Let’s face it, there are many factors involved in creating and maintaining a successful MDF program. But we have pulled out what we believe are the top operational best practices. At CCI, we see every day the direct impact these practices have on partner engagement, satisfaction, and retention within a program. MDF programs are only as effective as the people and processes that run them.
- Create clear and concise guidelines. The rules and requirements of the program must be easily identified by your partners so that they are not intimidated about participating. This is especially relevant for the proof of performance (POP) requirements. A matrix that shows the definition of each activity type and the associated POP requirements is suggested over guidelines written in paragraph form, which tend to be too wordy and muddled for the reader. Enable your partners’ success by giving them the clarity they need upfront.
- Enforce these guidelines. Exceptions to the rules should be granted sparingly in a healthy and successful program. If you consistently reward bad behavior (accepting poor POP, disregarding the exception period, etc.) then you set a precedent with your partners of ‘anything goes;’ this will make it exceptionally difficult later on if you try tightening up the reigns. Hold your partners accountable from the beginning so that they know what is expected of them. Too often we have seen exceptions snowball, creating an administrative nightmare that is difficult to stop without causing widespread partner frustration.
- Establish effective partner communication and, more importantly, generate the right amount of it. Don’t underestimate the motivation, information, and recognition that can be passed to your MDF participants through simple forms of communication, such as email. Tell your partners what is new and exciting in your program, promote the ease-of-use, and encourage them to get engaged. Assist them along the MDF claim process by confirming when their funds are approved and sending very explicit emails about what is needed in order to process their claim. Communication content needs to be valuable and geographically appropriate. And, of course, be respectful of your partners’ time and inbox; overkill will have them placing your unread messages in the trash before they even finish reading the subject line.
- Capture relevant ROI and analyze the data to aid in planning decisions. This will allow you to measure the effectiveness of the activity and help set a benchmark for future investments you are making with MDF. These funds are allocated based on the anticipated results of a planned activity so you should be able to gauge the benefit you and your partner will reap. Partners are seeking ways to maximize their returns, so if you are collecting this data but not actually applying what you have learned you are doing a disservice to your program participants, who may be looking for guidance.
- Maximize training to all program and partner managers. Too often we see evidence that most individuals in this position do not have a clear understanding of how the program should work, yet they are responsible for assisting the partners that they manage. A well-run program empowers these managers by equipping them with the business training and knowledge necessary to guide their partners to success. Regular attendance at training sessions and establishing a common enforcement of the guidelines will make these managers an asset to their partners, not an annoyance.
- Be willing to change. As the Channel evolves it is imperative that you evolve your program along with it; when you resist change you run the risk of having your program become stagnant. The same activities that promoted sales growth five years ago may no longer be giving you the ROI that they once were. Do regular reviews of which activities are working and which are not – and then don’t be afraid to modify what is eligible based on your analysis.
Your business processes should be evaluated as well. Do you have the right individuals reviewing and approving the use of MDF? These approved activities are intended to be mutually beneficial so your approvers need to have the breadth of knowledge necessary to identify those activities that are in the best interest of the partner and your organization.
Now… is there anything you can do to maximize your program’s potential?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cassie Fuhr, Director of Client Services at CCI
As the director of client services, Cassie Fuhr is responsible for conceptualizing and executing client programs while cultivating new and long-term business relationships. She manages global on-boarding and training by developing effective policies and procedures that streamline the programs managed by CCI’s client services team. Cassie has been with CCI for seven years and during that time has successfully trained a customer service team that has tripled in size. Cassie works in CCI’s Midwest office and spends her downtime with her husband raising their two sons.