Managed Services Provider (MSP) business owners are always looking for ways to grow their businesses and attract new customers. One powerful tool you may not have considered is Marketing Development Funds or MDF. MDF is a budget that channel vendors provide to their partners, such as MSPs, to help them generate demand for their products and services. In this blog post, we’ll explore MDF in more detail and provide real examples from MSP owners that are using MDF to grow their businesses.
In this MDF guide, we will explore:
- What Are Marketing Development Funds (MDF)
- Why Aren’t More MSPs Using Marketing Development Funds?
- What Does My MSP Need To Do To Qualify For Marketing Development Funds?
- Real Examples Of How MSPs Are Using Marketing Development Funds
- How To Get Started With MDF As An MSP
What Are Marketing Development Funds (MDF)?
Marketing Development Funds, sometimes called Market Development Funds or MDF, is a budget that channel companies grant to their channel partners to help with sales and marketing for events, webinars, and more. The purpose of MDF is to help vendors and their partners work together to promote their products and services to potential customers. MSPs can use MDF to fund marketing campaigns, events, and other activities that promote the vendor’s products and services. MDF can also be used to fund training and certification programs for MSPs. Essentially, it’s free money.
MDF is provided by many vendors that MSPs are already partnering with, yet more than half is left unused. It’s really designed to help MSPs grow their current clients and to help sell more of the channel company’s products and services.
Why Aren’t More MSPs Using Marketing Development Funds?
According to a Zafis Worldwide channel survey, 60% of MDFs go unused on a quarterly basis. Between $25 and $35 Billion in MDF goes unused yearly. But why? The main hurdle is that many MSPs just don’t know that MDF is available. They may have heard of it but don’t really know what it is, what they can use it for, or anything along those lines.
The second hurdle is they know about it, but they don’t know how to get it. We’ve seen a lot of that over the last year where MSPs have indicated they are interested in MDF but don’t know who has it, how to get it, or where to start. The last one is they know about it, but they don’t have the time or resources to get it.
Lastly, it can be a huge pain managing all of the vendor portals. Each vendor has their own portal where MSPs need to create a login and password for each one and manage all of these opportunities on an individual basis.
That’s why we decided to do all of the research, ask all the questions, and get all the details of the top MDF programs out there for you. We compiled all the information into one easy-to-understand, step-by-step guide for how to quickly and simply get your free marketing money.
What Does My MSP Need To Do To Qualify For Marketing Development Funds?
This answer is going to vary from vendor to vendor (consult our MDF guide for details on every vendor), but there is MDF available for every MSP, even brand-new start-ups. We recommend reaching out to your vendors and communicating your goals. Explain to your vendors that you believe in their product and will be using it in your tech stack, but you need some help getting your marketing off the ground. Additionally, MSPs can reach out to multiple, complementary vendors at the same time to receive MDF from multiple sources for the same event. Some vendors do require MSPs to reach a minimum spend in order to receive MDF.
The biggest key is to reach out and ask your existing vendors or account representatives. On most occasions, they are happy to provide MDF and assist with your marketing. For example, if your MSP is looking into hosting a webinar, some vendors are willing to help with landing pages, follow-up emails, recording, and the panelists on the webinar.
How Are MSPs Using Marketing Development Funds?
- Lunch and Learns
- Breakfast and Learns
- Flexible Spending
- Trade Shows and Conferences
- Content Marketing
- Social Media Advertising
- Create Co-branded Content With Vendors
- Get Creative
Breakfast/Lunch and Learns
Breakfast or Lunch and Learns is a great way for your MSP to leverage MDF to position yourself as an authority and get in front of prospects. MSPs can use MDF to cater for these events while demonstrating the value the channel vendor provides or the problems they solve.
Webinars are a good place to get your feet wet if you’re new to doing events as they tend to require less work. MDF can be used to provide gift cards or to send Uber Eats for lunches for those who attend. Additionally, you can repurpose your webinar into short clips and additional content that your MSP can use for a long time.
MSPs can use MDF to host webinars or seminars that showcase the vendor’s products and services. For example, an MSP that partners with a cloud computing vendor could use MDF to host a webinar that teaches customers how to migrate to the cloud. The MSP could use the vendor’s branding and materials to promote the webinar and offer special promotions or discounts to attendees.
