Plan ahead to ensure a successful MDF engagement with vendors. That’s the key message we hear from channel partners as they work with vendors to create results from their marketing programs. Tracking, lead tagging, and a good overall strategy gives VAR businesses the opportunity to thrive in even the most complex MDF program environment.
MDF provides IT solution providers financial resources to implement campaigns and marketing activity they may not typically be able to. Yet the claims process can be a challenging one for partners. To make the process smoother, it takes dedication to understand the key tenets of the campaign and applying a keen eye for detail to all aspects of the MDF claims process.
Here are the best ways to manage the MDF claims process for channel partners:
- Appoint ‘single owner’ in your organization to manage the MDF claims process. Someone with a keen eye for detail would be a great fit here. Consider attaching a bonus to this person’s quarterly objectives if they successfully complete the claims process for a certain number of MDF projects for your firm.
- Get help. Some partners work with an outside agency to help them manage the intricacies of MDF engagements with vendors. Key point: Make sure the agency is experienced in MDF and knows all the requirements of the project before formalizing the engagement.
- Document as much as you can. With every change, with every conversation with the vendor, be sure you’re keeping a record of what’s changed, what’s been said, and what’s been done. (See above for our warning about the tedious nature of the MDF process.) Note: The reason you’re doing this is twofold: You want to keep track for your own benefit just to keep up with what’s happening. You also want to take a look back at the end of the project to audit the process and to evaluate if it was truly worth it for your firm.
- Use the vendor’s brand assets. Some partners believe they must use the vendor’s brand assets word-for-word and they hesitate to engage in MDF programs. That’s not necessarily so. In most cases, you can modify the materials you’re given for the campaigns. You will have to stick to branding guidelines. Be sure your point person for the campaign is well-versed in this side of the project as well since vendors can, rightfully, get sensitive about how their brand is represented online.Note: The value in working with an agency that’s experienced in MDF is the help you receive in creating your unique message with the vendor co-branding mixed in. Vendor marketing assets are all vendor-led, which offers little value for partner marketing. (That’s a major pain point for partners and vendors alike.) Using the provided brand assets ensures compliance and will make the MDF claim fast.
- File the claim on time. It’s simple: You can do everything right, document every step, communicate with the channel or partner marketing manager, and fill out every form but if you send in your claim past the deadline, you won’t get paid. This is why having a dedicated person in seat to manage the process from end-to-end is so important. The documentation part comes into play here as well. Vendors require proof you’ve deployed the marketing program in the way they’ve described in their plan. Proof of performance on time and in the manner the vendor requests is the key to actually receiving MDF for your partner marketing efforts. Here’s a handy article on ways to share ROI with vendors.
Bonus: Creating a campaign in an automated marketing system and assigning all MDF-related marketing activity to that system is an easy way to automate much of this. Instead of having to dig and find out “what happened?” use a tool that does this for you. Here’s more on this important topic.
With these five steps, the MDF claims process becomes more manageable for you. Just consider, though, that there are other factors at play than your side of the engagement. Let’s take a look at the vendor’s perspective when mounting MDF campaigns with partners.
Insights Into Effective Vendor Engagement for MDF
Vendors truly want your MDF experience with them to be successful, no matter how challenging things may be. Vendors may not put this in their MDF instructions, but from our numerous engagements with channel marketing programs, we’ve uncovered the following:
- Vendors know you’re not a full-time marketing operation so their expectations are that you’ll follow their guidelines and use the materials they’ve provided without bells and whistles.
- There is no cut-and-paste process for MDF claims. The process varies between vendors and even between product lines within a vendor’s array of solutions. This underlines the need to have one person oversee your MDF operations. It takes someone who can spot and respond to the changes so you won’t be left holding the bag when it’s time to make an MDF claim.
- Vendors don’t intentionally make the process complicated, it’s just the nature of the channel and business demands. Things change so quickly manufacturers have to shift on a dime to meet market demands. That shift often includes partner engagements. Partners who remain flexible and responsive are the ones who win more engagements and easier opportunities.
- Some vendors make the process clear and put time and effort into developing an elegant MDF program. Others add layers and layers onto the process, making it unnecessarily complex – and sometimes even downright confusing. The key here is to remain focused on the end goals of bringing in quality leads for your business, engaging with a high-quality vendor, and receiving funds to mount an effective marketing campaign that establishes your brand as a standout in your chosen vertical.
Bottom line: You’re not able to do this alone. You’re focused on hiring the right people, expanding into new markets, creating more opportunities for your business, and charting a course for long-term growth. Yet you know marketing is a key component of helping you reach all of those goals. Forward-thinking channel partners work with third parties to help manage partner marketing efforts with vendors. If you’re looking to make your next MDF engagement high-impact, reach out to us at Presh Marketing Solutions. We provide MSPs and VARs with effective marketing strategies to engage with vendors while maintaining and growing their own brands.