A value-added reseller's identity is not just about the vendors it keeps. In a tough economy and an ever-changing business environment, smart solution providers are working hard to promote their own brand, apart from their vendor affiliations. "In the past, many VARs stressed their own vendor certifications first and foremost hoping that association with those multi-billion-dollar brands would win business," writes Barbara Darrow of SearchITChannel.com.

But many attendees at Ingram Micro's Venture Tech Network Fall 2009 Invitational say that is no longer a priority.

The theme that emerged from the conference suggests that VARs should work to closely align themselves to their customer base rather than to a group of technologies, which can abruptly change at any time. "Why get in bed with a vendor that could go direct tomorrow?" asked one VAR attendee.

"Strengthening that customer bond could mean building a deep vertical expertise to serve a niche audience or providing above-and-beyond services for more basic infrastructure, attendees said," writes Darrow.

VARs have also become more sophisticated, Darrow reports. They're smarter at running their own businesses and have built reputations independently—based on their unique expertise and successful track records. "Platinum, Gold, that's boring ... but if you have a rapid deployment tool and you've deployed into healthcare customers 29 times, that's interesting," Tiffani Bova, vice-president of research at Gartner Inc., is quoted as telling attendees.

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