Marketing is always a challenge. It is more an art than a science which means that results are very difficult to quantify. The adage “I know I am wasting half of my marketing budget - I just don’t know which half” is often true. This can be a real problem, though, given how important marketing is to any business’ ability to thrive. While having other channels for marketing purposes—partners, affiliates, resellers, vendors etc.—is definitely helpful, you also have to ensure you’re making the most of these resources.
Market development funds (MDF funds) are a great way to subsidize your partners’ marketing expenses with programs and branded messaging aligned to your standards.
Invest in Software to Track Results
This recommendation may seem obvious for any company using MDF funds. After all, if you’re going to have channel partners, you need to have the systems in place to support these partners These relationships will demand active management on your part if you want to get the most from them, in terms of profits and pipelines.
One solution is Partner Relationship Management software. This technology allows you to support your partners in a variety of ways, from sales to marketing to training support. An advantage to PRM software is that it streamlines the management of supporting your partners and automates many of the processes too.
Communication also becomes much easier with PRM software. Whether you’re using it to send messages to all your partners at once or segmenting information to a specific group, PRM software gives you the ability to easily deliver the right information to right audience.
Develop an Incentive Programs
Along with an investment in PRM software, you can get a lot more from your MDF funds by tying them to a formal incentive program. For example, you can award the partners that generate the most leads from their marketing initiatives which further encourages them to promote your brand in the future.
Few things have been shown to work as well as commissions and other types of incentives for driving sales. As previously mentioned, you will need a system in place to help correlate your sales lead data with the allocated MDF budget for each partner. PRM serves as a technology solution to help automate this process.
Sponsor a Customer Event
A great way to engage with your partners and get to know your prospective customers is to sponsor an event in their local market. In order to get potential customers to show up, you need to offer them something worth their time. Your MDF funds shouldn’t just be for renting a building and bringing in some refreshments.
Consider ways to bring in an audience around helping them solve a problem and focus on building those relationships. You rely on your partners for access to their local market so use an event as a way to help them build their business as well.
Allocate Towards Long-Term Strategies
It is important to consider near-term priorities for helping your partners market your products and services. In fact, many partners who don’t see short term success may become frustrated and move on to other brands or opportunities that have more immediate rewards. Unfortunately this leads to a partner network full of order-takers and very few partners willing to build long-term customer relationships.
If you take the time to lay out a longer-term marketing strategy, make sure your partners understand the thought that went into it and help them understand what results they can expect to see down the road. Sharing your vision with your partners will increase the buy-in from your partners and improve your long-term success.