MDF: The VAR’s problem and the vendor’s solution


I have a real issue with the term “free gift”. By virtue of its definition, a gift is free. Do you hand your grandmother a birthday gift and then ask her to pony up half the cost? Or do you tell her that, in order to receive her gift, she has to complete a mountain of paperwork and submit it in a timely fashion? I hope not.

MDF (marketing development funds) seem to have fallen into the category of “free gift with strings attached”. The resellers who should be using MDF to garner more business for themselves — and, ultimately, the vendors they’re promoting — are so turned off by the restrictions for using MDF that they pass on the monies altogether. What a waste of a valuable resource!

Here are the most common complaints I hear from VARs when it comes to the MDF:

  1. Deadlines. The funds “expire” faster than the VAR can pull together a campaign to use them.
  2. Conditions. There are stringent guidelines in place (largely governed by the rules of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002) to prevent misuse of the funds, making it difficult for a VAR to navigate.
  3. Support. Most VARs are not professional marketers. They don’t have the resources to develop the creative promotional tools, and the vendors aren’t helping — they don’t actively push the use of MDFs nor do they offer turnkey programs to utilize the funds.

So how do you fix the problem?

  1. Develop a plan.  Plans with action dates to ensure compliance and full utilization and results for MDF spend.
  2. Outline the restrictions and offer solutions for working within the rules.
  3. Communicate! Provide a toolkit of resources that VARs can access. Assign a marketing liaison to work with the VAR to develop appropriate, targeted campaigns. Send a monthly enewsletter with updates on upcoming promotions, ideas for events, success stories from other VARs, etc.
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