Topgolf is mentioned frequently by channel partners as a way MSPs are using MDF. Topgolf offers a conference room that MSPs can rent out with MDF. Vendors suggest inviting a good mix of your existing clients and prospects.
MSP Success Magazine has heard directly from many channel vendors that their MDF is available for a wide array of marketing ideas. As an MSP, we suggest reaching out to vendors with your ideas and questions. Channel vendors can be a great resource for information as they have a wealth of experience from working with other MSPs. Use your reps and account managers as resources and bounce your ideas off of them.
Tradeshows and Conferences
MSP owners can also use MDF to attend trade shows and conferences. For example, an MSP that specializes in cybersecurity could attend a cybersecurity conference and use MDF to purchase a booth or sponsor an event. This would give the MSP an opportunity to showcase its services to potential customers and network with other professionals in the industry.
MDF can be used to fund content marketing campaigns that promote the vendor’s products and services. Again, using cybersecurity as an example, MSPs can partner with vendors to create a series of blog posts or videos that educate customers on the importance of cybersecurity. The MSP could use the vendor’s branding and materials in the content and offer special promotions or discounts to customers who engage with the content.
Social Media Advertising
MSPs can use MDF to conduct social media advertising campaigns that promote the vendor’s products and services. On our recent MDF webinar, an MSP owner discussed partnering with a cloud computing vendor to use MDF to run a Facebook and LinkedIn ad campaign that promoted the vendor’s cloud computing services. The MSP was then able to use the vendor’s branding and materials in the ads and offered special promotions and discounts to customers who engaged with the ads.
Create Co-Branded Content With Vendors
This is a great way for MSPs to build a closer relationship with their vendors and showcase their expertise to potential clients.
To start, MSPs can work with their vendors to identify areas of common interest or expertise. This could be a particular technology, a specific industry vertical, or a shared commitment to cybersecurity best practices, for example.
Once the topic has been identified, the MSP and vendor can work together to create a piece of co-branded content that showcases their joint expertise. We’ve seen MSPs create co-branded whitepapers, webinars, blog post series, and podcasts.
By creating co-branded content, MSPs can leverage vendor marketing resources to reach a larger audience. Vendors, in turn, benefit from the MSP’s expertise and credibility in the market. This type of partnership can be a win-win for both parties, and MDF can help make it happen.
In a recent webinar hosted by MSP Success Magazine, a speaker from Datastream detailed how he flew out to meet an MSP owner and work in their booth at the American Pistachio Growers conference. There is no particular set of rules that applies to MDF.
Another vendor described a “Vendor Day” that an MSP hosted by renting out a local restaurant and inviting their existing clients and prospects. The MSP created booths for all of their vendors in order to educate the attendees on their services.
We’ve also seen virtual bourbon, coffee, and wine tastings.
What Do Marketing Development Funds Not Cover?
Again, there aren’t specific rules and the limitations will vary from vendor to vendor, but typically MDF will not cover:
Marketing Agencies: Most MDFs do not cover the costs of third-party marketing agencies. Many marketing agencies have tried to sell MSPs on their services by claiming that MDFs will cover the monthly charges, but this is usually not the case.
Charity Events: When it comes to MDF, channel partners are looking for revenue-generating opportunities that are able to demonstrate a positive ROI.
How To Get Started With Marketing Development Funds?
If you’re an MSP interested in using MDF to grow your business, there are two things you need to do:
- Identify Relevant MDF Vendors
- Understand the Vendor’s MDF Program
Our Ultimate MDF Guide can help you with both. To learn more about how your MSP can get started with marketing development funds, download our free Ultimate MDF Guide below. In this guide, you’ll find detailed instructions, FAQs, and contact information all provided directly by Kaseya, Datastream, Malwarebytes, and many more vendors.
Our guide will help your MSP navigate the details of each vendor’s MDF program and includes information on what types of activities are eligible for funding, how much funding is available, and the specific program requirements or restrictions.
If you have vendors you’d like to see added to our Ultimate MDF Guide, email us at [email protected] and cc your vendor rep.