Last week, I talked about how channel vendors and manufacturers need to make sure partners use their MDF. This week I want to discuss what channel partners should be spending their MDF on to successfully drive demand. With $25 billion in MDF left on the table every year, it's clear this is an issue.

Unfortunately, some partners are using MDF on useless “marketing” activities. There, I said it, but hear me out: Taking your current customers who buy from you anyway on a golf outing isn’t what these funds should be used for. Sure, that might be something you need to do, but MDF really should be used for filling the funnel with net new leads and contacts. 

Here are the five best ways to use MDF to fill your funnel:

  1. Leverage social: The best way to connect with contacts and prospects that don’t already know you is to get active on social media. Post to LinkedIn groups, build a thought leadership platform and connect with more people. Then, next time you send an email, download your connections and send it to all of them and nurture the relationship to eventually create a lead.
    Where, when and how do you find the time? This is where MDF comes in. Have your manufacturers and vendors support you by using MDF to hire a social media consultant or third-party company to help.
  2. Get new traffic to your website: Drive new prospects to your website through online searches. Net new prospects don’t know to search for you, they just know they have a pain point they need to solve. Use MDF to put a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy in place to ensure you’re attracting the right prospects.
  3. Content, content, content: Content is king … or queen. People are so bombarded by information today that it’s important they spend their time reviewing information that helps them solve their pain points. Your content needs to be targeted to specific scenarios and through MDF you can create custom content that illustrates how your vendors’ solutions work with your services.
  4. Make your website a destination: I would never suggest that anyone in business-to-business spends money on a logo or a website redesign. I do, however, care about functionality and ability to capture a lead. Can I tell in the first five seconds what you do and why I should work with you? Is there a call to action? Can you capture my information? If the answer is no, then it’s worth spending MDF to make some changes.
  5. Events that pay: I know I said golf events don’t drive net new leads, but there are events that do. Virtual events such as a webinar attract new contacts if you put a communications plan around it, including social media and SEO. The one-hour live webinar isn’t as effective as it used to be, however. Think about doing a three-part series of 20-minute webinars that release once a week and don’t worry about making them live. People always watch the replay anyway. Better us post them on social over and over again than to have a big (stressful) live event. If your business is regional, you may want to consider a live event and be sure to encourage people on your list to bring a colleague or friend.

I’m sure there are a lot of other ways MDF can successfully drive net new business. What would you suggest? Vendors would love to hear you weigh in as well!

Contributing blogger Heather K. Margolis, the Channel Maven, has led channel programs for major IT companies.