Lauren is the CEO of S&G, a content marketing agency that helps brands connect and engage more effectively with their audience.
Content creation can be an intimidating, time-consuming process, especially for business-to-business (B2B) companies with complex products and solutions.
For example, how do you translate the complicated features of a cybersecurity platform and all of its technical jargon and intricacies into concise, straightforward and shareable content? How do you make sure this content is easy to understand and remains inimitable? And how do you manage the internal processes necessary for this kind of ongoing content?
One of the ways that marketers can solve these issues is by leveraging subject matter experts -- SMEs. In case you haven’t come across this content marketing term yet, SMEs are the experts in your field who have years of experience, rock-solid qualifications, and in-depth knowledge of your industry. They’re usually the ones making your products. And if they’re not making them, then they’re exceedingly familiar with them and can talk at length about their nuances with an expert-level understanding.
Why Use Subject Matter Experts?
Content produced with the help of SMEs can benefit the entire organization. Buyers want to know that the solution they’re researching is the one that can solve their pain points, and content produced with the help of an SME can meet that need quickly.
SMEs can also help build brand integrity and trust. Potential buyers want to do business with trustworthy organizations that understand their challenges. SMEs know the details and the value of your solutions better than anyone. Their input in your content can naturally boost your company’s reputation and trust with its audience. It can also boost the SMEs themselves, especially if they’re personally involved hosting video seminars or penning blog articles.
By leveraging and encouraging SMEs, you’re creating the next wave of influencers in your industry, which could raise your company’s position and reputation even further. Basically, SMEs are your content marketing heroes. Here’s how you can leverage their expertise:
Identify Internal SMEs
Your company is likely already teeming with expert employees -- designing, producing or programming the valuable solutions for your customers. The trick is to find subject matter experts who can contribute to content creation. Most of them are busy doing their jobs, which makes time a precious commodity to them -- and to you. There’s no point speaking with a developer or engineer too busy or distracted to give you the information you need. We’ll get to making the most of your SME in a second.
Identify External SMEs
If your organization is short on expert-level insiders, you can always contact the expert-level outsiders. These are the influencers, speakers and charismatic industry titans within your niche. They have incredible social media followings. They speak regularly at industry events to sold-out auditoriums. They know the ins and outs of every issue within your field, and they’re not afraid to give their well-informed opinions about them. Sometimes these people will be board members or advisory board members for your company. Other times, they may be consultants who bring specific expertise to a particular company product.
Contacting them and getting their attention can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter provide easy ways to slip into conversations, build rapport and familiarity and, ultimately, ask for assistance. Let them know their time will be worth it and that you’ll reciprocate by thanking them and boosting their message (and clout).
Create A Seamless, Timely Process To Gather Information
SMEs have their regular work to do. They can’t spend all day filming video or writing blog articles for a content marketing team. That’s OK. You only need their expertise, not the actual content creation work.
Let executives and managers know your company’s technical experts will need extra time to help with content creation. And let them know it won’t take that much time. If necessary, provide incentives, financial or otherwise. SMEs should feel appreciated, and know their time and skills are valuable.
1. Channel Your Inner Tom Brokaw
Because time is a valuable commodity for SMEs, do your due diligence by researching the topic and becoming familiar with any technical details. Spend 15 to 20 minutes with your SME, briefly interviewing them, taking notes and asking follow-up questions. That could be all it takes to get a week’s worth of blog articles or a mini-series of short-form videos that explain your service.
2. Create A Long-Term Plan With Your SME
Create a timeline for when you’ll tap into your SME for more interviews. Ask if they’re free to comment on breaking news items since their passionate opinions on recent events can be hugely valuable, and open up media and content opportunities. By creating a regular schedule for meeting with SMEs, you’ll free up your content creation process from bottlenecks, allowing for consistent publishing of unique, high-quality content no one else can create.
3. Repurpose Content Provided By SMEs
Once you have your notes, research and technical data from experts in your company, you can turn that information into a variety of content types. Email marketing can regularly educate your audience and keep them engaged. Creating a series of articles can keep your audience returning to your company. Premium content such as e-books or whitepapers can be presented at industry conferences or leveraged as closers for the end of a sale. All of this content can be scripted, filmed and edited into a series of videos. There are endless opportunities for content creation when you have a strong team of SMEs on your side.
When leveraged properly, SMEs can make an incredible difference on your conversions, lead generation and sales. And they’ll give your marketing content the edge it needs to differentiate itself from the competition. All you need to do is give your content creation team and resident SMEs the resources they need to excel.