Vendor onboarding tactics for marketplaces

So, you are ready to launch your marketplace, but there’s a significant hurdle – the absence of vendors and customers. It’s recommended to focus first on vendor onboarding first, as directing customers to a marketplace platform without solutions to their needs could be counterproductive, potentially deterring them from returning.

Vendors are keen to generate revenue, so they are likely to show interest in joining your marketplace from its inception. Therefore, it’s essential to prioritise the vendor onboarding process and ensure products and/or services are listed promptly. In this article, we’ll delve into how to locate your first vendors, engage them, and ensure they list their offerings with you.

Identifying your first marketplace vendors

Business directories

Online directories can be your best friends if your marketplace is unique to your area and you need to locate your ideal vendors. For instance, if you’re seeking professional services on your marketplace, finding them should be fairly simple, as most will either have their own website or be listed in a business directory.

Compile a list of potential vendors, then reach out to each of them until you’re satisfied with the number of vendors onboarded. Likewise, depending on your market, you can personally connect with people in their shops, markets, or at specialist events.


Vendors who are already participating in other marketplaces can also be great prospects. Reach out to these vendors, explain the added value your marketplace can provide, and why onboarding a vendor to your platform would be beneficial.

Online forums

Online forums and groups are a great resource, especially if your marketplace caters to a niche market. Prospective vendors likely engage in conversations with like-minded individuals on platforms such as Facebook groups or other online forums. Once you’ve identified these groups, you can approach several potential vendors simultaneously.

Tactics for marketplace onboarding

Reaching out to potential vendors is a crucial first step, but convincing them to list their products or services on your marketplace can be challenging. With no customers to vouch for your platform at this stage, it might be a tough sell.

To increase your chances of success, consider meeting the first batch of prospective vendors – let’s say around 100 – in person. This will allow them to understand your vision better and also help you explain the value they will be getting. This initial investment of time will pay off in the form of valuable feedback, strong business relationships, and quality assurance, all of which are crucial during the vendor onboarding stages.

Be the best in class

It’s essential to demonstrate to potential vendors that your marketplace offers superior benefits than any existing platform. If you need a refresher on the kind of value you can deliver, revisit strategies for enhancing your marketplace and preventing leakage.

Use exclusivity to your advantage

As you’re onboarding vendors, the lack of competition can be leveraged as an advantage, making your platform seem like an exclusive club. This can help you come across as being selective about the vendors you deem fit for your marketplace, thus making vendors more eager to join.

The concept of exclusivity is highly sought after and vendors will strive to demonstrate that they are the best fit for your platform. This ensures that you offer high quality to your initial customers, creating a good reputation from the get-go.

Promote your potential customers

At this point, you don’t have any customers, so you need to communicate to vendors the type of great customers your platform will attract. Some marketplaces ensure they have a community built up first. If you don’t have direct access to your potential buyers, consider partnerships that could grant you instant access.

Open and persuasive communication with potential vendors and customers alike is key, assuring everyone that your marketplace is a platform they would want to be a part of.

Offer value beyond customer access

If your value proposition includes tools or software that vendors can use to streamline their operations, such as a booking system, or invoicing and accounting software, vendors may be interested even without an initial customer base. Once you have a sufficient number of vendors, you can then begin to attract customers.

Consider becoming a vendor yourself

In the early stages, being your own vendor could provide valuable insights and feedback without necessitating a large upfront investment. You might also be able to encourage friends and family to list their products or services, if relevant.

Contemplate purchasing your initial inventory

While this might be a costly approach, it ensures an immediate supply while you solicit feedback and attract customers. Once a solid customer base is established, you can transition to enlisting individual vendors.

Make use of existing supply networks

Evaluate whether there’s an existing network or platform with which you could affiliate to populate your site. This could enable you to achieve significant scale without significant investment. However, this strategy comes with a caveat: if your marketplace doesn’t offer unique products or services, customers may question why they should buy from you rather than directly from the existing platforms.

Plus, this approach may relegate your marketplace to being just another platform utility, rather than a distinctive marketplace. Only consider this strategy if you can continue to offer added value.


Having worked out how to successfully attract and onboard vendors, it’s time to shift your focus to attracting customers to your newly established marketplace. The effective vendor onboarding process you’ve followed will play a crucial role in creating a successful marketplace that both sellers and buyers would want to be a part of.