Q: As a smaller MSP, our MSP marketing budget is tight. We have all these ideas for lead generation campaigns, but not enough funding to tackle them all. How can I leverage my vendors for help with either marketing development funds (MDF) or tools to help us carry out different campaigns?
You are certainly not alone. Many other IT service providers are trying to balance a tight budget while still trying to drive their lead generation and marketing efforts. Luckily, there are vendors who can help—either with rebrandable campaigns and templates you can use with your customers, or marketing development funds built into their partner enablement program. Truth is, most vendors want you to be successful, and they’re right there waiting to help. You just need to engage them.
To give you tips on how to navigate partner enablement tools and funds, we spoke with Lindsay Faria, the director of partner marketing at Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda. Lindsay works tirelessly with our partners to deliver a variety of resources for them to leverage in their own marketing. Here’s her advice on how MSPs can leverage their existing vendor relationships to grow their businesses.
Getting started with MDFs
While different vendors have different requirements for their MDF programs, there are three key things most vendors will look for from you before they’ll decide to fund your next marketing project.
1. Develop a plan. What are your goals right now and in the long term? How will this project or marketing activity propel your business forward? Before you approach your vendor, think about how their company aligns with these goals and how the relationship can help you achieve them. Develop a plan that covers what you’re trying to achieve, how you want to make it happen, and how this particular can vendor can help you get there. Can you achieve this on your own, and they’re just making it faster and easier? Having a well thought out plan is fundamental to the success of any campaign or project – and will also help you make your case when asking any vendor for funding.
2. Take some time to learn about their MDF process. Every MDF program is unique, and often you’ll need to have an exploratory conversation to learn how each vendor’s process works. This will also help you determine which vendor aligns with your goals. While you’re learning how the process works, it’s important to note that exploratory conversations do not serve as a request. Calling without a specific request in mind makes it difficult for the vendor to give you a specific answer or an approval. Yes, you want to conduct those exploratory conversations first—but if you’ve ironed out exactly what you’re looking for, you’re positioning yourself for a smoother approval process.
For example, if you’re looking for help with a sponsorship for an event, you might want to have an exploratory conversation first to see if this is something that your partner vendor would consider providing MDF for, and what they would normally do for this type of event. Then, you want to go back to the drawing board and be specific not only about when the event is, but also where it will be, how you’d like the vendor to assist you, and what you’re looking to get out of the event. Often, vendors will want to know how you’ll measure your success. Are you looking for a certain amount of leads to come out of the event? How will you obtain those leads? Will you be pitching the vendor’s solutions specifically to the leads? Think through every aspect of the process, and most importantly, what you envision your success will look like.
3. Position yourself at the head of the class. MDFs are a symbol of partnership and working together to grow your channel business throughout the year. Remember participating in class? At the end of a semester, if your teacher remembered you actively participating, sometimes your B+ (shy just a point or two) got bumped up to a A- because your active engagement kept you at the top of their mind. The reality is that in some companies’ MDF programs, the same concept applies. If your account manager or contact at the company is familiar with what’s going on with your business, they will be better able to advocate for you when it comes to MDF approvals.
Most vendors will make an effort to stay in touch. This could be through quarterly check-ins with the account manager or by hosting events that you are invited to. Either way, taking those opportunities for face time gives you a great opportunity to invest in the partnership. They’re also perfect ways for you to give feedback or demonstrate your commitment to their company. Try to be one of the partners that comes to mind first by staying present. After all, a huge factor in our success in the channel is in our ability to build and effectively leverage relationships.
While MDFs are a great way to supercharge your marketing efforts, there are plenty of non financially-based resources available as well. Sometimes, vendors will even take on projects in-house instead of giving you funding to go elsewhere—creating a valuable tool to help you with your marketing. Free pre-made resources such as product training, marketing enablement materials, webinars, blog posts, and even email templates, may be available from vendors to help you accelerate your business.
For example, the Intronis Partner Toolkit offers rebrandable marketing materials, presentations, emails, infographics, and more. You can customize these tools or use them as they are. And, if you’re looking to bring up your entire staff to speed on new products or tools, we also have an extensive certification and training program available to our partners – at no charge!
Different vendors might have different requirements when it comes to their MDF process, but following Lindsay’s advice will help you set your team up for success. While you’re reaching out about MDFs, don’t forget to ask vendors about other resources that might be available. If your vendor has already created a template, an email, or a presentation that you can use, it will save your marketing team time and effort—and ultimately help your MSP achieve more success.
Ask an MSP Expert is a weekly advice column answering common questions from MSPs and IT service providers. It covers topics ranging from pricing and selling to marketing and communications—and everything in between.