How To Get Vendors To Pay For Your Marketing
Imagine receiving free money to help market and grow your IT business — money you don’t need to pay back that can be used to fund events, marketing initiatives, and more. This money exists, and it’s available to you right now, no matter the size of your business.
This money is available through Marketing Development Funds (MDF).
Wayne Hunter, CEO of AvTek Solutions, Inc., has been using MDF to grow his MSP for years. Darren Patoni, founder of FullScope IT Inc., turned $2,400 in MDF into $1.3 million for his business. And Brandis Kelly, President of the Midwest Region of DigeTekS, LLC, secured just over $26,000 of MDF money in only four days.
What Exactly Is MDF, And How Much Is Available?
MDF is money provided by the manufacturer or brand to help their channel partners create awareness, do marketing, and sell more of their product. Essentially free money, MDF is provided by many vendors MSPs are already partnering with, yet more than half is left unused. In fact, according to Zinfi’s worldwide channel survey, 60% of MDF money is not used on a quarterly basis. Estimates show the amount of unclaimed MDF to be between $25–$35 billion.
How Do You Receive MDF?
Other than MSPs not knowing MDFs exist, one of the prime reasons MDF is left unused is because MSPs are confused about how to get access to it. The following tips will make it easier for you to claim your piece of the MDF pie.
While many channel companies have money budgeted for their partners, not all have a standardized MDF program. Other vendors have a more official program. Asking will help you know what you need to do. Lisa Niekamp-Urwin, CEO of Tomorrow’s Technology Today, has received MDF totaling $7,000 in the last few years. Her advice is to just ask and keep asking throughout the year.
“Always ask,” Niekamp-Urwin said. “And don’t be scared. I thought I’m just a little fish in the pond, but the money is there. I’ve found that the vendors I’m in constant contact with are the best place to start because they allowed me to concentrate on where my efforts pay off the quickest. If you have a great relationship with a vendor, they are more likely to give you funds because they know the efforts you’re putting in.”
Have A Plan
Creating a plan before you ask is critical to successfully securing MDF. “What’s the plan before, and what’s the plan afterward?” Hunter said. “Channel partners also want to see that you have skin in the game.”
Hunter approaches multiple vendors for MDF for a single event. “I have three different vendors that gave me MDF for a single plan because they complement each other,” he said. “We are doing a webinar series right now. Funding helps offset the cost of the platform and fund mailers and giveaways.
I didn’t realize it was going to be as big of a hit, but when we put the plan together and asked vendors to join in, I created a backlog of people signed up. I’m booked out for months for that plan because they see it’s a different approach and that we’re getting business from it. Plus, I’m highlighting them and educating the market.”
While researching MDF for the presentation he’s doing during the 10-city Next Generation MSP Tour (NextGenMSPTour.com), Fred Sagester spoke with MSPs around the country. Conversations about MDF revealed one of the biggest problems was the lack of follow-through.
“MSPs don’t execute on their plan,” Sagester said. “When you receive MDF money, that is taking it away from somebody else, which is fine as long as you follow through. You’ve got the money, now spend it. Run your plan. The door is open. Now, you don’t have a financial reason to not do your plan. Follow through with it and everything else becomes much easier.”
Find Out What The Vendor’s Requirements Are For MDF
Every channel company does MDF differently, and every amount is different. For example, Datto, a Kaseya company, has tiers of partners where certain tiers gain access to MDF. It’s also delivered on a first-come, first-served basis. Tonya Gentry, Chief Sales Officer for Big Red Media, has spoken with dozens of channel partners to gather what their individual MDF programs look like and what is required. (Find out MDF requirements in MSP Success Magazine’s FREE MDF Guide at MSPSuccessMagazine.com/mdf.)
“The piece that the MSP must really think about is that just because they are partnering with a vendor doesn’t mean they are owed MDF,” Gentry said. “Really look at what the program is, how they get into the program, then have a really solid marketing plan for what they’re going to do with the funds. If they have those pieces of it, they’ll wind up getting more money from the channel company.”
What Can And Can’t You Do With MDF?
Another reason MSPs aren’t receiving MDF money is because what they want to use the money for is not a legitimate expense. “It’s extremely important that MSPs find out what they can get reimbursed for. As an example, a lot of companies won’t reimburse for a third party,” Gentry said.
That said, the money can be used in a lot of ways: lunch and learns, events, webinars, giveaways, trade shows, and mailers, for instance.
Darren Patoni did three events with the MDF he received: a golf tournament, a breakfast, and a happy hour event.
“Jeff Farr had a company car nobody wanted to use and used MDF money to create a wrap for the vehicle with the vendor’s logos,” Sagester said. “Now, everyone wants to drive the car. Before VR was a household thing, Farr had a mobile VR come to the office. Hundreds of people showed up. From roughly $2,500, he made about $430,000.”
Create Win-Win Plans
Incorporate ways to benefit your channel partner. Quickpass, a cloud-based software that helps businesses manage passwords and verify user identity, provided MDF to a partner to help with sponsorship fees for an MSP community event. In return, Quickpass gained exposure through Quickpass’ logos placed on all of the wine bottles at the event.
In another event, Quickpass funded the food for each attendee and also performed a product demo. The partner was able to convert the majority of the end users and gained adoption to onboard the Quickpass Self-Service App.
MDF can provide growth and opportunity to both you and your channel partners. WatchGuard Technologies, a supplier of multifunction threat management devices, has received glowing reports of success from its MDF program. Their partners report results that include 45% YoY growth, webinars with a 20-to-1 return on investment, and SEM programs that generated 50 leads within two weeks and closed $350K of business with another $750K in the pipeline, just to name a few benefits.
Follow these tips to pull in MDF to grow your business. And here’s one last tip: When evaluating different vendors, ask what kind of partner perks they offer. MDF is often attached to partner programs. In some cases, partner programs are free; you just need to sign up for them. If you still aren’t receiving MDF, ask what you should be doing differently to access MDF. Armed with this information, before long, you’ll secure free money to help grow your business.
For more information on which vendors offer MDF, how to access these funds, and to download our FREE MDF Guide, go to MSPSuccessMagazine.com/mdf