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Have you started your new year planning yet?

Last week I was fortunate enough to join Cisco, Ingram Micro and the team from Infinity Networks for their new year planning and strategy session in Macon, GA. Annual planning meetings were a critical part of our strategy during my tenure with IT Matters as well.

Each year, we would invite a number of key strategic vendors to discuss how we were going to position our company in the upcoming year. Those who attended my marketing workshops knew that I believed in vendor interaction as part of our overall go to market strategy and that vendors played a crucial role in our success.

You can easily see which MSPs see their strategic vendors as a mechanism for growth and success.  We must be aligned with our vendors, period.

One key message I pulled out of my two days with Infinity Networks was this:  They buy from and sell to many different companies, but only a select few earn the title of strategic partner.  That is a very important message.  We must engage with our strategic partners now so we can be ready for the next year, which is only a few months away.

Besides sales and marketing support, another key deliverable that was shared was the important role partners such as Ingram Micro played in the success of a technology firm.  During the IT Matters days, it was Tech Data for us, but Tech Data, Synnex or Ingram Micro can only help you as long as you engage with your distribution partner strategically.

All the major distributors have monies available for marketing activities, and they all offer training on many of the technologies we sell to our clients. Need help with a Cisco switch? Sure you can leverage Cisco, but you can also speak with your Tech, Synnex or Ingram rep about training.

Need to test drive a certain solution? I know Ingram Micro has a fully functional test facility in its Buffalo location. Many IT firms never access such valuable resources.

Here is my challenge as we enter into Q4 of 2012: Start thinking about the future and what you can do now to prepare for the new year. Pick a selective group of partners that you want to go to market with and be aligned with next year and start planning now.

I know Infinity has a plan mapped out for next year, what events we are running, what training gaps need to be filled and how we are going to sell the solutions in the solution stack for next year.

Large or small, every IT firm or MSP needs to take planning seriously. There’s no better time than now to start planning and cementing your strategy.