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Unlocking the Power of Vendor Funds for MSP Growth

Did you know that, according to Canalys Research, 90% of vendors offer proposal-based market development funds (MDF)? This statistic underscores the immense potential for MSPs and channel partners to tap into available resources for marketing and growth.

However, despite the availability of these funds, there’s a concerning trend: a significant portion of these resources often need to be used. A global survey by Zinfi revealed a startling fact – up to 60% of MDF goes unused by partners. 

Today, more than ever, managed service providers (MSPs) find themselves navigating a competitive market and staying ahead and driving growth is the name of the game. While MSPs often focus on refining their services and expanding their customer base, they might overlook a valuable resource that can give them the edge they need: MDF and Co-Op funds.

At the recent Channel Leadership Forum, a panel discussed the topic of “Getting the Most out of MDF/Co-Op Funds to Advance Your Business,” sharing insights and strategies that are beneficial not only to MSPs but also to ICT Vendors. 

Understanding the funds are available and that they are going primarily unused represents a significant missed opportunity for MSPs and channel partners to enhance their marketing efforts, expand their customer base, and drive business growth. The question then becomes: Why is a substantial portion of these funds left untouched?

Understanding Vendor Resources

Michelle Ragusa-McBain, Global Channel Chief at SonicWall, offered that vendors want to partner with their MSPs to mutually increase opportunities and revenue. However, MDF can only be allocated with a solid plan.

David DeCamillis, Chief Revenue Officer at Techmedics, agreed and emphasized the importance of proactive engagement between channel partners and vendors. He encouraged MSPs to establish a robust line of communication with their partner account managers within vendors to gain insights into available partner programs and resources.

One of David’s key recommendations was to inquire about marketing dollars and MDF early and often. He stressed the significance of being proactive when requesting these funds. MDF can be a game-changer for MSPs, providing the necessary resources to execute marketing campaigns and lead generation activities effectively. David’s advice was clear: don’t hesitate to ask and be prepared to propose innovative solutions to vendors to secure these funds.

The Power of MDF

Andra Hedden, Chief Marketing Officer at Marketopia, shed light on the immense potential of Marketing Development Funds (MDF) for both MSPs and vendors. She highlighted that these funds can be mutually beneficial, driving growth for both parties. Surprisingly, Andra revealed that only 14% of vendors utilize MDF to its full potential, indicating an untapped opportunity for MSPs to leverage these resources.

Despite concerns about potential denial or lack of compensation, Andra suggested that MSPs use vendor funds for events, especially those designed to generate leads and demonstrate Return on Investment (ROI). Not only does this help secure future funds, but it also strengthens the partnership between MSPs and vendors, creating a win-win situation.

Overcoming Partner Program Challenges

Scaling a successful partner program can be a daunting task when partners need more marketing resources and understanding. Debbie Kane, Principal Consultant at Omdia Channel Research & Consulting Practice, emphasized this challenge and stressed the importance of providing clear guidance and support to partners throughout the lead nurturing and sales process.

Jason Rinker, Chief Revenue Officer at Stronghold Data, added that understanding a company’s resources and capacity is crucial when implementing marketing strategies. To address these challenges, both speakers recommended engaging vendors and distributors, seeking their qualifications, and utilizing their resources and support.

Jason took it a step further by suggesting that MSPs should leverage existing relationships with organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and local Rotary Clubs. These local organizations can offer valuable opportunities for free cyber education and networking. This underscores the importance of tapping into local resources to enhance marketing efforts.

Marketing Strategies and Reimbursement

The panel discussion included a lively conversation about marketing strategies and reimbursement for funds spent. Event marketing and lead generation took center stage during this discussion. Partners emphasized the need to plan lead generation events in collaboration with vendors, sometimes creatively incorporating cybersecurity education with food and beverage events to draw attendees.

Leveraging Market Development Funds

Returning to the theme of Market Development Funds (MDF), Andra emphasized the importance of proactive planning and utilization of vendor funds. MSPs were encouraged to prioritize finding and securing these funds to achieve their growth goals. Having a champion within the organization to navigate the MDF process was highlighted as a critical success factor.

David DeCamiliis reiterated the importance of building solid relationships with vendors. He emphasized the value of finding a champion within the vendor organization who can help navigate the complexities of MDF utilization.

Event Planning, Marketing, and Vendor Partnerships

Michelle Ragusa-McBain stressed the significance of building robust vendor relationships. Having an advocate within the vendor’s organization was crucial for success. Michelle emphasized the value of creating mutually beneficial partnerships with vendors, showcasing event attendance, and providing tangible proof to secure reimbursement.

Co-branding events and collaborating with vendors to create opportunities for both parties were also recommended. Michelle shared an excellent example of leveraging vendor partnerships with the Chamber of Commerce to drive attendance and increase brand awareness.

The Importance of Having a Plan (and Knowing When to Ask)

To make the most of these available funds, MSPs and channel partners must approach the process strategically. Here are some essential considerations:

  • Strategic Planning: Before approaching vendors for MDF, MSPs should have a well-thought-out marketing strategy in place. This includes identifying target markets, understanding customer needs, and setting clear objectives for lead generation and revenue growth.

  • Alignment with Vendor Goals: Ensure your proposed marketing activities align with the vendor’s goals and objectives. Vendors are more likely to provide funds when they see a direct correlation between your plans and their interests.

  • Clear ROI Expectations: Be prepared to articulate how the funds will be used and the expected return on investment (ROI). Vendors are more likely to release funds when they see a clear path to measurable outcomes.

  • Regular Communication: Maintain open and regular communication with your vendor representatives. Building strong relationships and keeping vendors informed about your plans and progress can lead to more favorable responses when requesting funds.

  • Timely Requests: Timing is crucial. Don’t wait until the last minute to request MDF. Plan ahead and make requests well in advance to allow vendors time to review and approve your proposals.

  • Transparency: Be transparent about your needs and expectations. Communicate what you need the funds for, how they will benefit both parties and the expected outcomes.

  • Accountability: Once you’ve secured MDF, ensure you execute your marketing plans diligently and track the results. Providing evidence of the funds’ effective use can increase your chances of receiving more support in the future.

Incorporating these considerations into your approach to vendor funds can significantly enhance your chances of success. 


By combining proactive planning, clear communication, and strategic use of available resources, MSPs and channel partners can not only tap into the full potential of vendor funds but also drive success and competitiveness in the MSP and channel partner ecosystem. The path to growth and prosperity is clear; it’s time to unlock the untapped potential of vendor funds for a brighter future.



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