Marketing development funds are a buried treasure partners are eager to track down and loot.  There are multiple places to get it, yet it never seems to be readily available or guaranteed.  This blog intends to provide partners with “the pirate code” to reach the booty and increase their chances of taking their fair share of the goods.

Step 1: Prepare for the journey
Do you think Captain Jack Sparrow would ever leave without his compass?  Of course not.  Your first task is to get your bearings. Think of why you’re seeking this MDF.  Consider the manufacturer solution you’re promoting and be prepared with a marketing plan which outlines exactly how you intend to do this.  It is highly recommended to develop an integrated plan that includes a combination of digital and traditional, inbound and outbound marketing activities; and be sure to indicate which activities are either no-cost or will be funded by you.  Providing expected outcomes will also strengthen your plan.

Step 2: Invoke parley
Parley: a pirate may request an audience with the admiral of the flagship to negotiate terms of a funding accord.  Assuming you don’t have the charisma afforded to Captain Jack, use this time to speak with the appropriate point of contact.  Assess your relationship with the manufacturer as it will influence who you speak with to procure funds, and how much is reasonable to request.

The more business you do with a manufacturer, the stronger the relationship and the better your odds are to get a bigger share of the loot.  In this case you’re likely already receiving some MDF for your efforts and working with a Partner Marketing Manager, the “captain”.  However, if you need additional funds, here are some tips:

  • Work with the solution’s specific business units within the manufacturer organization to see if they have funds to support your efforts.
  • Go to an alliance BU for funds, but you’ll have to promise to promote the joint solution(s)—be sure this option won’t derail your marketing plan and take you to world’s end.

If this is a blossoming manufacturer relationship, the “captain” will be the manufacturer representative who knows your sales history best; often times this is a Distributor Partner Business Manager.  Ask them:

  • Are there any marketing programs they are running for that specific manufacturer solution?
  • Have you earned any marketing money from doing consistent business with them?
  • Is there a certification program that includes “doubloons” (aka funding) to help you see immediate ROI on your training?  

A warning to all scalawags: be sure the marketing activities you’re requesting support for are critical to your campaign, such as purchasing a list of net-new contacts, developing customized content, or hosting a strategic event for already warm prospects.  If you want funds for a sponsorship of a tradeshow where you’re not actively presenting the solution, or posting digital ads that have limited measurable success (ROI), you might be told to walk the plank.

Step 3: Navigate the stranger tides

Time and time again Captain Jack Sparrow resurfaces despite the odds, but unfortunately this is not the case with MDF.  Marketing budgets ebb and flow with the tide regardless of where you’re searching for it.  However, there are ways to increase your likelihood of receiving MDF again if you ask:


  • Adhere to funding guidelines, especially expiration dates.  There’s nothing worse than tying up money for a partner who doesn’t use it.  
  • Provide results to the person(s) who supported your campaign such as the number of registrants/attendees to an event, the marketing qualified leads generated and some insight into where the opportunities are in your sales cycle.  The most important result to provide is the pipeline associated with any of those opportunities, so be sure to have a reasonable estimate prepared to share.  
  • Keep to the code—even though they’re more what you’d call “guidelines”.

Even with the tools necessary to unearth the treasure, sometimes even the best pirates come up empty handed.  Just remember the ebb and flow of the tide.  If you don’t succeed on your first treasure hunt invoke the rule of parley and try again, and again, and again.  The more you market and sell that manufacturer’s solutions, the more likely they are to take heed and reward you for your efforts.

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