Some partners unnecessarily deny themselves growth capital from market development funds (MDF) owing to previous negative experiences with vendor marketing programs and misconceptions about their utility, says Adam Benson, managing director of integrated B2B marketing agency Outsource.
In an MDF program, partners and vendors contribute marketing money to boost sales, but complexity and miscommunication have historically cruelled outcomes.
Benson also said, “Partners don't always know how to get the funds. As a business-acceleration tool, they see it as complex; they're not quite sure how to start the application process [and it] seems to have a lot of strings attached. And so it just goes by the wayside.”
And, while aspirational partners may baulk at the mechanics of qualifying and complying with MDF programs, those with capacity constraints may feel they can’t service the new business a MDF program would provide.
Conversely, vendors are often wary of being swamped. Benson said, “Almost without fail, channel marketing managers become [partners’] frontline marketing support people.”
The rise of digital marketing and MDF programs
After 25 years of channel experience, Benson says Outsource understands the frustrations on both sides. It leverages its speed of execution and persistent vision to fill the gap between the funding vendor and its partners going to market.
Outsource helps partners apply for and execute MDF programs that meet both the partner’s and vendor’s objectives.
According to Benson, the vendors who discard pre-cut content and instead tell partners ‘we want you to lead with your brand... and say how you’re different...’ are the ones that have success.”
Most modern MDF marketing programs share core features, such as:
- Partner-led – The partner’s brand and unique messaging takes centre stage rather than cookie-cutter vendor messaging.
- Easy ‘last-mile’ activation – The burden of executing the marketing plan is lifted from the partner’s shoulders so they can focus on serving their customers and answering new leads.
- Sticky content – Collateral stays in market for at least a few quarters, which is enough time to shift perceptions.
- Digital assets – Websites, landing pages, eDMs, LinkedIn lead generation campaigns and other digital content such as Google Ads are now standard inclusion.
- Simpler, faster funding – Rebates are processed faster, even if handled through an intermediary such as a distributor to relieve a partner’s cashflow pressure.
- Easier reporting – Managing expectations and metrics for what constitutes a successful MDF campaign is streamlined.
- Enabled by content partner – A third party provides trusted advice to target effective communication to the right audience at the right time, freeing resources in the vendor and partner.
Partners and their vendors also have to wean themselves off drive-by marketing.
“Vendors want to see multi-quarter, integrated campaigns. We recognise there's a bottom-of-funnel process and we've got to keep them in market partly because LinkedIn algorithms don't kick in for six to eight weeks if you're running a decent campaign.”
Benson said the best content partner provides “volume and velocity”.
“Outsource knows B2B tech because we work across it every day... We understand the channel ecosystem, the outcomes everyone is focused on achieving, and the audiences [both vendors and partners] are trying to reach.
Listen to CRN’s podcast or learn how to make MDF programs work for your business in Outsource’s latest whitepapers: