Nobody really cares about product feature differentiation anymore - feeds and speeds just don't cut the mustard.
But the battle among tech vendor marketers to configure their programmes and content to this new engagement model has now really heated up. Their marketing content now needs to be compelling to business buyers as well as technical buyers (perhaps even more so) so that it can be found by those buyers when they do their research.
The very same trend is about to hit the channel as well — there are too many companies in the tech channel, so only those that market well and appear compelling to buyers will prevail. Of course, marketers working for channel partners have the added dynamic of needing to align their marketing messages with the brand values promoted by their strategic vendors.
I enjoyed discussing this challenge as well as content management strategies, the buyer’s journey, and digital marketing tactics with the 30-odd marketing professionals at Dell’s first EMEA-wide PartnerDirect Marketing Advisory Council in Marseille last month.
I led a session entitled “Leave Your Competitors Behind With Better Marketing Campaigns” where we agreed that vendor-centric fulfilment marketing models (marketing campaigns talking about the product or solution only) no longer work as modern empowered buyers control when and how information is found and consumed.
But even these marketing pros admitted they still need ammunition to argue for more resources with their own executives, so I hope that the material I provided will be useful in that respect. Feel free to drop me a line if you would like a copy of the presentation as well.
Spending marketing bucks: How to do it
One of the other discussions was about market development funds (MDFs), one of my pet topics. Two years ago, I wrote a Forrester report entitled "Should B2B tech vendors continue to outsource their channel marketing?, which caused a lot of discussion in the industry.
MDF programmes are an essential commitment from vendors to their partner strategy – while I haven’t surveyed the numbers specifically; my impression from talking to channel managers is that this investment is holding up pretty well in line with the overall marketing budgets.
But the eternal issue prevails: many channel managers are not sure if the investment is effective while a good proportion of their budgeted MDF is actually never claimed by the partners. Ironically, MDF in most vendor programmes comes essentially out of the sales budget, and the programmes is often not even under the control of the vendor’s CMO.
Dell presented the list of items that it supports through MDF programmes; it was pretty much industry-standard but also opened up the possibility to add new items if requested. The partners have gone away to think about it — but I have some ideas already.
Here is what I think should be included in a modern, marketing-oriented MDF menu:
- Creative agency engagement: Often, a single partner cannot justify their own agency project, so being able to leverage MDF for this investment would be useful.
- Advertising discounts: Vendors often have global discounts for online and offline advertising. Partners would be helped if they could leverage these discounts under some sort of central procurement process.
- Access to analysts: A little selfish, perhaps, but many partners would like to read our stuff and make inquiries.
- Marketing training: Classes on new tactics like digital marketing, content management, and lead nurturing.
- Marketing interns: Often, the partner cannot afford the resources for marketing programmes.
The important thing is: this menu should be a menu of services, not a set of process controls. For example, vendors should not force partners to use their agency on record, an initiative which has often failed in the past.
How about you? Can you think of something that you’d like to offer in your MDF menu? Or perhaps you are already more creative than others and do offer some true MDF innovations. Have your say in the comments below. ®