The one key ingredient missing
from most MDF programs.................2
What exactly is marketing
Partner marketing automation,
AKA “self-service” partner
Campaign marketplace, AKA
One size does not fit all.....................4
Tips for configuring an effective
partner marketing automation
Tips for configuring a successful
Strongly consider a “marketing
We’re here to help.............................8
why isn’t my @#$%!&* MDF
If you’ve asked yourself this question, you’re not alone. Research
tells us that vendors frequently express disappointment with the
performance of their MDF programs. While they have a litany of
complaints, there are three primary reasons for their dissatisfaction:
1) Their partners are not fully utilizing the MDF funds being offered
2) The campaigns produced by partners reflect poorly on the
vendor’s brand and fail to generate meaningful results, including
leads, sales, and ROI.
3) The vendors receive very little data regarding the campaign’s
performance, limiting their ability to improve their spend and
gauge the performance of their MDF program as a whole.
We often hear Channel Operations Managers complain that: “Getting partners to give
me any solid feedback on their campaigns is like pulling teeth, so how do I tell my
management whether the MDF program is working?”
If you thought vendors had a monopoly on MDF program grievances you’re wrong,
because partners are often unhappy too. Typically partners will tell you that MDF programs
are difficult to use, lack the tools and support they need to create effective campaigns and
leave them waiting months to be reimbursed for their claims, causing cash flow issues.
We hear partners say things like: “My vendor is a multi-billion dollar company generating
substantial profits each quarter, while I’m lucky if I eke out a profit, so why am I performing
the marketing, fronting the marketing dollars, and waiting months for them to pay me back?
I’m not a marketer and I’m definitely not a bank!”
The one key ingredient missing from most MDF programs
Let’s try to determine why you and your partners are frequently unhappy with the
MDF programs by taking a closer look at the MDF process. The figure in the sidebar
showcases the key processes associated with a typical MDF program.
The MDF process begins with the assignment of MDF dollars to the partner based on a
joint marketing plan which is generated in a spreadsheet or an online planning tool. The
partner is notified of its accrual via e-mail or through its CAM, and then plans a campaign
and logs onto the MDF program website to make a funding request by submitting a
project for approval. After completing the marketing campaign, the partner submits a
claim with proof of performance documentation, and is reimbursed by the vendor.
As you can see, the typical MDF program provides for an automated, web-driven
means of facilitating projects, claims and payments associated with their co-marketing
development activities. It’s classic business process management, nothing more.
While on the surface this sounds harmless enough, it’s a serious problem. Why? Because
by providing only business process management, but its MDF programs are missing what
partners need most – the guidance, support and tools to create marketing campaigns
that generate leads and incremental sales. You see, most partners have engineering or
sales backgrounds, so developing effective marketing campaigns is as foreign to them
as deploying a network or configuring a server is to most marketers. The average partner
simply doesn’t possess the marketing training, expertise or resources required to plan
and produce effective, integrated marketing campaigns. And since they’re generally busy
selling and supporting solutions, they frequently fail to track their campaign results.
In the absence of any support and guidance from the vendor, the typical process of
developing a marketing campaign using MDF funds goes like this … the partner owner,
or one of the owner’s staff is identified to develop a marketing campaign. This employee,
who generally lacks any marketing training, copies the vendor’s logo, images and
marketing copy from their website, cobbles it together into a campaign and sends it to
an internally generated prospect and customer marketing list. Oftentimes the campaign
will lack essential ingredients, like an enticing offer or a landing page.
So what is the result? Here’s a hint…it’s not good. Campaigns run by people who lack
marketing knowledge often generate a negative impression of the vendor’s brand to
customers. Many partners know little about constructing a successful campaign using
new marketing methods, such as social media, SEO and content marketing, and as a
result receive low response rates. Also, they don’t have the right systems in place to track
a campaign’s performance, leaving themselves and vendors wondering if the MDF dollars
were well spent, and how to use them more effectively in the future.
It’s no surprise that a recent survey by Forrester Research revealed that 65% of partners
listed marketing enablement as the capability they need most from their vendors, and
vendors communicated that marketing enablement tools are a top priority for the coming
1. Assigns $,
and starts again
What exactly is marketing enablement?
