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“Always innovate” was one of the first big lessons a friend from IBM taught me way back in the 1980s. IBM had just announced the Dealer Service Option, the company’s service contract for the IBM PC line of business. 

At the time, I was working at The Computer Factory and I asked my IBM Channel Services Marketing Manager why IBM felt the need to compete with us, and he answered, “That’s what we do.  We’ll always be selling what you sell. The good news is that it will validate what you do, and we always price higher than you. But to stay ahead of us, you must always be innovating new services and new solutions to sell to your customers.”

That has been my New Year’s resolution every year for the past 30 years. Here are other resolutions that have served me well.

I’m going to focus on partners who really partner with me.

Since the channel has always been partner-driven, this is the most important—and probably the most beneficial—resolution you can possibly make.

Who really partners with you? Many channel Websites are chock-full of vendor-partner logos, but that’s like saying “I date Rhode Island.” You simply can’t maintain that many truly meaningful partnerships.  Ask yourself these questions:

–Which partners really need me more than I need them?

–Which partners have products that really drive more service opportunities that are really profitable for me? Which can I install, provision, deploy, migrate, upgrade, update, train, support, manage and more?

–How much service revenue did I generate last year based on each partner’s products?

–Which partners actively share well-qualified opportunities, not just leads, with me?

–Which partner managers truly work to manage me and help me manage my business productively?

–Which partners are truly concerned about my success and my business growth?

Time is your greatest enemy. The more of it you spend on non-productive partners, the less you get to spend with real, devoted partners. It’s more than just a word. It describes the quality of a relationship.

I’m going to drive my marketing, and not let anyone else drive me.

An executive from a major vendor once asked me why so few of its partners were using its marketing materials. I replied, “Because all of your stuff is about you.”

Let’s face it, you don’t want to send out the same marketing materials that everyone else in your market is sending. You want to market your own company, your strategic competitive advantages, your big differentiators.

Realizing that vendors may fund much of your marketing, it’s still possible for them to work with you to help you drive your services and your business messaging while amplifying it by demonstrating the great value you can help deliver that is driven by their products.

Resolve to stay in the marketing driver’s seat this coming year. You call the shots. Forget the “program” or the packaged marketing offerings they’re shoving on you. They may provide some financial support, but the time and effort you and your people have to invest are costly, too. You deserve the level of control that will deliver real results for you as well as your partner. That’s the real definition of “win-win.”