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How to Optimize the MDF Claim Process for Channel Partners & Your Team

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Market development funds (MDF) can be a powerful tool in the arsenal of partner support. But even the most generous program will fall flat if the MDF claims process for channel partners is too complicated or time-consuming. Worse still, a haphazard MDF program can bleed company capital without providing results.

MDFs, to recap, are the resources that an organization gives to channel partners to fuel promotional activities. Some organizations include non-monetary support in this pool but, for the most part, MDFs mean funding. That is: dollars.

The kind of activities partners use MDFs for can range from events like conferences and tradeshows to marketing campaigns to advertising and other mutually beneficial initiatives.

While every organization has a slightly different approach to providing partners with marketing support, there are ways to optimize the MDF claim process for channel partners and your team that hold true no matter what your program looks like.

Solidifying Partner MDF Claim Procedures

The first, and most important, step to creating a streamlined MDF claim process is ensuring that guidelines about how your program works are solidified in a single document that can be shared with partners.

Having listed procedures improves transparency and keeps everyone on the same page. In those MDF guidelines, include information about:

  • What activities are included under the program?
  • Who is eligible to receive funding – is this based on partner type, tier or performance?
  • How does a partner submit an MDF request?
  • How are MDF requests processed and prioritized – is it a first-come, first-served basis or based on other criteria?
  • What are the timelines and due dates for submitting a request and obtaining approval?
  • What proof of performance, or other evidence of results, are required?
  • How, and when, does a partner submit an MDF claim and receive the funding?

Internally, make sure to get alignment on your MDF goals, budgets, expected outcomes and partner selection process.

LEARN MORE: MDF Program Management Best Practices

Partners’ MDF Claims Made Easy

There are two main parts to the claims process: MDF claims and MDF claim settlements.

MDF claims is the part where partners submit a claim in order to receive funds for the marketing activities. This is different from a request, which is an overview of the intended activities that is either approved or denied before any money is committed.

Many organizations handle claims as a reimbursement for the expenses incurred for the marketing activities, but some organizations may also choose to offer up the funds in advance as a set budget.

MDF claim settlement is the payment portion when a partner either receives that reimbursement or the advanced payment.

LEARN MORE: Allbound’s Market Development Funds (MDF) Features

Once you’ve set the right foundation for your MDF program, leveraging the power of automation and templatization with a PRM system makes the MDF claim process a breeze for partners. 

For example, you can use it to:

  • Reduce paperwork by automating and centralizing all the requirement documentation, consolidating requests in a single location
  • Leverage templates and repeatable processes for submissions and requests
  • Automate expense tracking for easy reimbursement

So, the MDF process step-by-step could look like:

  1. A partner creates and submits an MDF request in order to get approval for a marketing initiative or project. This request will likely include an overview of the intended activities, budget, expected outcomes and timelines. With a PRM system, partners can upload files to support their request in one central location instead of emailing multiple documents.
  2. The partner manager, or other designated person, either approves or rejects the request. A PRM tool makes tracking the MDF process easier by automating notifications about submitted requests and approval status.
  3. If approved, the partner then submits an MDF claim for the expenses incurred or a claim for the approved funds.
  4. When the claim is approved, the pending amount is settled and the funds are deposited with the partner.


Automate Channel Data Management with PRM Technology

You won’t always be in the early, pre-revenue stages of your program. As your partner ecosystem grows, so will your channel data management needs. Your program will soon cross the threshold at which PRM automation goes from a “nice-to-have” to a necessity. 

When used to its fullest abilities, your PRM can integrate with your CRM for comprehensive, real-time analysis of your organization’s pipeline. What’s more, your PRM can share engagement and performance data about individual segments. This is where partner ops come in, taking care of the operational details involved in channel data management, such as ensuring fields exactly correspond across all systems.

Each stage of the partner journey (such as deal registration) must be completely in sync with revenue ops processes and CRM in order to deliver an effortless partner experience and accurate channel data.

When you’re shaping your channel data management system, it’s a good time to think about what lies ahead, as well as your immediate needs. Consider creating protocols for actions that may be needed later, such as adding a new data field within your PRM. This ensures that Channel Managers are not making changes on a whim and that they are consistently following solid thought processes each time.

Think Big Picture About Partner Program MDFs

On the one hand, it’s important to track the results of your MDF program. This will help with effective budgeting and knowing the ROI of your efforts.

On the other hand, thinking bigger picture can be beneficial because not all objectives are achieved on the same timeline. Some goals take longer to come to fruition, but are equally valuable.

You may have monthly goals, for example, but MDF budgets run on a quarterly basis. Or a marketing campaign may not generate sales immediately, but the impacts are seen further down the line.

It’s a topic Jeremy Balius, Managing Director at Filament, is well versed in. He spoke to us on our podcast recently about how to best work with partners on marketing initiatives.

What’s really exciting is that the discussion is starting to progress beyond just lead generation as an outcome for partner marketing and focusing on what demand generation looks like,

Jeremy Balius,

Managing Director, Filament

Lead generation still tends to be the outcome that’s tracked with partner marketing instead of demand generation – that is, the goal is to attract prospects versus driving awareness and interest. So, for instance, a partner marketing campaign might be evaluated on the number of leads produced.

But that’s not the only way to do it.

“It’s not as binary as we spend X amount of funds and we get this amount of leads which leads to X amount of revenue,” Balius explained.

“It’s more around ‘How is marketing influencing the buying cycle as a whole?’”

And that’s where alignment and attribution come into play to ensure that partnerships are able to demonstrate the return on investment. 

“It’s hard to put up those funds and not have a specific concrete outcome happen within 60 to 90 days of the campaign,” Balius said. 

“It needs to meet some kind of process so that in a longer-term cycle, [stakeholders] can see the outcomes and the steps along the way. It just takes a lot of communication and buy-in.”

More about MDFs & Partner Incentives

9 Steps to Creating a SPIFF Program to Incentivize Channel Partners – A SPIFF program can bring significant benefits to your partner program – but not without the right strategy in place first. Here’s how to boost sales and strengthen relationships with the right SPIFF program for your partners.

Partner-Preferred Incentives: Top Rewards to Offer & Best Practices – There are many different structures and types of partner rewards. But what kind of incentives do your partners really want to see? Here are some of the top ways to truly motivate your partners. 

The Ultimate Guide to Partner Relationship Management – A lot goes into partner management. Dig into the best practices and strategies that can help set your program apart and attract top performing partners – that you can then reward with MDFs for mutual success. 

Reporting Structure Best Practices For Channel Data Management – Just like with every other aspect of the partner management, reporting is an important part of the MDF process, too. Here are best practices for tracking data and creating great reports that tell a story.

Ali Spiric
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