Let’s start with what marketing enablement is not. It’s not a web page on a partner
portal containing marketing and brand assets like logos, images and text that can be
downloaded by partners. While this is certainly beneficial, it doesn’t provide partners with
the tools they need to run successful marketing campaigns. As stated earlier, partners
lack marketing expertise, need guidance and require a robust toolset to develop successful
campaigns. Making assets available for download but relying on partners to combine
them into campaigns is like ordering something from your favorite restaurant, and then
watching the waiter set the ingredients down in front of you and suggest you cook the
meal yourself! In other words, it’s not real helpful…
Marketing enablement equips partners with the tools, education and resources they need
to consistently develop and deploy successful, measurable marketing campaigns that
reflect positively on a vendor’s brand and maximize sales and ROI. There are two main
types of marketing enablement tools available today: 1) marketing automation resources
and 2) campaign marketplaces.
Partner marketing automation, AKA “self-service” partner
Marketing automation has been a hot topic the last few years so let’s discuss self-service
partner marketing automation tools first. These tools enable vendors to translate their
national campaigns into local campaigns by making them available to partners and
automating the co-branding and ordering process. They generally provide a selection of
campaign templates from which the partner can choose and co-brand with their logo,
contact information and a specialized offer. After completing the online co-branding
process, the partner then uploads a mailing list or chooses one available via the marketing
automation tool, and places the order. Behind the scenes, the marketing automation
software vendor produces and deploys the campaign and the partner may be required
to pre-fund the campaign then submit a claim for reimbursement.
Partner marketing automation tools are best suited for larger partners who have the staff,
marketing experience and knowledge to utilize the tools to develop and deploy marketing
campaigns themselves. They’re not as useful for small and medium sized partners
lacking the marketing knowledge to identify the campaigns best suited for their marketing
objectives, and who lack the staff to utilize the tools to develop campaigns.
A significant limitation of today’s partner marketing automation tools is they can only be
used for campaigns that can be easily automated, such as e-mail and direct mail. They’re
not as well suited for social media, SEO and other types of complex campaigns that are
ongoing or run for a series of months.
Campaign marketplace, AKA “vendor-assisted” partner
A vendor-assisted campaign marketplace consists of vetted suppliers who offer a range
of marketing activities and packages that have been pre-approved by the vendor—
from traditional co-branded collateral and emails to more innovative social marketing
campaigns. A campaign marketplace, which provides a one-stop shopping experience
to maximize partners’ co-marketing dollars, offers a number of unique benefits:
¡ Simple – instead of submitting a project and implementing marketing campaigns
on their own, partners can rely on proven marketing expertise and pre-packaged
campaigns that they select using an experience similar to e-commerce sites they
have come to know. Vendors can require the marketplace marketing suppliers to
provide the essential POP paperwork and documentation, cutting partners’ work
¡ Fast – partners don’t need to pay suppliers, submit claims and wait weeks or
months for reimbursement; the vendor pays the supplier directly. A credit card
feature can enable partners to extend their purchasing options beyond existing
¡ Measure, analyze and adjust – partners no longer need to track, measure and report
on the ROI of marketing campaigns. Vendors can stock the marketplace
with suppliers who offer integrated, closed-loop campaigns and provide feedback
to vendors and their partners with regard to leads, opportunities and ROI.
A vendor-assisted marketplace is best suited for small to medium partners who lack
the marketing experience and expertise to choose the right campaign for their situation,
and the resources to develop and execute a campaign on their own. But, since it’s
designed to support all types of campaigns from e-mail to SEO and social media, large
and medium partners can benefit from it as well.
One size does not fit all
Unfortunately, companies often use a one size fits all approach to marketing enablement
by only offering a self-service marketing automation solution to their partners. As a result,
they experience much lower usage of their tool than anticipated. Self-service marketing
automation solutions can be very effective for large, marketing savvy partners, but only
address the needs of most partners when combined with a vendor-assisted marketplace.
With a blend of both of these resources, all partners will have the tools to help them meet
their objectives and produce successful marketing campaigns.
In fact, in a recent study, 41% of vendors revealed their partners had insufficient sales
and marketing ability to utilize MDF dollars to roll out campaigns, even with the use of an
automation solution. Our own experience at hawkeye Channel, managing both solutions
simultaneously for Fortune 100 clients bears this out, with two-thirds of the vendor’s
partners preferring to use a vendor-assisted marketplace instead of a traditional self-
service marketing automation solution.
