Seven Secrets to More Vendor MDF


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Ted Hulsy, VP of marketing with eFolder, shares seven secrets on how IT channel partners can win more MDF from vendors. Market development funds are a key way to boost marketing resources and drive more business.

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  • My goal is to inspire you to start doing one or two things differently in your marketing. I am going to share what I consider seven secrets to success with MDF. Many of these recommendations may seem obvious, but what is so surprising is how few partners actual put these best practices into place. It is an embarrassment of riches for the top 10% of partners that follow some of these best practices. None of the are rocket science, but together, if you practice these strategies, you will win more than your fair share of MDF over time.I only have a handful of observations. Let’s make this as interactive as possible. Please ask questions as we go along.
  • Review my key qualifications.What is important about my experience?I have spent hundreds of hours working with partners on their marketing plans and have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. And I have worked with partners of all sizes…
  • The first secret to get more vendor MDF is to focus and pick your lead vendors. Don’t get distracted by non-strategic vendors who give you bennies one quarter and nothing the next. Don’t get distracted by promotionally driven vendor partners that want you to exclusively push their agenda.Instead, figure who your strategic vendor partners are. Hopefully, have deep professional and managed service offerings that leverage these vendors and you have a unique selling proposition or value to your clients. Then spend a lot of time with these partners and figure out how their MDF programs work, inside and out. You can’t be an expert on every vendor program out there. But you can be an expert the programs of your top four vendors. Focus is key to success.
  • Here is a good example. Just 5-10 years ago,Arlin’s company literally had hundreds of vendor partners. Procurement and engagement was spread all over the place, stealing from time that could be well spent with the top 4.Now, HTS very explicitly has four key vendor partners. These are their focus partners for a number of different reasons, but with just four to focus on, they can spend the time they need really go deep with these vendors. When you go deep with a vendor, you need to develop relationships up and down the ladder and understand all the nuances of their programs.
  • Ok. I have nothing against receptionists. But you don’t delegate strategically important matters to the person who simply answers the phone.There is a busy work element to marketing and there are lots of hoops that vendors force partners to jump through on the MDF front. But many of the important tactics around MDF are not busy work at all. In fact, the busy work is all designed to get partners to be accountable to the vendor. If you get proactive and put a lot of these steps in place, it cuts down on the busy work.Therefore, you need someone senior in the organization managing the vendor the relationship and in charge for the marketing planning. It should not be delegated to someone low on the totem pole. It is far too important. The best recommendation is have a vendor manager person or dedicated marketing person if you can afford it. Or it should be a key responsibility of one of the principals in the firm.
  • It is important to try understand where you are in the evolution of your organization. Arlin Sorensen has a useful lifecycle model for partner organizations.Where do you fit?Focusing on vendor MDF may be a waste of time, if you don’t have the required sales resources in place. Why generate hot leads, if the sales personnel are not in place to close the opportunities?
  • If someone senior is your organization is handling the MDF process, this gives you a lot more credibility with your vendor partners. Instead of having the receptionist fill out a bunch of forms, you are having a business conversation.The important point here is to be bold and think big. Ask for more MDF than you think may be approved. Mastering the art of the big ask needs to be done in concert with the other best practices I am identifying today, such as documenting your marketing plan and following up with results after every project. But if you are doing all the right things, it is amazing how much you will get when you ask. Most vendors have a chronic problem of too much MDF chasing too few good marketing programs. Therefore, you can get more than your fair share if you just put together good plans, write them down, and ask for the big amount.You are not being ambitious enough until you feel slight embarrassed. You will be surprised how often the vendor will say yes.
  • Even better than asking for vendor MDF, simply plan to get it and get the vendor to commit to delivering a certain amount over the course of the year.This gets us out of “asking” mode and into “planning mode.” In my experience, the sales teams and partners that master the planning process will always get more than their fair share of MDF. In a previous life, there was a sales territory in the Midwest at my company. The rep there would always use 2x-3x as much MDF as the other territory managers even though his territory had a smaller quota, fewer big cities and so on. The way he would beat out the other territories was to simply make annual plans with a cadre of his bigger partners. With each, he would do an annual business plan where the vendor MDF commitment was baked into the annual plan. By thinking ahead, writing things down, and getting mutual commitments, the success rate and MDF utilization was much higher than the other territories. Partners should do the same by entering into annual plans with each strategic vendor.
  • When you are doing any sort of marketing project, it always a good idea to write down your plan. Writing down your plan forces you to think about all the key elements, including goals, budgets, and timelines.I am big a believer in the one page memo. I learned how to do the one page memo while interning at Procter & Gamble. Now let me review the key components of the one page memo.
  • There is a lot of debate amongst partners about how to do marketing. Should you be doing branding? Should you be driving awareness in your client audience space? Should you be driving loyalty amongst your existing clients? Should you be focused on lead generation? Or referrals? Well, you really should be doing all of these things.The hard part is asking vendors to help pay for the squishy side of marketing. If you are serious about marketing your business, you will have your own budgets dedicated to branding marketing and client appreciation type events. But to really get vendors excited, you need to focus on leads for new sales, whether to existing clients or to new clients. Leads and opportunities can measured. If they can be measured, they can be managed and therefore, also improved over time. The leads don’t need to be for “product” per se, but can be for your own solutions. And these solution sales will drag the vendor into the equation. A leads focused approach will align your interest with your vendor partners.
  • Tell the vendor how you did, good, bad, or ugly. It is like sending a thank you note. Very few people actually get around to doing it. Telling the vendor what happened with a campaign is extremely valuable. First, it is keeps you accountable and focused. Second, by sharing results with your partner, you can jointly plan to improve upon the next engagement. Lastly, it gives the vendor marketing people meaty stories they can share with their management teams. If you give them the results, then they know how to communicate them internally and share further as needed.The last point here is to simply tell the truth. Nobody wants to disappoint a business partner. But even if things don’t work out as well as planned, just try to focus the conversation on “learning points” or improvement steps for the next campaign. Continuous improvement is the key continued funding.
  • Repetition is important to continuous improvement. With repetition will come deep expertise and experience.
  • Let’s keep in touch.
  • Seven Secrets to More Vendor MDF

