Eligible marketing activities for MDF are a hot topic, with vendors becoming more innovative in both what they can offer partners, and how MDF is dispensed.
During our recent webinar, Guiding Principles for a Successful MDF Program, Channel Mechanics CEO Kenneth Fox chatted with James Reynolds, Channel Development Manager with Purechannels, Michele Lee, Channel Programs & Distribution Management APAC with Juniper Networks and Ryan Griffis, Global Partner Programs Manager, Extreme Networks, about the activities that are eligible for MDF today. In addition to how MDF programs should align with your company’s strategy. Here are their top pieces of advice.
Watch the full webinar on-demand: “Guiding Principles for a Successful MDF Program”
Firstly, partners and distributors will expect an MDF program so you might feel the pressure to build one quickly. But don’t rush out purely to get one in place. Griffis pointed out that it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. As such, it’s important to keep the bigger picture in mind.
“Make sure that the tenants of the program that you’re putting in place are supporting your company strategy,” he said. “For example, at Extreme our big push now is on cloud. That applies to existing customers, encouraging them to migrate to cloud, as much as it does to attracting new customers. So that’s one of our big focuses – how we can drive MDF activity and dollars into campaigns that will drive cloud business.”
Vendors today are also becoming more innovative with their MDF spend. The traditional approach is that the partner or distributor incurs the cost of any marketing activity. After which the vendor reimburses them. However, there are other ways now, if your finance team will allow it, to leverage those MDF dollars as well as making your spend more intelligent.
Extreme Networks is doing this by directly paying third parties to provide certain services to distributors or partners. These include things like partner concierge services or integrated digital campaign services that distributors and partners can access.
“We’re talking about small, selected groups of partners who are chosen by the local marketing teams to participate in certain MDF campaigns,” said Griffis.
“We’ve also seen growth in things like translations of corporate materials. We’ve got a very successful Networking for Dummies series, which was initially available in English and now we’re investing in translating these into other major languages and then enabling partners to use that content as well.”
Additionally, Lee said it is important to establish a mutual agreement with partners on key objectives and priorities that you want to achieve together.
“Look at activities that can successfully meet these objectives within your organization or those that have been previously executed by partners and ensured success,” she said.
“What’s also key is looking at new emerging media and marketing trends, as marketing has changed drastically over the past 10 years. It’s key to review the MDF program and look at new marketing activities and new media that your customers are turning to. Then incorporate these elements into the MDF program.”
Reynolds noted that a proposal-based MDF program allows a lot more flexibility. Additionally, it brings the partner more centrally into the program. Therefore, it’s an opportunity to make sure that partners are engaged, and that they feel like they’ve got a voice. This way, you can also work to the partner’s strengths.
This is also useful if you’re planning activity in a particular region, or you’re changing your business, like Extreme’s focus onto cloud. Identifying partners that have ready-made skillsets and capabilities, can enable you to make positive inroads into new markets.
Said Reynolds: “Having a more flexible approach, where you understand the partners involved in the process of defining some of the program activities and working closely with them is a really healthy thing.”
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