What is Ecosystem Selling?

What is Ecosystem Selling?

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Ecosystem Selling is a B2B sales methodology in which a company creates its sales opportunities by proving its full scale expertise and/or presence in all or most parts of a business ecosystem. Expertise is usually proven by publishing and consulting activities and presence is represented by subsidiaries, spin-offs and partnerships.

Big enterprises achieve their full scale presence by product portfolio management (smaller cross-subsidised products/services, R&D, M&As, etc.) and organic partnerships while smaller companies tend to prove expertise only by publishing and consulting activities. Sublets of ecosystem selling...

 Sublets of ecosystem selling can be called content or inbound marketing (proving expertise by publishing and time/quantity-limited giveaways of smaller services) or social selling (publishing, commenting etc. on social networks for certain audiences). 

Ecosystem Communities

Ecosystem selling can also be identified as community selling as all ecosystems can be described by its related communities. Beyond the typical sales goals (like ‘raising awareness’ and ‘making individuals interested’ in products or services) community selling also has a brand damage control function. Preventive community presence is the ability of companies to manage certain opinions in communities. Prevention is a pattern of online activities to counteract and restrain certain posts, comments, videos etc. from going viral or trending. Publishing different messages for different communities to get the same result is a basic principle in ecosystem selling.
From ecosystem selling point of view there are three types of communities: open-, closed-, and forced-communities to be present.

  • Service or product based (open) communities   More
    There are open communities that organise themselves based on certain services and/or products. Service based communities tend to be bigger communities than product based communities. (Ex.: mobile phone users are a bigger group than the users of a certain mobile brand hence a campaign talking about different phones has a bigger theoretical audience than a campaign talking about functions of Android)
    To be properly represented in product or service based communities by thought leaders and influencers is a complex but relatively cheap way of ecosystem selling. It is cheap as many of the on-the-payroll-type jobs are done by shadow workers (for free) or by contractors (on demand).
  • Media based (closed) communities   More
    Big media outlets are the combinations of many different communities. Smaller media outlets tend to be specialised in one certain community. In ecosystem selling the active user group of a company is also regarded as media based community if the company owns the media platform in which the community exists, like SAP user groups on SAP’s own website. The audience/traffic of certain media outlets can be called closed communities as only the owner of the media outlet has direct access / moderation rights to the community (full control of when/what/how is published/shared/fed to its audience).
    Publishing for a whole ecosystem through media outlets is a method from the ’50s which was invented by a department of a US agency, called Propaganda Assets Inventory. It means having connections to hundreds of different media outlets to amplify the message of an entity.
  • Public service based (forced) communities   More
    In ecosystem selling a special relationship with authorities and regulators are essential for several reasons. Their community (audience/traffic) is the entirety of people in a certain jurisdiction. The PR/marketing value of any communication from a regulator and/or authority is outstanding as any decision of a regulator affects everyone (forced community) in that jurisdiction. This is one of the reasons why ecosystem selling activities often include involvements in cases/issues with regulators and or authorities. From marketing/PR point of view there is little difference between getting involved in positive or negative issues (having debates with authorities – negative or supporting certain cases of regulators – positive).

Ecosystem Selling Case Study

Typical example of ecosystem selling is Salesforce.com. Its products and expertise is represented in all ecosystem segments and all communities of the sales automation industry by products, giveaway services, training materials, certification systems, strategic partnerships, media outlets, incentivised influencers etc. More

Salesforce.com products

You might believe that salesforce.com is a CRM vendor though in reality by now salesforce.com Inc has become the 4th or 5th biggest software company in the world. Some of  their portfolio products are cross-subsidised marketing vehicles and don’t serve revenue or profit purposes but predefined ecosystem selling goals instead.

Salesforce.com in professional communities/partnerships

Salesforce.com owns almost all related professional communities (quasi-open communities), finances quasi-independent communities and has partnerships to closed communities through interface or connector solutions. Most of these partnerships are organic in the sense that bigger players from the sales acceleration industry cannot afford not having cooperation with salesforce.com. And such organic partnerships grant access to newer closed communities.

Salesforce.com in forced communities

Salesforce CEO Threatens to Take Business Out of Georgia If ‘Anti-Gay Bill’ Is Signed

Salesforce.com economy


(Infographics from www.outboxsystems.com)

Author’s Sales Note

Though most corporate boards are reluctant to launch ecosystem selling projects being afraid of the length and complexity of such venture. This delay creates opportunity-windows for mid-size IT companies. Because...

 experience and industry statistics show that ecosystem selling projects are scaleable and to build and implement a functioning ecosystem selling – sales methodology with self-sustaining, shadow-working community management protocols is one of the best ROI for mid-size B2B companies. 

(It is also important to mention that such projects are one of the biggest current professional challenges of sales consulting.)

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