Tips for configuring an effective partner marketing
Marking automation solutions are designed to take the complexity and guess work out
of marketing, making it simple for partners to design and deploy successful marketing
campaigns, and enabling vendors to extend the reach of their marketing efforts. While
most solutions achieve this objective, configuring them isn’t a slam dunk. Here are some
best practices you should implement:
Make it simple. Easy-to-use consumer websites like Amazon.com and eBay have
spoiled us. Today we have very high expectations for all of our online experiences,
and channel partners are no exception. Your marketing automation solution must
mimic the intuitive shopping experiences to which your channel partners have grown
accustomed, and it must incorporate features like wish lists, reviews, ratings and
chat support. Remember your partners are participating in 5-10 different partner
programs and they’re going to sell the products of vendors who make it easy for
them to generate demand and close sales so it’s vital to make their lives easier.
Offer list rental services. The purpose of MDF dollars is to enable the partner to
generate demand in new or lucrative markets. If the partner’s only option is to send
an e-mail campaign to their own customer list, the MDF funds will not be spent
as intended, nor will they enable you and your partners to develop new markets
and increased sales. Be sure to provide your partners with the ability to select and
purchase outside lists using their MDF dollars so they can truly penetrate new
markets for you.
Facilitate execution. Marketing automation doesn’t end when the partner finishes
customizing the campaign with his/her logo, contact information and offer. While this
is certainly the stopping point for the partner, the hard work is only beginning for you.
Your marketing automation supplier should not only provide the software solution, but
should also offer production and fulfillment services making it completely turnkey for
partners, so they can focus on selling to the leads the campaign generates.
Provide closed-loop reporting. The old saying goes, “you can’t manage what you
can’t measure,” and this certainly rings true in the channel. Any campaign deployed
via your marketing automation solution must track established metrics and a means
of capturing results. This will not only enable you to evaluate and improve the
effectiveness of your campaigns and marketing automation tool, but if you share
these results with your partners, they’ll have a much greater appreciation for the
tool and the significant value and benefit it provides them.
Tips for configuring an effective partner
marketing automation solution:
¡ Make it simple
¡ Offer list rental services
¡ Facilitate execution
¡ Provide closed-loop reporting
Tips for configuring a successful campaign
¡ Offer the right suppliers and campaigns
¡ Make it easy to order and easy to succeed
¡ Offer downloadable assets
¡ Provide a consumer-like experience
Tips for configuring a successful campaign marketplace
While the concept of a campaign marketplace brimming with marketing campaigns
sounds simple enough, there are a lot of moving parts, and execution can become
complex and time consuming. Many of the recommendations shared above apply here
as well, so we’ll focus on four additional best practices important when developing an
online supplier marketplace.
Offer the right suppliers and campaigns. Talk to your partners to discover which marketing
materials and campaigns will help them the most. Would they benefit from e-mail, social
media support or SEO? An online supplier marketplace doesn’t do much good if the
resources offered aren’t what partners need. You will experience greater utilization by
packing your storefront with high quality suppliers and campaigns that will help your
partners exceed their marketing objectives.
Make it easy to order and easy to succeed. Partner experience is critical in determining
future use of the marketplace. Partners often still have to deal with multiple sign-ons and
cumbersome interfaces when utilizing vendor programs, so there is ample opportunity to
set your program apart with fluid, intuitive functionality. A clean, consistent and visually
appealing UI with logical menu structure go a long way to ensure partners utilize the
materials available to them. Making your marketplace easy to use will encourage partners
to take advantage of the amazing resources you provide.
Offer downloadable assets as well. A supplier marketplace allows you to be a supplier
and provide downloadable assets like data sheets, whitepapers and success stories.
By offering these materials via the marketplace, you can provide your partners with a
single source for all your marketing materials and campaigns, eliminating confusion and
simplifying the means of accessing your wealth of marketing enablement assets.
Provide a consumer-like experience. In this day and age everyone expects a consumer-
like experience for every online application. This desire is no longer exclusive to the online
shopping and other activities we engage in during our free time – we now want the same
experience at work. Easy navigation, point and click controls and visually appealing
interfaces are commonplace on sites like Amazon.com, so why shouldn’t partners be
able to shop the storefront of marketing resources the same way?
Strongly consider a “marketing concierge”
As we’ve discussed, the typical reseller is owned and operated by a busy entrepreneur
with an IT and/or sales background and little or no knowledge of marketing. To address
this knowledge deficit, you should consider providing a “click-to-chat” service staffed
by marketing experts. Support can include advice on how to use co-marketing funds
effectively, as well as selecting appropriate activities for a campaign based on that
partner’s specific business model and marketing goals. This kind of “concierge” service
has three clear benefits for partners: