How To Build The Best MDF Programs for B2B Technology Buyers
As a sales organisation you’re focused on hitting this quarter’s target. Frontline staff will often think of little else and all they want from marketing is more leads that will help them hit the number. They want those leads right now and, when the quarter ends, the cycle starts again. Unfortunately, your potential customers don’t care.
These customers have their own personal and business goals with all sorts of challenges that are getting in the way. So they’re completely oblivious as another three-month sales cycle whizzes past your desk.
Frustratingly, more than half of respondents in DemandGen Report’s 2015 B2B Buyers Survey say the time taken to reach a decision has increased during the past year, with 82 per cent indicating they now view more sources of information. They’re searching online for answers to their questions, discussing what they find with peers or other people they trust, and taking their own sweet time to reach any meaningful conclusions.
This means there’s a huge disconnect between the frenetic pace of your sales cycle and the more measured approach of potential buyers. This misalignment is a real problem for channel managers charged with creating new sales opportunities through market development funds (MDF).
MDF programs are often hastily put together to drive sales of a particular product range, they’re not properly resourced or given enough time to generate results, and everybody moves onto something else once the quarter ends.
With MDF usually in short supply, your business needs to get maximum impact from its investment. Rather than focusing on pushing products and services, which none of your potential customers are really interested in until they’re ready to make a purchasing decision, it makes much more sense for channel partners to concentrate marketing efforts on the business goals and challenges of their clients. This will develop new market opportunities over the weeks, months and years ahead when these businesses are ready to buy.
So how can you realign your MDF program to make it more relevant for an increasingly fragmented buyer’s journey? Here are three useful tips to get you started.
Break the cycle – Marketing has to provide leads to sales but it’s crazy to focus so heavily on the next three months. Be prepared to take a long-term view with your MDF and back channel partners who have a creative vision to engage clients repeatedly over a longer period of time. An email blast and a follow-up call just won’t cut it anymore.
Go multi-channel – Your potential customers are consuming more content from a wider range of sources than ever before. You need to be where they are, which is all over the place. When a channel partner has a great idea, be sure to talk about how this content is going to be distributed. This should include social strategy, media pitching, paid amplification, events and any other tactics that maximise exposure to your target audience.
Track lead indicators – Clicks, likes and shares are not a good measure of the content being produced with your MDF dollars. Yet it’s also problematic to rely on revenue generation because a B2B deal might take more than 12 months to close even after your marketing has had a positive impact. Obviously you can’t afford to wait that long to know if your strategy is working. So decide on the lead indicators that matter to your business – these could be customer demonstrations if you have a visual product or network assessments for a security solution – then track how many of these you’re able to book. Your average close rate will give you an indication of the sales you’re likely to generate.
It’s hard to take a long-term view when your business is driven by quarterly sales targets. This doesn’t change the fact that you need to do it if you want to communicate with potential customers in a way that matters to them. What are their goals, what’s getting in the way and how can your channel partners help them. If your MDF program keeps focusing on your latest batch of products and services, it will become increasingly irrelevant.