Why the Marketing Development Representative (MDR) is the future

Estimated reading time
3 minutes
22nd May 2020
Author: Kit McKay
Posted in: Distribution & promotion

The Marketing Development Representative (MDR) sits at the forefront of the sales and marketing divide, has the potential to bridge both functions, and can accelerate the sales cycle from marketing qualified leads. Let’s break down this mysterious role:

What is a Marketing Development Representative?

The MDR is a specialized sales representative whose job is to solely focus on marketing qualified leads (MQLs). They usually sit within the sales function but work incredibly closely with marketing.

“Our Marketing Development Representatives are a hybrid between the sales and marketing team,” says Alice de Courcy, Head of Marketing at Cognism.

As their role is to focus on MQLs, they solve a problem that faces many businesses – marketers often don’t know whether the leads they’re sending towards sales are being followed up properly by the Sales Development Representatives (SDRs).

Gerry Hill, a leading Sales Director from ConnectAndSell estimates that only around 9% of MQLs are actually followed up by sales representatives. 

“Self-sourcing leads carries a certain amount of kudos in certain sales cultures and a lot of sales leaders will have incentive plans around self-sourced vs lead-sourced,” he tells us. “The salesperson will inevitably pursue the thing that they believe will have the best opportunity for them.”

The Marketing Development Representative plugs that gap and ensures marketing feel confident in how their leads are managed.

What does a Marketing Development Representative do?

Unlike an SDR, an MDR is more an educator than a hunter.

While they might be asked to cold call occasionally, they’ll largely focus on inbound conversations. They act as a kind of concierge for marketing, answering inbound calls, chats, and contact submissions.

A Marketing Development Representative sits with her back to us on the phone

The core of their role is to connect the right people with the right content. MQLs will metaphorically stick up their hand with some interaction and the Marketing Development Representative will be there to answer.

“They focus on all our content-generated demand,” Alice tells us of Cognism’s MDRs. “The conversations they have are great opportunities for us to get direct feedback on our content that we incorporate into our strategies to fill any gaps.”

The role is in some ways similar to a researcher in that they feed both marketing and their leads with information. They send relevant follow-up content to MQLs while gaining personal feedback and insights that inform the creation of new content.

In many cases, this is effective in booking meetings as that becomes the next natural step in the content delivery process. 

Example of a Marketing Development Representative in action

Alice de Courcy, Head of Marketing at Cognism, tells us exactly how her Marketing Development Representatives operate:

“When someone downloads a piece of content, our MDRs will get notified of that and the person will go into a cadence based on the content they downloaded and the persona they fit,” she says.

It’s important to stress the difference between what an SDR and an MDR would do here. Where an SDR might take this opportunity to directly try and book a meeting with that person, the MDR will softly try and deliver more value.

A Marketing Development Representative has a zoom call with a prospect

“The cadences will direct the person to more helpful resources based on the piece of content they downloaded,” Alice explains. “We make our CTA for feedback on the content. Not only does this give great insights to the marketing and content creation teams, but our MDRs have amazing conversations where they learn a lot about our potential customers.”

These conversations also serve to qualify prospective customers in a way that technology hasn’t quite caught up with yet. The human interaction is useful to learn anecdotal information that helps decide if someone falls into your ideal customer persona or not. For those that do, the marketing development representatives will be able to book meetings indirectly.

“After engaging with a few pieces of content sent by the MDR, people usually want a demo of Cognism’s tool because the content all ties back to a problem we solve,” Alice says.

This is the strength of the MDR: getting people to self-identify that they want a meeting, rather than chasing them for one.

Why the Marketing Development Representative is the future

Current circumstances have stressed the need to accelerate the funnel for content-generated leads in particular. Leads that come in through content marketing are typically “slow burn”, needing lengthy nurture pathways before they’re close to buying.

As the “quicker” channels like events have been wiped off the board, marketing teams need their digital channels to work a little harder. The Marketing Development Representative helps speed up the process with a human touch, hand-delivering relevant content to prospects and helping bridge the marketing-sales divide.

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