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The Unused Channel Marketing Funds Dilemma


There is a dilemma in the channel marketing space that troubles many programs from both the vendor and partner perspective that in the worst cases could be costing both a significant amount of time and money to correct, How to cope with unused marketing development funds.

Co-op and Channel Marketing funds are used in an indirect sales channel where funds are made available by a brand to help Channel Partners sell products and create awareness. Nearly all manufacturers have channel marketing funds and trade promotion programs in place. But many of them are ineffective and tend to leave a hefty sum of money on the table. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why partners don’t take advantage of marketing development funds (MDF) funds.

Unaware of Funds

Partners are just not aware of the funds. It may be that the vendor does not have a specific way to make sure that all of their partners are aware that there are funds available.  It is also possible that the guidelines for how to qualify for the MDF funds are obscure, which in turn gives partners an unclear idea of what kind of money is available to them.

Hard to Get

It may be that the partners are aware of the program, or the application process is unclear or too difficult to get through.  It is also possible that the requirements to prove proper use of the funds, once the partner has made it through the process, are just too arduous to deal with.

Lack of Strategy

It’s not uncommon for vendors to offer their partners Co-op MDF programs and incentives that are just irrelevant to what the partner is trying to achieve. If Vendors want to provide lucrative rewards, then they will need to customize and tailor programs to fit the partners’ needs. Actively listening to partners and what they are trying to accomplish is a big step towards them using the available MDF funds. 

Too Generic

Case studies, press releases, Facebook posts, direct mail, and blogs can only go so far. In order for partners to see these programs as lucrative opportunities, the programs must excite them with fresh appeal, be relevant, and present intriguing end-results.  

Now the question is, how can vendors get partners to use MDF funds? Simple, let partners know they are available and offer ways to help them get them.. Sure, you can send an email with information on MDF programs but the issue with emails is that it gets buried under the onslaught of new messages, so partners are less likely to review it. Partners are going to need reminders especially before funds expire. One solution would be to set up automatic emails; they are bound to see at least one of the emails that are being sent to them and it keeps the program top-of-mind.

In addition to letting partners know what they have available to them, other ways to get partners to use MDF funds are to simplify the marketing programs and by making the programs easy to track and deploy. This process can be made seamless through partner portals and ensuring that partners have account managers assigned to them to ensure they understand how to navigate through the partner portal and answer any questions they may have. Make it as simple for them as possible.

Finally, make sure that the content you are providing to the partners is relevant and specific to them and their channel.  The whole purpose of this program is to encourage your partners to use marketing material that puts your brand in the best light possible.  By making it applicable to them and their market, you increase the chances of them using it.

Creating a successful MDF program can be difficult, and it can be a major stressor when partners don’t use their marketing funds.  But, with a little strategy and keeping your focus on your partner and the end results, creating a successful program will make all the effort worthwhile.