No Two Locators are AlikeBy Sharon Linsenbach | Print
Many vendors have created online, searchable directories so end users can find their partners. Think of them as self-contained Yellow Pages. But these directories aren’t always accurate. Instead of a networking solution provider, we found a daycare through one.
In a rather unscientific experiment, I decided to spend some time (and a bunch of rollover minutes) repeating my cold-calling exercise for some major vendors. I visited the partner locator sites for Cisco, HP, IBM and Microsoft and typed in the same criteria: solution providers within a 50-mile radius of Philadelphia. I then dialed the first five names that popped up on the list. Here’s what I discovered about the ease of use and the accuracy of each locator.
First, some general observations. These four vendors make their partner directories pretty easy to find, and equally easy to use. They’re usually just a few clicks away from the vendor’s main partner page. They also provide a detailed set of criteria customers can use to select a partner – by region, type of solution and partner program level. Most also include the ability to select enterprise specialists or partners focusing on SMBs or the midmarket.
HP’s partner locator did include solution providers’ phone numbers, and also included the ability to map a specific partners’ location. HP’s listing also included a disclaimer : "Before traveling to the HP resellers’ location, please phone to confirm operating hours and availability of the product you are seeking."
Of the five HP partners I dialed, three were accurate, one line was no longer in service and provided no new contact number, and the fifth resulted in a consistent busy signal.
Cisco’s partner locator included partner name, specialization, contact information, and also included a large-scale Google Map which pinpointed partners’ locations in relation to my search and to each other.
Cisco’s locator resulted in two accurate listings, one wrong number, one 'no longer in service’ message, and one listing that did not include a phone number. When I visited that partners’ site, I found an accurate phone number, and was able to make contact.
IBM’s locator was incredibly detailed, including general business info, distance from my location, phone number and URL, partner program level, and also labeled partners based on classification – ISV, reseller, service provider and/or consultant or systems integrator. For all this detail, however, there was one drawback – many of the partners listed appeared multiple times. For some partners, it was obvious that these multiple listings represented branch offices, which was fine except that many of these branch offices were far outside the 50-mile search radius.
However, some of the multiple listings, including some that I phoned, were simply older, outdated addresses and phone numbers – the company had clearly relocated and the directory hadn’t been purged of the original information.
For IBM, I did not call branch offices of the same partner. Of the five partners I dialed, all resulted in a call connecting, but three of the numbers went to people’s direct lines, and their voice mail greetings were incredibly vague. I wasn’t able to tell whether these folks actually worked at the company I was trying to reach, and one specific number was clearly this gentleman’s personal number – 'Hi, you’ve reached John Doe, Jane Doe, Tyler and Emily Doe and Sparky the dog. We’re out having fun, but if you leave a message, we’ll call you as soon as we’re back!’ Two of the partner listings actually directed me to a general company number.
What can you take away from this experiment? For vendors, perhaps the lesson is to keep pushing your partners to take advantage of these free online tools – keep them updated and they’ll continue to bring potential customers (or nosy journalists) to your doorstep.
For solution providers, it’s simply a no-brainer: if a vendor is providing you a free tool aimed at helping you drive business, get your name out and generate free publicity, use it! It can’t hurt to have a sales or marketing staffer on a monthly basis check each of your vendor partners’ directories to ensure accuracy. It could mean the difference between gaining or losing a new customer.