    1. 1. Seven Secrets to More Vendor MDFTed HulsyVP of
    2. 2. Agenda• Background• Seven Secrets• Discussion2 © 2011 eFolder, Inc. All Right Reserved.
    3. 3. Background• VP of Marketing, eFolder• 14 years of channel marketing experience – Sprint, NorthPoint, Netopia, and SonicWALL• 6 years with SonicWALL – Directed $2-3 mil in MDF annually• Worked with big and small partners3 © 2011 eFolder, Inc. All Right Reserved.
    4. 4. 1. Pick your lead horses4 © 2011 eFolder, Inc. All Right Reserved.
    5. 5. Example: Heartland Technology Solutions5 © 2011 eFolder, Inc. All Right Reserved.
    6. 6. 2. Is your receptionist the VP of Marketing?6 © 2011 eFolder, Inc. All Right Reserved.
    7. 7. Are you ready to do marketing?7 © 2011 eFolder, Inc. All Right Reserved. Source: Arlin Sorensen, “Ten Things I Accidentally Learned Along the Way”
    8. 8. 3. Ask for more until you are embarrassed8 © 2011 eFolder, Inc. All Right Reserved.
    9. 9. 4. Even better, “plan” don’t “ask”The sales territory withthe best planningfocused sales rep getsway more than their fairshare of the MDF pie.Same goes for partners.9 © 2011 eFolder, Inc. All Right Reserved.
    10. 10. 5. Master the One Page Memo If it can’t be summarized in one page, it is probably not worth doing.10 © 2011 eFolder, Inc. All Right Reserved.
    11. 11. 6. Focus on leads11 © 2011 eFolder, Inc. All Right Reserved.
    12. 12. 7. Write down and communicate the results12 © 2011 eFolder, Inc. All Right Reserved. Source: Jane Cage, Heartland Technology Solutions
    13. 13. Rinse and Repeat13 © 2011 eFolder, Inc. All Right Reserved.
    14. 14. Keep in Touch @tedsefolder @efolder © 2011 eFolder, Inc. All Right Reserved.