Content marketing has become one of the most popular forms of marketing over the last decade or so, and with good reason. People are online more than ever, making the internet arguably the best place to market in 2020 and beyond (so long, TV commercials – you’ll be missed.) But, for all of its advantages, content marketing has yet to fully catch on with sales development teams. More often than not – especially in a siloed work environment – it’s because sales development focuses too much on their sales role, and not enough on their equally important work as marketers.

For those SDRs out there wondering what exactly content marketing is, don’t fret. There are only two things you need to know:

    1. It’s the marketing content that you share with your prospects
    2. It should provide value outside of the sales process

Think about it this way: Sales development is supposed to bridge the gap between the high-volume visibility of marketing and the hyper-personalized communication that sales teams need to close business. Yet, across the industry the general trend is to align with sales. Even in terms of career development, the SDR role is typically treated as a stepping stone towards becoming an Account Executive or Sales Director.

All of this is also reflected in the messaging and outreach of SDRs, but it doesn’t have to be. As an SDR you should have the autonomy to create your own messaging and outreach style, personalized to you (If you don’t, maybe consider a change in scenery). One of the greatest strengths of a stellar SDR is the ability to choose the right words for any given situation. Want to know how to get ahead of those SDRs? Develop the ability to choose the right content for any given situation as well.

The Advantages of Content Marketing

Using content marketing in your messaging will positively impact your outreach in more ways than one, the least of which is an increase in brand recognition by your prospects. Let’s use email as an example. A traditional email is written in plain text. That’s it. There is no formatting differentiator between your email and the hundreds of others your prospects receive from other SDRs. By including some form of content marketing in your email (more on exactly how to do that in a second) you give your prospect an easy way to directly connect the content they’ve already seen with you – their first real point of contact at your organization.

Using content marketing as part of your first impression/first touch email you’re also doing your first impression a favor or two. By including your brand in your email (in the form of content marketing, of course) you come across more polished and professional because the content you provided has already been approved by marketing to align with the rest of your collateral. However, the real advantage SDRs get out of content marketing comes from how it repositions the impression you’re making. It’s no secret that prospects generally don’t like salespeople.

By including a relevant piece of content that helps a prospect – regardless of whether they end up moving forward in the buying process – you position yourself as an expert, not a salesperson. This makes you much more approachable in the eyes of the prospect. If done correctly, your prospects will actually start reaching out to you with questions because they no longer “fear” that you’re going to go for a hard sell no matter their question. Eventually you’ll see an increase in ISQLs (inside sales qualified leads) all because you decided to drop in a piece of content to aid your pitch.

Too Much of a Good Thing

So you’ve already made the decision to start using content marketing as part of your SDR outreach strategy, right? Good call. But before you dive right in you need to remember that there is such a thing as too much content marketing. If you include a piece of content in every outbound email you send you’re going to cause problems.

If you give a prospect too many pieces of content, they’re going to become overwhelmed and end up not reading anything you sent their way. This is the same problem we all have when we can’t decide what to watch on Netflix. Putting too many options in front of a prospect is just as bad as giving them nothing. Either way, they’re not going to look at your content. Keep in mind, your goal is to send relevant content. If you’re sending every piece of collateral at every opportunity, you might as well consider joining the marketing team because you’re basically doing their job for them, just way less efficiently. Including content in your outreach shouldn’t take up any more time than typical outreach personalization, so if you find your activities dropping because of the time you’re spending inserting content into your messaging it means you’ve taken things too far.

The other problem caused by using too much content is an increased bounce rate/spam rate on your emails. There’s no foolproof method to getting through firewalls and spam filters, but when your messages aren’t received it’s important to know some of the reasons why (outside of the obvious “address not found”). While these filters sort through everything from your IP address to your ISP, the only part you can control as an SDR is the content of your messages. By sending a bunch of messages with a bunch of links (especially if it’s primarily the same link) to the same account you drastically increase your chances of getting stopped by the spam filter. This is why it’s important to keep your content marketing limited and relevant. If you only send content when you truly believe it can help a prospect you should be just fine. It shows you’ve done your research. However, if you blast content, it shows not only have you not done your research, but you’re pretending you did and trying to fool people.

One important thing to note when it comes to including content in emails specifically: If possible, share your content as a link, don’t attach it to the email itself. If the file you attach is too large for the receiving server it can cause it to bounce or filter into spam. Additionally, if you attach content that is typically reserved for prospects further down the funnel it can easily spread – untracked – to parts of the internet you don’t want it to be, like in the hands of your competitors.

When Do I Include Content?

Just like any other form of personalization, content should ideally be included on a case-by-case basis. While I could write a book on all the different and nuanced ways to share content as an SDR, I won’t. I don’t want to write it, and frankly I don’t think you want to read it. So it’s settled. Stop asking me about it. Instead, let’s dive into three of the most common situations in which you’ll want to be a content marketing SDR.

They Requested Information

We’ve all been there. The conversation is going well and you think you’ll be able to hand a lead over to your AE, when seemingly out of nowhere you hear the prospect say, “can you just send me some information over email?” While this isn’t something you want to hear as an SDR, you can still take advantage of the situation. You now have the prospects permission to send over whatever collateral you want. Assuming you qualified the prospect well, you should have everything you need to send them relevant and useful content that they’ll find insightful.

They Are an ISQL

Everyone has those pesky pipeline prospects who pretend to percolate on possibly purchasing your product prior to pulling the plug. And try as you might, you can’t figure out how to convince them to reopen the conversation. Sounds like a job for Content Marketing. By including relevant content in your messaging you’re giving the prospect an additional reason to reconnect on top of your interest in reopening a qualification/sales discussion. As long as you choose the right content, your prospect will view you as an expert and be more inclined to have a conversation.

They Are an Inbound Lead

Every SDR loves a good list of inbound leads because it means the prospects have already looked at some type of marketing material and decided your organization is worth looking further into. Because of this, most SDRs don’t think to use content marketing in their follow up. “If they already have our content, why would I need to send them more?” the thinking goes. In reality, you need to remember two things:

    1. Most of your inbound leads are not going to turn into immediate opportunities.
    2. These prospects have already indicated that they resonate with something your organization solves, but might not have seen all the available content.

If anything, you should be sharing more content with inbound leads than outbound ones. Send content complimentary to the topic of the marketing campaign they were sourced from and you’ll see your response rate increase. If they don’t respond, that’s ok too because you’ve now positioned yourself as the inside expert on your solution, so when they do eventually look to buy, they’ll turn to you first.

Know Your Content In and Out

When sales development was in its infancy, having it align with sales made sense. When the only tool you had at your disposal was a phone, you didn’t quite have the capability to share content. Obviously, that’s no longer the case. Virtually every SDR is now equipped with all the tools they need to embrace their role as the bridge between sales and marketing. Content marketing has become the new norm when it comes to online advertising, and at this point prospects expect insightful content from every modern company they come across.

SDRs are the key to unlocking the full buyer’s journey and taking marketing qualified leads into the sales pipeline. But in order to truly be that bridge you need to understand marketing as much as you understand sales. An SDR with a solid grasp of both departments is the SDR you need if you’re going to succeed in our increasingly digital world.