with you. Provide digital content that shows how you can help them accomplish their JTBD.
Let the Customer Participate. Yes, you want to lead the conversation and contribute. But keep listening and let the customer participate in the solution.
Make it Easy. You, of course, must make it easy for the customer to partner with you. You are not “closing” so much as facilitating.
5. Converting your new customers into loyal, repeat or growing customers
The way to convert your new customers into loyal, repeat or growing customers is to continue the two-way conversation.
And the cornerstones of becoming a better conversationalist are listening and learning. Listen as your customer’s needs evolve. And learn from your successes—your case examples, as well as being part of the thought leadership dialogue.
About the author(s):
Karl combines real-life marketing stories with timeless principles of marketing. He is well-published in the marketing world. His most recent book, The Customer Learning Curve, was co-authored with Ardis Burst. Karl has been a guest teacher and speaker in corporate settings, as well as at a number of colleges and universities.