Marketing your IT solutions business isn’t a low-cost endeavor. There’s money involved. Lots of it. Savvy firms set aside money to fund their ventures but true masters in the MSP or VAR realm partner with vendors and leverage market development funds (MDF) from those vendors to generate leads.
We provide solid information on ways you can market your business the right way online. The truth of it is, to do things the right way, you need a set amount of funds you can use to plan, develop, deploy, and track a digital marketing strategy.
MDF: What’s in it for You
MDF gives you the opportunity to run a well-funded integrated (multi-channel such as events, sales slicks) campaign. One of the reasons many campaigns don’t get off the ground is due to poor funding and a lack of budgetary oversight/management and prediction of ROI on campaigns.
MDF: What’s in it for Vendors
Vendors could easily keep the money in-house and run the campaigns themselves. The key is relationships. The vendors want access to the relationships, connections, and loyalty you’ve developed in your regional market or in your chosen vertical(s) to further their sales and marketing reach. The same concept that drives channel marketing inspires vendors to continue running MDF programs.
This understanding of MDF is just the beginning. You’ll need several more elements to break through and begin attracting vendor MDF to business. Vendors have different criteria for entry into their MDF programs. A lot depends on just how much you’re selling of the vendor’s offerings. Other things factor in as well, such as:
- Increase vendor revenue. Ensure one person owns the vendor revenue numbers you’re generating. This way, you can meet the revenue requirements many vendors have for issuing MDF.
Side note: For some, sales and marketing is like the chicken and the egg. Which one came first? When it comes to MDF, the answer is clear. Sales comes first. Be sure you can demonstrate your strength with consistent conversion rates and a highly motivated team of salespeople with a track record of success in IT channel sales.
- Select vendors to approach. Pull a list of your vendors and categorize it based on the revenue you’ve generated for them. Select the top five and focus your MDF efforts on that group.
Get to know the vendor MDF program requirements. The first step in this part of the process is working with the channel account manager on the vendor side to find out who the best contact is for the firm’s MDF program. Have a conversation with that person and get as much of an inside scoop as possible on what it takes to qualify for MDF with that particular vendor.
You may wonder, “Is all of this effort worth it? I can just do this all on my own and self-fund these initiatives.”
Budget: Keep in mind that once you set your budget and understand how much you’ll have to invest to get a solid return, the project cost may be out of your reach.
Getting help from a partner, in this case, may be the best course of action. Experience: It makes sense to partner with a vendor that has a track record of success in working with MSPs and VARs to leverage their unique brands to generate leads.
True Partnership: When done properly, MDF funding can provide you with half or all of the budget for your campaign. The key is to know the process and focus on getting results both for yourself and the vendor you’re partnering with.
Show you’re committed to the vendor’s success as well as your own. Once you’ve identified your strategic partners, go all-in. Meaning, do everything you can to show you’ll make a trustworthy, committed partner when you’re awarded MDF dollars. Here are a few areas to focus on:
Certifications: Earn and remain updated with all of the vendor’s critical certifications. Ensure your technical team members are experts, as much as possible, in the vendor’s offerings.
Sales Reports: Send your MDF contact periodic sales reports displaying just how much your firm is selling. (Note: Ask your contact what reporting cadence works best so as not to overwhelm them with information.) This sends the message that you’re engaged but also that with the right funding, you can do even more to boost sales for yourself and the vendor.
Executive Connections: Develop relationships with influential executives at your strategic vendors and drop their names into conversations with the MDF gatekeeper at their organization. You can even ask the executive to put in a good word for you if it is necessary.
Conferences/Meetings/Networking Events: The bottom line is you have to show up. Be there in person when the vendor runs a conference or offers an opportunity to engage “live” with its representatives and possibly other MSPs or VARs who are also selling the firm’s solutions. This cements any relationships you’ve started virtually or over the phone. This also gives you the chance to develop connections that you otherwise may not have been able to develop long distance.
The final step is to apply. You’ve shored up your sales team, you understand what’s required, and you’ve developed relationships while keeping the key players informed of your worth to their firm. Sometimes it’s a waiting game, other times when applying for MDF the vendor may reach out to you. No matter what type of vendor you’re dealing with in this situation, you’ll still need to have an idea of what types of marketing campaigns you’ll be using to drive leads.
Lead Generation Ideas That Work for MSPs and VARs
Of course, vendor-funded initiatives are nice to have but until they materialize you’ll want to pursue lead gen on your own terms.
Powerful lead generating content campaigns are usually grounded in some sort of research, but they can also feature a solution that helps your audience deal with a major shift in your industry. Take healthcare for example: The industry is moving to EMR pretty heavily, and practices need solutions to help them leverage this technology while remaining in compliance with HIPAA regulations. A well-written white paper on this topic would be attractive to your potential and existing customers if one of the verticals you serve is healthcare.
Here’s what you’d need to pull this off:
- A decent ad budget. Click here to create one
- An understanding of your audience. Here’s help with that, too
- Graphics for your ad. Here are places to find those
- A well-written (and beautifully designed) content offer. Here’s info on that topic
- A CRM and sales tracking tool. (We’ve used Hubspot and SharpSpring.)
Once you have these elements in place, you can launch your content offer with confidence. That’s especially true if you’ve run the numbers and understand your social media ad ROI. If this sounds like a lot of work, you’re absolutely right. It is. You’ll need an existing team within your firm who knows how to pull all the elements together we just shared. Or, you’ll want to partner with proven team of digital marketing experts who understand channel marketing and can help you navigate the ins and outs of running a successful digital marketing campaign. Let’s discuss how to make digital marketing success a reality for your firm today.