The "VAR Marketing" blog, written by Will Gibney, had a great line in this entry, saying that Channel Marketing Development Funds (MDF) is "like playing with the house's money in a casino." I tend to agree with Will's assessment.
Most VARs are really good at solving problems and delivering solutions, but not always so good at marketing. It's a fundamental problem across most professions. The bigger VARs have their own marketing departments or may outsource the function, but most of the smaller ones just miss the boat completely. And in a recession, when business is harder to come by and the average deal size is shrinking, it's going to become necessary to do some serious marketing to stay in business.
Of course, marketing and advertising gets expensive, but that's the great thing about vendor MDF programs. It's free money. Or almost free, anyway. I was a little surprised at Will's contention that a lot of channel partners take a pass on these funds, since it seems there is very little to lose. However, he says that there are a lot of common excuses, including not having enough time, not "believing" in marketing, or having a bad experience in the past. Don't believe in marketing?! How can anybody that runs a business not believe in marketing? Let me hear from you. Do you take advantage of these vendor marketing funds, and if so, have they worked for you? What's your excuse for not using it?