Are channel marketers just MDF administrators?

Are channel marketers just MDF administrators?

James has seven channel partner marketers covering Europe stretching from the Middle East through France, Germany, and up to the Nordics. Each region has a different language, business size, culture, and go-to-market strategy. With this level of complexity – how do you focus? With over 600 partners to manage – do the Channel Marketers just become Market Development Fund (MDF) administrators? The answer is no, and below are the three pillars that James has implemented to bridge the gap.

Members can read the detailed summary in the Community area and watch the replay.

Here is a short snapshot of what was covered…


#1. Alignment – With many demands on the channel marketing team it is easy for Channel Marketing to be famous for “administrating marketing funds” and the real marketing seen as being delivered by field marketing. James’ approach and first step to address this perception and close the gap is to make sure that channel marketing is 100% aligned with the business strategy. This has been achieved by making sure that all regional channel marketing uses a standard planning template that ladders back up to the business strategy. For every $1 of MDF invested it needs to link back to a strategy pillar and must have an ROI. This approach works because it is a top-down strategy, linked to bottom-up execution by the channel marketers and reinforced by good cadence and reporting. It also ultimately requires a behaviour change by everyone, but the templates and structure make this easier. This way we shift away from the “throwing MDF like spaghetti against the wall” approach – to quote a community member.


#2. Investment strategy –  If you have addressed the alignment challenge, then the next step is making sure your channel marketing resource has the time to work with partners on maximising budget. The key here is “less is more” i.e. reduce the number of partners and activities, because naturally if the team are trying to spend a lot of money with a lot of partners, they do become “money handlers”. To reduce the number of partners and activities requires: stop doing activities that don’t align with the data insights and the business strategy, tier partners, focusing on those with the greatest growth opportunity and focus on partners that are driving strategic activities such as new products or are shifting to as a service.


#3. Processes and people – The final pillar James is focused on, is making sure his team have the right skills and processes to support the above two pillars. The channel marketers are expected to split their time as follows:

  • 1/3rd planning strategy
  • 1/3rd executing
  • 1/3rd around process/systems


The last point, process and systems is the big one as this can bog the team down if there are high volumes of requests. Freeing up time from these processes is achieved by making the most of the broader marketing operations function and agency support. Giving the partner marketers more time to work with partners.  James is also benchmarking his team and seeing where they have skills gaps, and then working to upskill them. He is also enabling his team with data to help them make better investment decisions. Another area of focus is checking if marketing tagged opportunities by partners are real. The channel marketing team are exploring other metrics e.g. overall growth within a partner, so they have a view of the real business impact.

The final area is the engagement between field and partner marketing around account-based marketing. The general approach is field marketing focus on the core accounts and partner marketing on the other broader set of accounts e.g. partner led.

Combined these pillars are giving the Channel Marketing team the time, insights, and tools to make better decisions and move away from MDF administrators, and instead being famous for maximising partner strategic relationships.

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