Partnerpedia looks to popularize B2B marketplaces

Can online marketplaces revolutionize business-to-business solutions sales the same way it has consumer applications? One Vancouver-based online community develop is betting it can.

Partnerpedia is probably best known to the channel for its namesake Web site, a sort of Facebook for the IT channel, offering solution providers a place to meet, mingle and collaborate. But the company supports that free service by offering vendor-branded community and collaboration Web sites, all on a white label basis. The company’s latest offering is Community Marketplace, a software-as-a-service platform that looks to make picking up a new unified communications platform as easy as downloading a copy of Angry Birds.

And it aims to make it channel-friendly. Here’s how.

“Marketplaces have been around for a while, but they’ve really bee popularized by the iTunes App Store, the Salesforce App Exchange and the Google Apps Marketplace,” said Sam Liu, vice president of marketing at Partnerpedia. “Where we’re going is bringing that kind of thing to companies aimed at other businesses. It’s a one-stop shop for solutions.”

According to Liu, the company’s marketplaces are different from others in a couple of ways that make them attractive for solution providers. First, the infrastructure is designed from the ground up for more complex and multi-faceted solutions, as opposed to the commodity approach of most online marketplaces. And secondly, every site includes three portions – a consumer-facing front-end, the vendor’s own back-end and control panel, and a community in between where the vendor’s solution providers can participate and show their own value-add. It’s kind of like having an online store that’s directly integrated with a very focused partner locator.

“As a company, we’re living through this with our enterprise customers,” Liu said. “In the 90s, it was all about partner enablement and partner portals. And then it moved into collaborative systems between vendors and partners. The next step to provide a go-to-market for your channel. That’s when you really monetize your channel.”

Rather than a simple transactional approach, Partnerpedia’s marketplaces support a more B2B flow – capture leads, tracking opportunities and integrating directly with existing CRM systems, or offering ways to track leads even if the partner’s not using an accessible CRM system like

“Unlike iTunes, where everything a commodity transaction product, it’s about solutions, more descriptive and price point-oriented,” Liu said.

The social side of thing presents other options to solution provider, Liu said – the ability to find likeminded or complementary partners with whom to work jointly on solutions for customers.

For companies selling products that must be shipped, Partnerpedia can even provide the distribution of products for a transaction fee.

The company has seen interest from vendors in a variety of vertical industries, as well as broad interest in tablets and Internet telephony, Liu reported. Primarily, the company is focusing on enterprise-sized vendors, but sees opportunities for smaller vendors to get involved, and even for a broader-branded multi-vendor marketplace in the future.

According to Liu, on average it takes customers “a couple of months” to get up and running from beginning to full implementation with their own marketplace. Customers design the site, and then “we do all the heavy lifting.”