Leverage Market Development Funds (MDFs) To Host Educational Events For Your Prospects

Channel vendors that sell indirectly (through MSPs) often rely on the success of their partners to drive revenue. There are really two ways for these vendors to grow their businesses. One of these ways is to find more MSP partners like you to sell their products. The other (and likely more affordable way) is to get their existing MSP partners to sell more. This is where Market Development Funds come in. By supplying MSP partners with marketing funds, they are able to increase the value of these relationships and ensure that these MSPs are keeping busy promoting their solutions.

The sales and marketing activity that I have found to be most MDF-friendly is the hosting of events. While COVID-19 certainly threw a wrench in most of these MDF programs, many are now more welcoming to virtual events as an alternative to common formats such as Lunch & Learns and Exhibitions. Regardless of which route you choose, it may take several weeks to get approval and plan the event so it may be wise to start requesting funds now with a tentative event date and see what you can get.

In order to be eligible for this funding, you must first put together a clearly documented plan describing your event, who will attend, and how you will promote it. You will then submit this to your vendors to find one (or several) willing to participate and get their approval for reimbursement. Having gone through this process, here are a few key points to include in your request to ensure your vendors have all the details they need to offer you funds.

What To Include In Your MDF Request

Participation Benefits

When you are providing an overview of your event within your MDF request, it is important to include a clear benefit to the vendor as to why they should participate in (and fund) the event. In my experience, I always found that brand recognition was one of the key motivators for having vendors participate. In the eyes and ears of an SMB, companies like “Datto,” “Kaseya,” or “Barracuda” are not consumer household names.

This is because it is really up to the MSPs to stimulate the awareness around these brands in their local market and many don’t have the time or resources to do so (without additional incentives). Incorporating these brands into your educational events can help to drive this awareness and grow your customer’s basis of trust around these product lines, helping to shorten your sales process. This is why such events are a “win/win/win” across the channel and it is what motivates your vendors to inject these funds into your market.

Target Attendees

When you host any event, whether you are getting funding or not, it is important to paint a clear picture of who the event is for and how many attendees you plan to host. This will help you narrow down your targeting when promoting the event as well as planning appropriately for quantity of attendees.

This information is important to vendors because they want to ensure that your attendees fit the ideal demographic of someone that would be interest in their product line. If your event will only be attended by Accountants that have practices of 10 employees or smaller, then they probably will not purchase a $3,000 per month disaster recovery service. Knowing your audience and seeking out vendor MDFs that fit will save you a lot of time and increase your probability of getting a sponsorship.

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Event Speakers

One of the key ingredients to a successful event is collaboration. Getting additional speakers lined up that will help to cross promote the event can make a significant difference in attendance and overall success of the event. It can also make the event more attractive to potential sponsors.

The most important thing to avoid is collaborating with companies that may be competitors or have conflicting business models to the ones that you would like funding from. As you list out your speakers on your proposal, you want this to add value to the event, not take away value and create a situation where you have to choose between receiving money or having a particular speaker.

Promotional Materials

Eventually physical events will be acceptable again at which time it will be important to include promotional items and takeaways for your attendees. While virtual events are still the norm, this can be replaced with some kind of valuable digital resource that visitors can access after the event.

Regardless of what you choose to provide, it is important to include this information in your request and ask your vendors if they would also like to contribute to this cache of goods. Many vendors will be more than willing to chip in “swag” or resources that can help to leave a lasting impression after the event concludes.

Advertising & Registration

One of the single most important things to include in your request for MDFs in how you will promote the event and drive registrations. Unless you already have a large audience that you can promote to, this will be one of the more challenging parts of the event hosting process. It is also why vendors are sometimes skeptical about contributing funds to your advertising efforts.

The best way to get vendors on board to offer advertising funds is to show them that you have a proven and documented strategy to do so. For example, using Google Ads, Facebook, and LinkedIn to retarget visitors of your website to promote the event will likely yield promising results and would be a fail-safe strategy for you and your vendors to invest in.

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Post-Event Sales Process

Second on the scale of importance is what you do after the event to qualify attendees that are showing the most interest and get them into your sales process. This could be as simple as a drip email campaign that is set up prior to the event or a scheduled follow-up call.

The vendor that you are requesting funds from will also want to know this information so that they understand your intention and can assist you in having all the resources you need to close the deals. Without a strong post-event push, you will likely find that your attendees move on to other things and the windows of opportunity quickly close.

Estimated Funding Required

After you have put all the pieces together and planned out every step of the process, you should then be able to get an accurate estimate of how much the event will cost. I also like to average this out per expected attendee to make sure that the numbers make sense and you aren’t paying too much for a single guest.

When providing this estimate to your Vendor, make sure the numbers look realistic. Keep in mind that they get these requests all the time, so if you “fluff up” the numbers it will be pretty obvious. Also, getting an idea of what your vendor’s funding limits are before you submit this request will allow you to get the most funding possible. For example, if you only say the event will cost $2,000 and they actually would be willing to pay $3,000, they aren’t going to just hand over extra funds for no reason. These extra funds can be budgeted toward getting more attendees so always shoot high (within reason).

If you are ready to start planning your next virtual or physical event, download the MDF Request Template below.