Empowering Channel Partners: TCMA, MDF, and Incentives Working Together

Date: January 25, 2024
Author: Steven Kellam

In the fast-evolving landscape of channel marketing, success hinges on the seamless integration of three critical components: TCMA (Through Channel Marketing Automation), MDF (Market Development Funds), and Incentives. Just as all verticals are experiencing digital marketing acceleration – driven by AI adoption – the technology channel is no different. It’s now more important than ever for channel leaders and organizations to ensure that their TCMA, MDF and incentives efforts are both integrated and effective.

The Evolving Marketing Role of Channel Partners

Channel partners find themselves at a crossroads where digital marketing prowess is synonymous with success, translating to quicker time-to-revenue for both vendors and partners. However, historical trends reveal that channel partners often lag in adapting to new marketing strategies, with a significant portion still relying on traditional methods. If there is no investment in marketing enablement to make digital demand generation easier and more effective, partners will revert right back to golf outings and lunch-and-learns.

The good news is that those that adapt will have a major competitive advantage. However they will want (and need) to tell their own story, not simply amplify the vendor message. Personalized content has never been more critical. As my friend Claudio Ayub from 360insights says so often, “partners need to be able to get the right content to the right buyer at the right time.”

The technology is now available and ready to make that happen with the evolution of Generative AI and machine learning. Linking TCMA, MDF and Incentives together is a great way to help partners accelerate demand generation and shorten time to revenue, which is the end goal for everyone.

Automation and APIs: Catalysts for Transformation

So how do you leverage TCMA, MDF and Incentives together to solve the historical partner channel marketing problems? By automating them and leveraging APIs to pull it all together. This full integration allows for better data insights and reporting, while also driving superior analytics and better ROI management. And if that wasn’t enough to solve the channel marketing challenges of today, adding AI driven integrated work flows and smart journeys to the mix will finally get partners where they need to be in their journey regardless of size or marketing acumen.

Transforming MDF: Connecting with TCMA

MDF have evolved considerably in their purpose and application. Initially, these funds were instrumental in aiding partners to understand the complexities of advanced technology products. However, there has been a significant shift in focus, with MDF now predominantly supporting digital marketing initiatives.

A notable change in the MDF landscape, as highlighted by Jay McBain at Canalys, is that over 70% of MDF funding has transitioned from an accrual-based system to a proposal-based one. This shift means that partners are now required to do more than just execute digital marketing strategies; they must also develop and propose marketing campaigns for approval to receive reimbursement. This poses a challenge: we’re expecting partners, who may not be skilled marketers, to not only execute digital marketing efforts but also to devise the entire marketing strategy in a timely and effective manner This could explain why MDF expenditures so often end up funding activities like trade shows, partner summits, and golf outings, which may not be the most effective use of these resources.

To streamline this process, a good starting point would be to establish a connection with TCMA. Following this, we can consider integrating incentives and consolidating various elements to create a more cohesive and effective MDF strategy.

TCMA: Scaling Partner Storytelling and leveraging MDF

Through-Channel Marketing Automation (TCMA) serves as a crucial tool in empowering partners to become effective storytellers on a large scale, while simultaneously optimizing the outcomes of Market Development Funds (MDF). To effectively leverage TCMA across partners, three key strategies are essential:

  • Simplify Engagement for Partners: Recognizing that partners often manage relationships with over 14 key vendors, it’s vital to make their engagement process as straightforward as possible. This can be achieved by providing integrated, automated tools that boast an intuitive user interface. Personalizing interactions and guiding partners through well-designed, smart journeys based on machine learning insights can significantly enhance their experience and effectiveness.
  • Deliver Real Value: While an intuitive and easy-to-manage platform is important, its true worth is measured by the value it adds. Traditional methods like email and social media marketing are no longer sufficient. Partners, including the smaller ones, need access to a wider array of tactics to stand out. This is where innovative tools come into play, including:
  • ChannelGPT for personalized, easy, quick content creation utilizing AI
  • Personalized Video for customized cobranded videos
  • Website and Content Syndication for automated marketing through partners
  • Campaign Automation for streamlined marketing efforts by partners
  • Webinar Syndication for enhanced engagement through webinars
  • Smart Journeys for step by step partners guides
  • Drag and Drop Editors for easy content creation
  • Marketplace for accelerating partner demand generation
  • Translations for a global reach to and through your partners
  • Integrate and Connect Everything: It’s crucial to intertwine MDF with the TCMA Marketplace, creating a simple and accessible way for partners, regardless of their marketing prowess, to utilize their MDF funds effectively. This integration could include pre-planned campaigns, Google Ad campaigns, and even lead lists, all available in an easy-to-navigate marketplace. This approach not only simplifies the process for partners but also ensures that their MDF dollars are used in the most impactful way to drive demand.
Incentives Beyond Sales: Think Marketing Certification

Incentives, which were traditionally linked solely to sales outcomes, are now being reimagined as tools for modifying behaviors. This evolution has seen incentives moving up the sales funnel, extending their influence into areas like marketing skills and efforts. Far from just encouraging marketing enablement and deal registration, these incentives are now nurturing a culture of learning and self-sufficiency among partners. This shift is particularly effective in driving engagement, execution, and success in MDF and TCMA.

A prime example of this new approach is the implementation of a Marketing Certification Program. While sales and product certification programs are commonplace, there’s a growing recognition of the need to enable and reward activities in the earlier stages of the buyer’s journey. Considering that over 80% of the buying cycle occurs before sales engagement, it’s crucial to focus on where the majority of the buyer’s journey takes place.

In my many conversations with Claudio Ayub on this topic, his ongoing mantra for marketing certification programs highlights this new direction:

The Integrated Future: TCMA, MDF, and Incentives

The synergy of TCMA, MDF, and Incentives has never been more critical for partners. Beyond technological integration, it encompasses data, rewards, and benefits – all aimed at accelerating time-to-revenue. A partner landing on a TCMA home page should not only know where to go and what to do but also have the flexibility to choose from pre-planned campaigns, utilize MDF dollars effectively, and be rewarded every step of the way.

As the channel marketing landscape evolves, the successful integration and optimization of TCMA, MDF, and Incentives will continue to be the cornerstone of success for both partners and vendors alike.