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How to Fuel Your Partner Channel Marketing with MDF

Looking for ways to improve performance with your partners, dealers or distributors? In this blog series, we’re sharing practical ways to do just that. In my last post on market share and quotas, we looked at ways to set and track market share goals. In part 3 below, we’ll discuss how to improve performance with marketing development funds (MDF), also known as cooperative marketing (CoOp) programs.

Let’s say you are the channel partner manager with a nationally recognized manufacturer, and you have a Salesforce Partner Community. Some dealers participate in your marketing program, but they rarely use the funds available to them. You’ve seen some examples of the ads they’ve used, and you’re not happy with how they represent your brand. Other partners have complained that it’s too difficult to request funds, so they just don’t bother. Everyone wants a better process. So how will you do it?

First, Consider Some Basic Questions:

  • Do you have the right program for your markets – MDF vs. CoOp vs. hybrid?
  • Do you regularly communicate to your partners and promote the program (i.e., do your market your own marketing)?
  • Do you have specific, stated goals for the program?
  • Do your partners participate in that goal-setting?
  • Do you have clearly documented and easily understood policies and procedures for budgeting, brand compliance, submission, reimbursement, etc.?
  • Do you have any automation in place to facilitate the process?

If you can’t answer “yes” to most of these foundational components, address those gaps before, or at least as, you make other adjustments. Be willing to accept that you may need some fundamental changes to see good results. Now let’s talk real-world experiences.

10 Ways to Increase Participation & Build Your Brands Together

1. Ensure partners know about the program.

  • Regularly communicate and promote it to your reps, district managers and directly to partners.
  • Use different media and tactics, just like you would for your end customers.
  • Market to your channel as you would through your channel and use Salesforce Marketing Cloud journeys to automate it all. With the newly announced Community Cloud/Marketing Cloud integration, you’ll be able to target your partners directly within the community. Salesforce Chatter in the community is also a great way to keep reps, managers and partners informed – and for you to stay engaged with them, too.

2. Give everyone visibility to their budgets, spending to date and allocations by markets, product lines, etc. Salesforce’s new MDF offering includes great partner-facing dashboards out-of-the-box (as well as some easy budgeting tools).

3. Work with partners who regularly underutilize their funds to invest those marketing dollars wisely. At the same time, you need to invest your resources wisely, too. So if some partners chronically underspend their budgets, focus your attention and assistance on others who are more engaged.

4. Provide flexibility for partners who need higher funding. Some high-performing partners fit well within a typical CoOp style program, getting marketing budgets based on sales. However, you may need to help new partners or those in target markets who need higher funding levels to build their markets – that is, MDF-type programs. You also may need to shift funds from chronic underperformers to partners who demonstrate the need and/or the track record to fully use them.

5. Equip your partner-facing account/district managers with training and tools to help partners with their marketing efforts. These front-line people are the face of your brand, and you want them to be as effective as possible.

6. Once your account managers are equipped, help them build an annual, personal marketing session into their account plans with every partner. And make sure they “push the easy button” (see below) to make it happen!

7. Include partners in the budgeting process, and build a marketing plan together.

In manufacturing, your partners are critically important to your success. Likewise, they rely on your support. They're called "partners" for good reason.

Give them a voice, listen to their requests and use approval workflows in the Salesforce Winter ‘18 MDF feature to let them accept or reject your budget proposals.

8. Provide partners with branded marketing templates that accommodate their brand as well as yours.

9. Publish marketing assets in an easily accessed format within your partner community with Salesforce Libraries.

10. Help partners through the process of creating co-branded, prospect-personalized assets with tools like MarcomCentral’s Salesforce Integration product.

Now What: Push the Easy Button

Nothing can kill a good plan or program faster than a poorly implemented process. Emails to account managers for approvals, spreadsheet budgets and phone calls to customer service to check on credit memos all create friction in the MDF/CoOp process. Work to eliminate every source of friction, and make it easy for your partners. That includes:

  • Planning
    • Set and track marketing goals with your partners using an easy-to-use app like our MSA tool.
  • Budgeting
    • Include real-time budget status with the new Partner Scorecard on the partner dashboard, so they can track their own progress toward goals.
  • Administration
    • Set up preconfigured campaigns for partners so they can add leads and contacts without having to create their own content, set up tracking, etc.
    • Use the new MDF claim submission forms to make reimbursements easy.
    • Enhance those built-in forms with a Visual Workflow that pre-approves claims from partners using pre-approved branded assets within the remaining budget.
    • To fully close the administrative loop, integrate your accounting system with the partner community and display credit memo records to your partners.

This might all sound like a lot of work. But there are some exciting developments ahead like Distributed MarketingCMS Connect and Einstein AI that will further automate your ability to engage your customers through your partners, too.

Want to hear other ways we’ve helped manufacturers get better utilization with their partner networks? Check back for the next post in this series where we’ll cover automating your dealer agreement process. And if you have more questions about MDF/CoOp, we’re here to help.

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David Stone

With more than 30 years of experience in IT, software development and client consulting, David is passionate about making things. He loves the process of taking raw materials and turning them into useful products that add value to people’s lives.

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