Producing quality content for an industry blog can be challenging.
You want to make sure that your writing provides customers with useful insights without coming across as fluffy.
A key part of beefing up your content and making sure all the facts check out is maintaining a solid pool of subject matter experts. These individuals have special in-depth knowledge and are the type of people writers and marketers rely on for background information or technical details when seeking to gain a better understanding of customer needs. These experts give your blog content inherent authenticity and credibility, and help build a foundation for relevant and engaging content.
The hard part is locating these information all-stars. Subject matter experts have a special skill set, attitude and personality. Not just anyone at your organization 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 internal experts
Locating employees who 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 organization offers a more complex or customized product you will likely want to pick a subject matter expert who has an intimate understanding of customers’ technical needs—someone like a process or project engineer. If they work with customers on design and customization of their product, they will likely have insight into their problems and pain points, and thus be able to provide the most relevant solutions. Other general areas to begin investigating include sales, customer service and engineering. However, try thinking outside the box on this one.
Important qualities to look for
Now that you have identified potential experts with direct costumer contact and insight, there are some key indicators to look for when determining who would best help your efforts. Knowing the customer is one thing, but you are also looking for someone able to actively participate in your work. Below are some qualities to consider when filling your subject matter expert roles:
1. Good communicator
Experts should be able to explain the how and why of industry-specific topics and subject matter in a way ordinary people can understand. Although you want to locate an expert who can provide technical expertise, you also want to make sure he or she is understandable. Experts should know the topic and be able to speak to it from a point of view appropriate to your audience. When people become an expert at something, they often develop an unconscious competence that makes deconstructing their expertise difficult. It is important that your expert be able to break down complicated tasks and thinking processes into digestible chunks that us non-experts can understand.
2. Responsive and available
These individuals are usually in demand because they excel at what they do. Look for subject matter experts who are able to make sufficient time to be interviewed, answer follow-up questions, and review or proof materials. Their role is to help lower project costs by assisting you and your content team in delivering information more quickly, accurately and thoroughly.
The position calls for someone who can explain and re-explain things to a person who may not fully understand or comprehend a particular subject. 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 subject matter experts 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 feel threatened by sharing their wealth of knowledge. Rather, they should feel honored to be recognized and excited to share what they know. Don’t pick an individual who would view his or her involvement as a chore.
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 spec out requirements, written or revised scripts, validated data sets, documented processes or managed critical processes, they are likely the sort of people 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 a subject matter expert, make sure to poll internally. It is most important to understand your organization’s business model and value proposition, then find individuals who can speak to those topics from a customer perspective. As you investigate subjects, internal references and recommendations will pop up, so pay attention. Think of who your organization turns to when looking for the answers to difficult questions. Those involved in troubleshooting often offer valuable information that can be turned into even more valuable content.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Weidert Group blog.