MSPC vice president of B2B content director Evelyn Hoover talks about the importance of subject matter experts and how companies can tap into that network to develop content that delivers value to customers.
Content, be it webinars, blog posts, e-books, videos, etc., can be used by businesses to explain the features and functions of their products or services. Tapping subject matter experts (SMEs) is a great way to develop content that delivers value to customers. However, for small businesses with tiny staffs and even some larger organizations, finding a respectable SME to write or present can be a challenge.
Where can you find the SME resources required if you don’t have them in house or if your in-house team is too strapped for time to develop content? Different companies take different approaches to SME development, but I’ve put together a list of places you can look internally or externally for SME assistance.
Develop the Skills Required for Subject Matter Expertise In House
Often, your own employees are the best resource. The challenge here is that some of your more seasoned SMEs likely have full plates. Because of their SME status, they’re presenting at conferences, meeting with customers and writing content as they’re able. If that’s the case, it may be time to develop some rising star SMEs.
Identify newer employees that have an interest in elevating their brand. Ask them to write a blog post or be featured in a video, if they seem like on-screen talent. Help them along by providing constructive feedback. This will end up being a win-win for your company, which now has a new SME, and the employee, who gains valuable skills.
How to Identify Subject Matter Experts on Social Media
Social media, particularly LinkedIn, is a gold mine of talent when you’re looking for SMEs. Search for people who post regularly, especially those who actually write or present on a topic that’s aligned with your business. If your company is a B2B tech company that is breaking into artificial intelligence (AI), for example, find someone in that space.
Don’t be shy about reaching out and asking them if they might be interested in writing or presenting on AI content, but be specific to ensure that your request is something they feel comfortable with and will help your company. If they say no, follow up and ask them if they can recommend another SME within their network who might be able to help you out. If they say yes, hosting their content on your company’s website and then having them socialize it will help boost organic search.
Do a Deep Dive on Blog Influencers
Getting in front of blog influencers is another way to develop an external subject matter expert. A travel services company, for example, could cultivate a relationship with a well-known or up-and-coming travel blogger. Ask him or her to review your company’s latest carry-on bag or travel accessory, for example.
In this way, you capitalize on their existing audience and their influence to build your company’s brand.
Check out Industry Conferences and Events for SMEs
Before you head out to your next industry conference or event, identify a few speakers who might complement your company’s products or services. Go to the sessions these speakers present. Get a feel for their style and see if it aligns with your brand. If it does, approach the speaker after the session. Explain that you’re on the hunt for a subject matter expert to evangelize your brand.
Again, if they say no, ask them to recommend someone else who might be willing to help you out.
Join an Association
Associations are a great source for SMEs. And associations exist for almost any industry. Industrial fabrics? Check. Database users? Check. To see an extensive list, check out the Directory of Associations.
Once you’ve joined the association, search for other members, particularly consultants, to see if they are interested in writing about your company’s new database product or service, for instance.
Check out Trade Journals
Like associations, trade journals are plentiful and varied. Web Wire has a list by industry that include airlines, mining, utilities and more. Look at the bylines for the articles. Also look at who is quoted, as some SMEs don’t write but are willing to be interviewed for a blog post or appear in a video.
Mine Industry Webinars
In much the same way that trade journals, conference speakers and associations are a gold mine for finding subject matter experts, don’t ignore associated industry webinar presenters. Approach them in much the same way you approached conference speakers. It’s best to wait until you’re heard them present to ensure their style aligns with your brand. Then follow up to see if they are interested in helping your company.
How to Manage Subject Matter Experts
As a marketing professional strapped for time, note that content marketing agencies with expertise in your brand’s industry can do some of this subject matter expert development legwork for you. The right agency likely can tap a network of subject matter experts who can speak to your products and services, as well as trends and directions shaping your market.
Read next: 11 Subject Matter Expert Content Creation Tips