Back in the days before motorised saws, a common way to saw trees into planks was with a two-man saw. This was typically a couple of metres long, and was operated with the log suspended above a saw pit. One man stood astride the log while the other was down holding onto the other end of the saw, in the pit.
From one point of view, the man on the top was in the hot sun while the other was in the cool shade surrounded by cool soil. From the other point of view, the man on the top was in the fresh air while the man in the pit kept getting showered with sawdust that got in his nose and mouth and eyes, blinding and suffocating him. Ask either man and he'd tell you he had the worse end of the bargain.
This can be loosely taken as an analogy for every level in the IT channel. Human nature leads us to the conclusion that we're getting the worst end of the relationship. Distributors might complain about the fickleness of the resellers below them (likely to change brands at the drop of a hat) and the treachery of the manufacturer above them (likely to appoint a competing distributor at the first signs of a slowdown in demand).
Resellers have at least as many complaints, this time about the distributors above who have no stock and the buyers below who seem to know exactly what the dealer buy price is, and won't pay a cent more.
But there's another loose analogy that can be drawn from our sawpit, and that's the concept of push-pull in the channel. There's a constant debate about what's most important in the channel, pushing a product from above, or pulling from below. Is it more important for the vendor to convince the reseller to carry the product, or for the buyer to come to the reseller asking for it.
One easy way to observe this is in the places vendors advertise their products. While an ad campaign in the popular press can be designed to create a pull from the end-user, an ad in Australian Reseller News is absolutely unique in the Australian IT marketplace. This publication is very broadly seen within the channel, but never goes to end-users. And yet, ARN is extremely healthy in the number of ads it carries. And this is in a period when all other computer publications are finding it difficult to get ads.
But even more important than that, a high proportion of the ads have been prepared specifically for the publication. This means that you, the reseller, are very, very important to the vendor, who recognises that in many cases it is more important to convince you of the importance of his product than the end-user. As the recent ITRC Survey (conducted by Quadrant Research Services in October 1996) showed, resellers are the single most important source of advice to people who buy IT. Well done!