RIP: Why partner locators are dying: It’s the era of ecosystem marketplaces

October 24, 2023
RIP: Why partner locators are dying: It’s the era of ecosystem marketplaces

At Partner Fleet, we live and breathe marketplaces. So we’re surprised by how many partner locators we come across. Navigating them feels like the 20th century internet. (Well, maybe not that bad, but they’re unquestionably outdated.)

Why, we wonder, do so many established companies still use a partner locator in a world where marketplaces exist? And we have a few guesses.

  • The now-outdated software was likely expensive and exciting when it was first built. Many tools like this are kept around because of the sunk cost fallacy (we already paid to build it, let’s max out its value).
  • Partner teams and executives don’t realize how much they’re leaving on the table by not updating their partner locators. They use it as a resource but aren’t tracking the traffic or leads driven, or if they are – they don’t realize how much more they could get with a better experience.
  • Teams simply don’t realize that out-of-the-box marketplace platforms exist. They assume building a marketplace like HubSpot’s or Salesforce’s will be a multi-year, million-dollar project.

To these companies, and anyone else thinking about a partner locator, we want to show how much better life can be.

But first, what are partner locators

The origin of partner locators is basically store locators – think about when you’re looking for a supermarket near you. Partner locators work in the same way, but for B2B partners.

A partner locator is essentially a low-level search engine – largely driven by location – that serves up a curated list of partners for any given company. B2B partner locators take services provided into account too, in order to find the right match for customers and prospects.

On top of that, some partner locators have “Advanced” search options that give you several other options like partner specializations. But this is hardly an ideal experience.

Once you land on a partner page, it offers scant information; you don’t have a great way of knowing if they’re actually the right solution for you. Basically, you’ll need to call the company and do your own research.

This is what a partner locator looks like. Imagine encountering a search engine like this anywhere else.

An example of a partner locator with antiquated search options.

Here’s why partner locators exist in their current state: People looking for an IT company to implement on-premises software (in the 90’s, 2000s, or even 2010s) would have wanted someone in their area. The approved partner would physically come into the office, install a server, and conduct in-person training.

See a problem?

We now live in a remote world of Zoom calls and cloud software. The right partner solution for your customers can literally be anywhere in the world – their location doesn’t matter. Instead, your customers want to see what services they offer, how they work, pricing, and testimonials or reviews from previous customers.

It’s time to switch to an ecosystem marketplace that showcases what your customers need.

7 reasons partner locators are dying

Still think there’s no reason to update your partner locator? We’ve got seven reasons to level up to a marketplace.

  1. Partner locators are geography-based. They find partner solutions in your country, state, city. But with most technology in the cloud these days, your customers don’t want the solution that’s closest to them – they want the one that’s best for them based on their needs, budget, and partner expertise.
  2. Partner locators are old, slow, and clunky. When’s the last time you searched on a partner locator? We have come across locators that take 10 seconds to load - one even took 26.10 seconds! This is an infinite amount of time in 2023, when 40% of visitors will abandon the page after only 3 (!!!) seconds. Partner locators are complicated systems built on legacy software. Today’s options are so much faster.
  3. Partner locators offer bad user experience & brand perception. A clunky locator doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If you’re looking to show customers that your company is not “stuck in the past,” updating to a marketplace from a 90’s-era locator is an excellent quick win.
  4. Partner information on locators is limited, and usually entirely text based. You get descriptions, phone numbers, and – of course – location. It can be difficult and annoying for customers to determine from a short description whether this solution is right for them.
  5. Partner locators don’t offer social proof. We’re in a time when 93% of consumers say online reviews impact their purchasing decisions. Your customers want reviews and testimonials to help them decide on a solution.
  6. Partner locators are unlikely to generate leads for your company. Many tech buyers are looking for integrations and solutions before they purchase – and your partner pages can be a down-funnel conversion tool. But without a complete picture of the solution, they’re unlikely to take the next step to “get started.”
  7. Partner locators are a bad sales enablement tool. Sales teams regularly use website information and help documentation to provide thorough explanations on solutions during the sales process. Partner locators simply don’t offer enough information to truly help the sales team confidently provide recommendations.

Update your outdated partner locator to an ecosystem marketplace

In 2023, customers have completely different needs and expectations. They want search functions that can find solutions with just a couple of keywords. They want a simple-to-use navigation if they don’t know what to search for. They want the best solution, not just a solution in the area. They want social proof, videos, and additional resources.

It's time for the modern-day solution – a partner marketplace.

So let’s compare the two. Take a look at these two examples; the first is a locator and the second, a marketplace.

Partner locator example

Marketplace example

Not only can you see the differences between these two, you can probably feel them viscerally. The locator feels like walking back in time to internet 1.0.

Here’s a second, slightly better example of a partner locator. Look at it relative to the Crossbeam marketplace.

Partner locator example

Marketplace example

With better categories and filters, this partner locator is a slightly better variation. But It offers terrible search and browsing options – which is really the key reason to use a locator in the first place.

Here’s a list of what you should expect to have in your marketplace, that you probably won’t see in a locator:

  • High-quality, relevant search results. Visitors don’t necessarily want to browse or search for a partner’s name. Offer them a search bar that returns suggested partners from keywords.
  • Attractive, modern interface. An old-fashioned partner locator could indicate to visitors that you last added new partners in 2000. Show that you have an actively managed program and up-to-date partner recommendations.
  • Intuitive UX. Choosing options and then clicking search isn’t it. Allow for clickable categories and filters to narrow down partner results.
  • SEO friendly. Your marketplace’s site structure will allow each partner page to rank in search engines.
  • Matches the rest of your site. Your marketplace shouldn’t be a completely different experience. It should look and feel just like another page on your website or in your product.
  • Fast-loading. In our research, we’ve come across locators that took 10-23 seconds to load – an eternity in the 2020s. Your marketplace will load in 1-2 seconds.
  • Embedded in your user experience. A marketplace can be available to prospects on your website. But it can also be embedded in your platform, allowing you to personalize the experience for users and customers.

Okay, now let’s take a look at an example of individual partner listing pages on partner locators versus marketplace pages:

Partner locator example

Marketplace example

Pretty stark difference, huh?

The partner locator page offers a bulleted list of information – and the majority of the space is taken up by a map. Again, the location of service providers is almost always irrelevant these days. But even if the location matters, a general area is all you need to know.

So let’s break down what you should expect from a marketplace’s listing pages – options you can choose from depending on what your partners offer.

  • Modern design. A page that reads from top to bottom, with modern fonts and styles.
  • CTA button. The partner locator CTA is an unclickable email address or it simply sends you to the partner’s website. Instead, offer an eye-catching button as your call to action, with a form to capture their details to send along to your partner.
  • Media. Screenshots, GIFs, and videos tell a story about your partnership that text can’t convey. Your marketplace will offer your partners the option to upload media to better explain their offering to your visitors.
  • Options for layouts and sections: Features, services, how it works, pricing, benefits, team, installation instructions, etc. Separate sections and layouts make scanning the page easier.
  • Social proof. Marketplaces can include testimonials, natively gathered reviews, and even syndicated partner reviews from platforms like G2.
  • Related partners and resources. Your visitors may want to shop around or use multiple partners for their different implementation needs. Or they may need more information on the partner solution. Marketplaces can offer suggestions.

Create your marketplace today!

If you’re ready to get started on a marketplace, we cover how to create a marketplace in this blog post. You can opt to build one internally or use an out-of-the-box solution like Partner Fleet. Download our marketplace project scope checklist and book a demo to learn more.

Ready to get started?
Book a demo today!