Mesh with the ecosystem

To break into the enterprise software industry, products need to be designed in a way that makes their value stand out, and more. Great product design ensures the first part. But what more can a product offer than the core value it provides? If we swoop into the minds of our buyers, it becomes increasingly apparent that enterprises have an existing ecosystem and a set of large organizations that operate within it. Your product must live and thrive in this existing ecosystem.

Ecosystems and “solutions”

Ecosystems can be of various types, intertwined together. It isn’t hard to find enterprises using productivity tools like Slack, Jira, and Trello. For tracking issues they likely use a ticketing or incident management system like ServiceNow and PagerDuty. For HR processes, they likely use Workday or Reflektive. So if you’re trying to sell a tool of any kind to an enterprise for its employees to use, there is a good chance they will think about using your tool in conjunction with other tools in their ecosystem.

Users think in terms of solutions, not products.

Don’t sell them a product. Sell them a solution to a problem. Your product may not be an entire solution in itself. An enterprise user will have a suite of tools and if your tool can “fit in” with the rest of her shelf of tools, she will prefer you over your competition.

If your tool can’t “fit in” with the rest of her shelf of tools, you need to convince her it’s worthy of its own shelf.

Convincing a buyer that your product is worthy of its own shelf is obviously much harder and more often than not is… a hard sell.

Making sure you mesh

It follows then, that to sell to the enterprise market, one needs to build a tool that not only solves a problem, but also meshes with the ecosystem. But what does this manifest as, in reality?

Build your tool the right way

When designing your tool, make sure you take into account the usage of the tool in conjunction with other tools. There may be some common tools that you can make sure it integrates with. There may be a need to allow integration with proprietary tools, calling for a generic API. Don’t make integrations an after-thought.

Look out for ecosystems

When talking to your customers, make sure to ask the right questions about what their ecosystem comprises of. In my experience, this is never the main topic of a customer conversation. So the onus is on you to be curious and develop an accurate understanding of the common ecosystems your customers have.

Hire a solutions team

It’s worth it. A solutions team will spend focused energy on carving out integrations that are interesting to enterprises and users, and building repeatable templates to deploy and demo how your product integrates with the ecosystem of the customers’ choice.

Enable your sales force

Make the demo setup available to your sales force in a “solution-first” way. Give them playbooks that teach them to ask the right questions and tailor the demo (prepared by the solutions team) based on the tools that the customer would use in conjunction with this one.

Refine your hypothesis

Keep looking out for ecosystems. Read about the industry as it evolves, learn from your sales force about what they’ve heard in the field, talk to customers about their ecosystem all the time. Integrations and Solutions aren’t short-term projects. They need to be continuously refined. Remember that although things seem rigid in the enterprise world, your customers will always be evaluating new tools. Wait too long, and their ecosystem may look different.

Examples in the real world

  • Nutanix announced integrations with ServiceNow because ServiceNow has become prevalent across IT teams. Having spotted this as an opportunity, Nutanix teams built out battle-tested, product-side integrations with ServiceNow that would cater to the needs of their customers, got solutions teams to build out examples of how this integration would work, and publicized it heavily so that their salesforce can attack ServiceNow users head-on. IT admins now have solutions for IT incident management that cover the breadth of their Nutanix data center and their incident management tool.
  • Slack integrates with literally every tool I can think of, being an enterprise employee myself. They have “bots” which can be programmed to do custom tasks in case their out-of-box actions aren’t good enough. Enterprise employees can now use slack for just about anything, ranging from internal and external communications to making IT requests.
  • Juniper Square is a tool that helps real estate investment professionals with CRM and other recurring processes in the industry, thereby improving their efficiency. They too would benefit from meshing with the ecosystem. Investment professionals use a collection of tools ranging from reporting to communications, that, in their day-to-day, need to be used in conjunction with CRM software.

Selling software that meshes with the ecosystem makes the solution in the customer’s mind seamless. That is what they’d be paying for. In this way, the value of your product actually becomes more. It becomes the value of an entire seamless solution.


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