Building a partner eco-system is undoubtedly an effective way to scale a business. It increases market reach whilst at the same time creating pockets of expertise around your solution. I remember joining an IBM Value Added Reseller (VAR) years ago. As their newly appointed marketing manager, it was my responsibility to make maximum use of our Marketing Development Funding (MDF) from vendors such as IBM, Cisco and Compaq (yes, that’s how long ago it was!) Easy, right? It was harder than you think.
Imagine this. I had written a marketing plan. I knew the campaigns and events we needed to run for the year to hit our revenue target. I also knew what worked and what didn’t. Yet, when I tried to dovetail our MDF investment into our plan it got tricky for several reasons:
- Vendors needed instant results – short term results rather than long term investments. As such I was pretty much tied to delivering events (resource intensive) or cold telemarketing (ineffective).
- Vendors desired product focused campaigns – I knew customers weren’t ready for a product discussion at the early stages of their buyer journey but unless we mentioned product we weren’t ticking a box.
- Vendors had the final say – the paperwork was immense and by the time the umpteenth person had signed it off in the company, we had passed the deadline.
- Vendors used decentralised budget pots – small pockets of budget that you couldn’t consolidate for the greater good of a decent campaign, made it difficult to do anything fruitful.
I remember the frustration well. Quite often it required too much time, effort and political game playing to get the funds approved. The result?
Unspent MDF left on the table and random acts of marketing.
It was easier to park the money with a telemarketing agency to buy a list and hit the phones knowing full well results would be poor. That was 20 years go. Marketing has since moved on, but I’m not convinced the MDF process has.
Please, No More Random Acts Of Marketing!
We work with partners today who are just as frustrated as I was all those years ago. Hands tied. No time. Lack of resource. As a marketer, this breaks my heart. Especially at a time when it can be a challenge to increase marketing investment at the best of times.
What's more, we operate in a digital age. If you manage to secure a meeting from a cold call you’re most likely entering the buyers journey too late. Chances are they’ve done their research, shortlisted their preferred partner and are looking for “column fodder” to price match against.
I believe it’s time to change the game when it comes to channel marketing.
Partners: Think Modern Marketing With MDF
Digital has changed everything. We can track, adjust and optimise on the fly. We can target individual messages to specific people and groups of people. We can engage in digital relationships with customers before meeting them in person.
Sales and marketing should now be joined at the hip when it comes to the buyer journey. Marketing brings the data and content. Sales brings the relationship management skills.
If we continue to invest MDF in sales led events, isolated campaigns of cold calling, list buying and email blasting we will totally miss the opportunity to maximise MDF spend.
Sure, it will drive immediate outputs but will it drive desired outcomes?
Think longer term. Build upon a plan. Invest your MDF budget in digital campaigns that support your long-term goal of driving inbound revenue growth.
Vendors: Help Partners Connect The Dots
MDF budget needs to ultimately drive revenue growth – a job that both sales and marketing are tasked with. Align your investments to support a more inbound long-term approach. An approach that enables your partners to develop a pipeline of relationships - not just a pipeline of revenue.
- Encourage partners to create more expert thought leadership content that’s optimised. Offer content (eBooks) that convert or optimised social copy to drive awareness.
- Support your partners to connect the dots between Social Selling and Social Media Marketing.
- Help them secure a pipeline of relationships on social media that will generate revenue.
- Use MDF to optimise a mix of paid, earned and owned amplification of content to generate a balanced mix of reach, engagement and lead conversion.
- Help partners understand, measure and evidence the impact of MDF investment.
- Enable partners to utilise a keyword optimised approach to promoting content on social media.
- Shift your partners towards a data driven marketing approach where they track conversion rates and pipeline influenced, not just clicks and impressions.
Time For A Name Change?
MDF is more than just marketing. It’s about the market and how both sales and marketing can work together to drive revenue growth from it. The buyer journey does not solely belong to sales or marketing. The two must align to work with the modern digitally savvy buyer.
So, perhaps it’s time to change the name - from Marketing Development Fund to Market Development Fund?
At Tribal, we work with large and small organisations (many of which are channel partners) mobilise their organisation to use social media – from leadership to sales to expert employees. We help them join the dots between Content Marketing, Social Selling and Employee Advocacy.