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Ecosystem Leaders

Episode 137

January 14, 2022

#137 Allan Adler: Ecosystems & Partners: The True Top of the Funnel

Allan Adler, Managing Partner at Digital Bridge Partners, joins Chip in this episode of Ecosystem Aces.

Allan Adler, Managing Partner at Digital Bridge Partners, joins Chip in this episode of Ecosystem Aces. In this wide-ranging discussion, Allan and Chip talk about how we are in the beginning of the Decade of Ecosystems and how ecosystem partnering is changing the way companies go to market together.

The podcast sheds light on how companies need to think about the state of the market, how ecosystems have influenced go-to-market strategies, and the rise and evolution of EQLs - Ecosystem Qualified Leads.

Allan discusses:

  • Influence of Ecosystems on Go-To-Market Landscape
  • Partner Ecosystems are a CEO Function
  • Evolution of Sales Funnel and Rise of EQLs
  • Influence and Importance of Partners

Influence of Ecosystems on the Go-To-Market Landscape

The market has seen a great shift from the old channel days of distributors and resellers with more and more focus on the cloud. Cloud and digital transformation have changed the game, and any company that does not partner extensively with other companies is significantly constraining its growth. It is vital to leverage companies and people that have an influence on the go-to-market strategy.

Today’s go-to-market landscape needs partnerships and integrations, which are upstream for co-building and downstream for co-marketing, co-selling, and co-retaining. Ecosystems have totally changed how companies think of channels and distributions. Top names like SAP have had tech partners with little contribution and attribution and turned them into vital go-to-market elements.

Old channels had minimum points of engagement, but today, one company has integrations with another company that has integrations with some other company, and they all become part of the bigger overall solution go-to-market motion. This increases the point of engagement for co-marketing, co-selling, and co-retaining. In modern ecosystems, companies are ditching the “sourced resell” model and adopting the influence co-sell model.

Partner Ecosystems are a CEO Function

Partnering is not just a sales function, and more like a CEO function because leaders need to keep track of everything and connect the dots across all functions, otherwise competitors will take advantage. Partner ecosystems is a board-level, CEO-level function where leaders need to think about who they partner with, what is their product strategy, what is their go-to-market strategy, what is our co-building product, and other vital aspects.

Instead of looking to build a big team, partner leaders need to align with their 5 main business functions: CEO, marketing, products, sales, and customer success. Once you’re aligned with the rest of the company, you’re able to leverage the right resources because no company can come up with the required solutions with ideal resources. KPIs need to be aligned too. Retention is the KPI for customer success, while for marketing, it is how ecosystem-qualified leads create better returns. For sales, it may be well-integrated products that generate more ACV. Just like the alignment of functions, alignment of KPIs is also necessary.

Evolution of Sales Funnel and Rise of EQLs

For revenue leaders, the sales funnel is the most common framework and includes the MQL, SQL, closed wons, etc., but slowly EQLs are rising to the top of this funnel. Go-to-market can no longer be just marketing and sales, it is now ecosystem marketing and sales. Investing into the ecosystem and co-marketing will multiply a company’s and its partner’s influence leading to higher returns on investments. Partner ecosystems are the true top of the tunnel and it is where the sales funnel begins, not marketing.  

Influence and Importance of Partners

Influence is important and helps the partnership synergy pop. It is good to partner with a company that has influence and a similar vision and aims. Solution synergy means figuring out and co-building to offer better customer value. Go-to-market synergy gives more leverage because there is more influence and extra value.

Relationship, trust, and interconnectedness at multiple levels within an organization and different parts of the organization are a must. By 2025, 30% of all trades globally will go through ecosystems. Platforms are the commercial monetization of digital transformation in the form of new ways to create buyers and sellers in multi-sided markets, and ecosystems are the empowering element that creates the essential commercial structure for that.

Employees, customers, suppliers, etc., are all part of the ecosystem, but partners are the critical magnetic amplifiers that create the most value in an ecosystem. In the Decade of the Ecosystem, it is important to know about the customers’ ecosystem and the partners’ ecosystem.


Ecosystems are the future and are rapidly changing how companies build partnerships and go-to-market. When approaching a potential partner, the first thing you should ask them is how you can help them and, from there, focus on co-innovating, co-marketing, and co-selling.

Companies need to identify what are the most important groups for them and what can be done to help the particular groups. Partners can help you reach your company objectives, and you need to ensure that partnership activities are embedded in the concerned people’s minds.

To stay updated about Allan Adler and Digital Bridge Partners, you can follow him on LinkedIn.

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