Guest Contribution by Tori Barlow, Director of Marketing, Allbound
Market development funds (MDFs) can help achieve greater results from your channel program. What are MDFs, and how can you use them to empower your partners with proven ROI? MDFs are marketing dollars that businesses designate to their channel partners. Companies with channel programs know the importance of helping their partners’ marketing efforts. The challenge is putting MDFs toward activities with the highest ROI.
MDFs are used for:
- Advertising and increased web presence
- Direct mail or email campaigns
- Conferences and tradeshows
- Other white-glove support services
Choose strategic partners
The best way to predict the ROI on your MDFs is to invest in your most profitable partners. Gather and analyze existing partner data and metrics to determine their performance. The most common methods for measuring partner performance is by revenue and activity metrics.
The data will also give you an idea of where to spend your MDFs. For example, let’s say you have a partner that has high activity metrics, but you want your MDFs to increase revenue. You’d also like to strengthen the relationship as a secondary goal. In this case, you’d want to contribute your MDFs to a conference or tradeshow. Tradeshow MDFs are useful because of increased brand visibility. It’s also helpful to build relationships since reps from both companies attend the show together and get face time.
Be strategic about to whom you award MDFs in order to increase ROI. When MDF allocation is based on actual numbers, there’s you’re more likely to see results.
Communicate the MDF program
How well you communicate your MDF program is crucial. The best program in the world is useless if your partners aren’t being engaged. You should spend as much time training your partners on your MDF program as it took to create it. Clear communication is also vital to decrease the risk of channel friction. Partners can get frustrated if they’re not receiving the proper MDFs to support their sales efforts.
When creating your MDF program, create a communication plan. When training your partners on your MDFs, the goal is for your partners to:
- Know the benchmarks necessary to qualify for MDFs.
- Know and understand the MDF application process.
- Understand the objectives and goals of your MDF program.
Know ahead of time the mode of communication you’ll use for your MDF program. Will you schedule a conference call? Will they be able to access funds via a partner portal? Where can they go to find information on your MDF program? Take all these questions into account when training them.
MDF application process
Once the qualifying criteria is set, you must create the application process. When partners need MDFs, the application process should be seamless and efficient. The ease of use of your process dictates how engaged your partners will be in your MDF program. If they find it easy and intuitive the first few times, the habit will be formed.
The application process consists of steps partners take to apply for MDFs. Use an easy-to-access portal where partners can apply for funds and receive approval in one place.
MDF applications usually ask:
- What form of marketing will MDFs be contributed to? (Tradeshows, email campaigns, etc.)
- What is the expected outcome? (Number of leads, appointments, or revenue)
- Current revenue or certification requirements
Remember, the partners most likely to use MDFs are those who understand the approval process. The more comfortable a partner is, the higher the likelihood of engagement.
Record and analyze results
To make sure your MDF program achieves the highest possible ROI, you must track the results. Use a unified platform to assign funds, deploy marketing initiatives, and measure results. When you analyze your partner’s results, you’ll be able to create a plan for your future MDF programs.
In the beginning, your MDF program will consist of trial and error. You’ll only be able to use the data you have on your partners’ performance to make decisions on MDFs. Collecting data after each initiative allows your program to become more targeted. Targeted MDF programs yield the most ROI. This data will show you which marketing activities were the most effective. Analyzing the data allows you to narrow down your MDF approval process as a whole.
The recorded and analyzed results will also serve to build relationships with partners. Partners who perform and put in the most effort will be rewarded. Knowledge of these metrics allows you to acknowledge and encourage partners that produce the best results. Check out this article to learn more about important KPIs your partner program should track to best determine the success of your MDF spending and sales strategy.
A well-executed MDF program can empower your partners and increase sales. By hand-selecting partners and analyzing their results, you’ll see tangible ROI on your MDF program. The more stream-lined your MDF program, the more likely your partners are to participate in it.