How To Work with Subject Matter Experts In A B2B Content Marketing Program

At KoMarketing, we work with B2B marketers who represent the software technology and industrial manufacturing industries. Along with these industries come complex products, which can sometimes lead to the challenge of executing complex content marketing initiatives for the desired audience. There are many solutions to this challenge, one being an extensive research process. Some of my favorite posts on this topic are below:

I highly recommend you check those articles out for discovering ways of creating the compelling content your B2B audience is looking for. I wanted to share a process for one of my favorite solutions, which is interviewing Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). I like this solution because one thirty minute discussion can produce enough content for 3 to 5 blog posts. SMEs can be part of a few different departments depending on the organization’s structure. Sometimes SMEs have been on the product side of the business, and other times they are part of the consulting part of the business.

In the past, when I have gotten push back from SMEs due to time constraints, I have found sharing the process below helpful in getting proper buy-in while considering everyone’s time constraints. I will also provide a hands-on example throughout.

sme process

Complete Keyword Research

No matter the industry or business, I always find keyword research a fun, exploratory process. It opens my mind to help understand exactly what an audience might be looking for in a certain niche. So, let’s go to the world of disaster recovery for a minute and I will walk you through how to prepare for the thirty minute SME interview.

During keyword research, I look for longer tail searches that provide insight into the types of information people are looking to consume. Take a look at the list below:

disaster recovery keyword list

There are some beautiful queries above that lend insight into what people need help with when understanding disaster recovery. The one challenge we might get hit with is the marketing team can’t write this type of technical content.

Preparing Your Questions

A lot of questions can come from the 8 keywords above. Below are the questions I would prepare and send to an SME:

  1. Can you walk me through some key points of a disaster recovery plan you might expect one of your existing customers to have in place? What steps would you expect an existing customer to take?
  2. I know we work with both enterprises and small businesses, how might that plan differ amongst them? What sorts of communication takes place? What responsibilities might certain stakeholders have?
  3. We saw there was search volume around disaster recovery testing best practices. How would you recommend someone test a disaster recovery plan?
  4. We saw an interesting visual below found in this article and wanted to hear how would you explain the differences between business continuity and disaster recovery?

disaster recovery visual

I send these questions over to the SME at least two days in advance.

Meeting with the Subject Matter Expert

With the preparation from the first two parts done, I enjoy this part the most. It is really a time to hone your interview skills and get someone talking about the pent up knowledge inside them.

During the interview, I recommend challenging yourself to be agile. Can you ask a follow up question based on what was said? Did they touch on a concept you might want them to elaborate on? Work to get them peeling back that onion of information inside them.

Lastly, I recommend recording the conversation so that you can go back and pick out the parts you want to include in your blog posts and content marketing assets.

Do you ever interview SMEs as part of your B2B content marketing program? Would love to hear how you go about it in the comments or reach out on Twitter.

“With other agencies, the tendency is to see a flurry of work initially, and then communication and accountability starts to fall off. Our KoMarketing account team is in contact with us almost daily – it’s like they’re sitting right here in our office. They’re truly an extension of our marketing team.”

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