To create valuable content that helps your prospects and customers, you need to produce valuable content that is technical and strategic. This is where your subject matter experts (SMEs) help you. Find out how to get their knowledge and expertise on paper.
As a marketer, your job is to make sure these SMEs, who have tons of knowledge and experience in their brains, develop content that will better inform your prospects and customers about certain topics. They have valuable, specialized knowledge that can intrigue potential customers to work with you because of their unique perspectives on a topic. SMEs knowledge and expertise on paper can make your content marketing more trustworthy and credible with interesting insights on the latest products, services, and trends.
SMEs are busy people and helping out marketing is not one of their top priorities. It’s difficult for many marketers to extract their knowledge and experiences and put it into an eBook, whitepaper, blog post, success story, or video. These SMEs, who have scientific or engineering backgrounds, often feel uncomfortable with the world of marketing.
It’s your job, as a marketer, to work with these super smart people and convert what’s in their brains into a piece of marketing content that is clear, useful, and engaging. If you give an SME a blank piece of paper and say, please write a blog post or whitepaper on X topic, it’s like pulling teeth at the dentist’s office. It will not go well for you. The SMEs will find every excuse to push it off and let it slip through the cracks.
How to get SME knowledge and expertise on paper
There are three main ways you can work with your SMEs to produce high-quality and compelling content and get their knowledge and expertise on paper.
1. Interview them
The best way to start is by interviewing them on a conference call that you can record. Pick a day and time that works for your SME and schedule 30 minutes. Ahead of the interview, make sure you have one to three topics in mind you want to talk about.
When you send them a meeting invite, make sure you include any background materials. Perhaps write up an abstract of what the content may cover. Make sure you prepare potential questions ahead of the interview. If you have resources, you could invite a freelance writer or content producer to write this content for you.
During the interview, start with easy and general questions so your SME gets comfortable with you. Start with introductions and outline the content development process at your marketing organization.
For example, a good best practice would be to conduct an interview, draft an outline for their review, and then write the first draft for their review again. Once you finalized the copy, send it to your graphic design team to mock up a nicely designed PDF or a nicely designed article. Then, send it to them for their final approval and then you can hit publish.
Back to the interview, make sure you ask questions until you learn something you didn’t or your final product won’t be very compelling. Ask them for use cases or examples of a concept they are talking about. Then, ask clarification questions, so if they use acronyms or technical jargon, you understand what they are saying.
If you don’t understand it, your audience won’t understand it.
End your interview by saying thank you and asking if there are other people you should talk to. If you can’t get an SME on a call with you, you could ask them if you could join a call with a customer or an internal presentation they are giving to the executive team or another department.
2. Research a topic and have them fill in the gaps
If your SMEs become super busy and you don’t have time to interview them, you could do the research on your own and then send them a draft to review. Do your homework on a topic that is interesting to you, your team, and your prospects and customers.
When you are doing your homework on a topic, find out what your competitors are saying about the topic. Also, Google your possible article headline and see what people are searching on Google. If it is a blog post, your goal is to answer your most-pressing questions of your prospects and customers on a certain topic in the most comprehensive way. The reason? To show up on page 1 of Google.
Ask them to make edits and comments in your Microsoft Word document with the track changes feature. Ask them to fill in the gaps on areas you don’t feel comfortable about. In the document, you could ask them questions to verify your thoughts on the topic.
3. Reuse existing content
If you don’t have time for an interview or time to do your home work, you can listen to a webinar they are participating in or industry conference they are presenting at and take notes. You can develop content from their presentation. Also look back at content you have already written and go deeper on a topic that they only briefly mentioned at a high-level.
You could also ask them for a slide deck they presented to a prospect or customer. Turn that slide deck into an article. You could also take content from a couple of whitepapers and create a blog post or video using video maker tools like Lumen5.
You could also turn a whitepaper into a video or a video into a blog post. The key is to get a lot of mileage out of existing content and repurpose the content into different formats. Your SMEs are busy, so you need to maximize every piece of content.
Bringing it all together
Your SMEs will become more comfortable producing content with you. The key is to don’t give them a blank paper to start from. The key is to grease the wheels and get them into the content state of mind. Eventually, they will start enjoying working with the marketing team and give you unsolicited ideas. At that point, you’ll know you have mastered getting what’s in their brain into a marketing piece.