Producing quality content for an industry blog can be a challenging endeavor. You want to make sure that your writing provides customers with useful insights while not coming across fluffy. A key part of beefing up your content and making sure all of the facts check out is maintaining a solid pool of subject matter experts (SMEs). These individuals have special in-depth knowledge and are the people writers and marketers rely on to provide background information or technical details to gain better understanding of customer needs. SMEs give your blog content inherent authenticity and credibility to help build a foundation for relevant and engaging content.
The hard part is being able to locate these information all-stars. Generally, SMEs need to have a special skill set, attitude, and personality. Not just anyone at your company can be considered to fill this role—so how do you choose? Experience, communication skills and a unique understanding of customer needs are required to be a successful asset to your content development.
How to Start Finding SMEs Internally
Locating employees that have direct customer contact helps in illustrating the full picture of what your various buyer personas are like. Think about your product and service offerings. Are they more customized or streamlined? If your company offers a more complex or customized product you will likely want to pick an SME that has an intimate understanding of the technical needs your customer has such as a process or project engineer. If they are the person working with the customer on design and customization of their product they will likely have insight into their problems and pain points and be able to provide the most relevant solutions. Other general areas to begin investigation include sales, customer service, and engineering. However, try thinking outside the box on this one.
Important Qualities to Look For
Now that you have determined who has direct costumer contact and insight, there are some key indicators as to who would best benefit your efforts. Knowing the customer is one thing but you are also looking for someone to actively participate in your efforts. Below are some qualities to consider when filling your SME roles:
#1. Good Communicator
They can explain the how and why of industry specific topics and subject matter in a way people can understand. While you want to locate an SME that can provide technical expertise you also want to make sure it’s understandable. They should know the topic and be able to speak to from a point of view appropriate for your audience. When people become an expert at something they often develop an unconscious competence that makes it difficult to deconstruct their expertise. It is important that your SME is able to break down complicated tasks and thinking processes into digestible chunks that us non-experts can understand.
#2. Responsive & Available
These individuals are usually in demand because they excel at what they do. Look to select SMEs that are able to make sufficient time to be interviewed, answer follow up questions, and review or proof materials. The ideal goal is that they help to lower project costs by helping your content team to deliver tasks more quickly, accurately, and thoroughly.
This position requires explaining and re-explaining things to someone who may not fully understand or comprehend. Think about being asked to provide a minute-by-minute detail of a task that comes easily to you, such as backing out of a driveway. The best SMEs are patient enough to provide these details without outwardly rolling their eyes
It’s not that they have to volunteer themselves for this position but they shouldn’t be threatened by sharing their wealth of knowledge. They should feel honored to be recognized and excited to share. Don’t pick an individual who would view their involvement as a chore.
Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that they have been in the industry forever but rather that they have put in the time and gotten their hands dirty. If they have helped to spec out requirements, have written or revised scripts, validated data sets, documented processes, or managed critical processes then they are likely someone you should reach out to. This career experience helps in understanding challenges and allows them to provide insightful details.
The Importance of Recommendations
When selecting an SME, make sure to poll internally. It is most important to understand your organizations business model and value proposition, then find those individuals who can speak to those aspects from a customer perspective. As you investigate certain topics internal references and recommendations will reveal themselves, so pay attention. Think of who your company turns to when looking for the answer to difficult questions. Those involved in troubleshooting often offer valuable information that can be turned into even more valuable content.
Posted by Stephanie Czajka
With a background in PR consulting and market research, Stephanie was a knowledgeable project manager with strong client service skills. In her role she focused on helping companies get found online via earned media, SEO, and effective content promotion and coordinated a variety of inbound marketing projects, ranging from blog publication to email-based marketing automation.