While researching a recent story, I needed to get in touch with a few solution providers who partnered with a large vendor (who shall remain nameless). After fruitless attempts to talk to contacts I already had in my Rolodex, I decided to try some ‘cold calling,’ and pulled up the vendor’s Partner Locator.

I started local, noting five solution providers within spitting distance of my home office in Philadelphia. Of the five, two bore fruit. One listing didn’t include the partner’s phone number. One number directed me to a day care center. Another netted me the dreaded ‘The number you have dialed is not in service” message.

Vendors pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into partner-centric initiatives like Web portals and partner locators designed to make the vendor easier to work with and to help end users find qualified solution providers in their local geographical. In this tough economic climate, it would seem that a crucial tool like a partner locator could go a long way toward driving unsolicited business to a solution provider. So why are these tools so woefully difficult to use and out-of-date?

 Testing Partner Locators

Try these partner locators for yourself and let us know your experience. Did you find yourself? Did you find a competitor? How accurate were your results? Share your observations with us.

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One reason may be that responsibility for updating these partner directories often lies with the solution providers themselves. And since most of those solution providers are SMBs, it can be difficult to find the time or the personnel to make the necessary changes.

“Like any program that a vendor offer, it’s the solution provider’s responsibility to take advantage of it to the fullest,” says Diane Krakora, president and CEO of Amazon Consulting. “And if they’re not, it could be that the partner doesn’t realize the value in it.”

Krakora says many solution providers feel the benefits they get from a listing in partner directories don’t outweigh the effort of updating and maintaining that information. Vendors who can demonstrate that their partner directories are actively driving business –showing real value – might have better luck getting their partners to keep directories up to date, she says.

Vendors can make it easier by implementing systems and programs that incent solution providers to update their listings, but the fact remains that extensive data entry is time- and resource-intensive process.

“With the number of databases and product lines, order entry and other data entry tasks that solution providers do to stay current about the products they sell, they’re only going to put energy into what’s producing business for them,” Krakora says.