If like me, you are flabbergasted as to why anyone could think a poster taped to a bin on the side of the road can truly hold the secret to health, wealth and happiness, chances are you’re an SME snob too.
Yep, I like my info from a pro in the field.
That’s where subject matter experts come into play. Whether you are looking for medical advice, legal counsel or the latest trends in digital marketing so that you can decide how best to spend your ad budget, you’d probably believe what you hear a whole lot more if it came from an expert on the subject.
This is why subject matter experts can be so valuable when it comes to creating content for marketing purposes.
Let’s take a closer look at exactly what a subject matter expert is and how they can help your company grow.
What is a Subject Matter Expert?
A subject matter expert (SME) is a person with unique expertise and a great deal of knowledge on a certain topic, practice, process, technical method or piece of equipment. They have advanced training and most likely practical experience in a field.
These individuals are also seen as authorities in their field. This may be because they have filed patents, won prestigious awards or hold honorary positions or titles.
“Subject matter experts, also called SMEs, are professionals who have advanced knowledge in a specific field. As an authority in a particular area or topic, they are uniquely qualified to provide guidance and strategy” – Indeed
These experts, as Hubspot explains are “usually sought after to solve specific problems, overcome challenges, and provide insight for marketing and business development”.
Specialised fields include:
Depending on the subject matter, you can find an expert via your network, professional associations, online research, freelance platforms such as UpWork and content creation companies like Verblio, blogs you might read, podcasts you might listen to, or even on social media (use #SME).
What Do Subject Matter Experts Do and Why Should You Use Them?
Aah, subject matter experts.
There are some industries that just simply can’t do without them.
Let’s be honest for a quick moment: with 4.4 million new blogs published daily, the digital landscape is saturated, no matter your industry. Every business is pursuing some form of content strategy, whether in social media, email marketing, blogging or video, making it extremely difficult to rank high in search. In fact, even with quality content, it can easily take up to 180 days or more just to come up on the first page during a Google search.
It’s no longer (and, quite honestly, never has been) okay to just post average content with little to no industry nuance or value for your actual reader.
Cue subject matter experts.
SMEs can provide valuable insight and more detailed and authoritative content, making them particularly valuable to marketers and content creators.
Plus, SMEs can help during the ideation phase by identifying interesting angles and topics.
As Neil Patel explains, “SMEs can help give important insights and context for your blog or marketing content and help keep readers engaged with the subject. Their specific knowledge and expertise can be of value to your readers”.
Using an SME can help increase your brand awareness, reach and even ranking, as they can help identify keywords and phrases audiences in a specific industry may be searching for.
As Overdrive Interactive notes: “By leveraging SMEs with large digital footprints, you can build trust through association. Over time, these associations increase SEO visibility and build your organisation's total search engine authority, aka your entity”.
In addition, using an SME can also increase your reliability and authority in a specific field, which can boost your search ranking on Google.
This is especially important for B2B companies as data shows that these companies are increasingly looking for vendors who are experts in their respective fields.
Best of all, SME content can take many forms, including:
- Blog posts
- Podcast interviews
- Quotes in articles
- White papers
- Product development
This means you can create a variety of high-quality content across platforms.
That said, we speak from experience when we say that when it comes to creating content, it shouldn’t be a case of quality vs quantity.
We often see two sides of the content coin. On the one side, some businesses are very focused on how every word is strung together from tone to structure to research to design that it takes ages to get anything published. This significantly hinders the actual process as both frequency and consistency are the things you need to rank on Google and build an engaged audience.
Of course, low-frequency publishing is okay if you have a well-known brand with a high website ranking. Still, for smaller to medium-sized businesses, consistency is really important.
On the other side are the businesses that are so focused on the data (rankings, keyword positioning, organic growth and drops) that they completely overlook the quality of the content just so long as content goes out.
So, where does that leave you?
Well, you need a balance of both. A subject matter expert should provide you with details about a particular topic so that you can offer real value to your reader. But, you must also regularly publish content that adheres to SEO best practices to give your content the best opportunity to rank.
What to Keep in Mind When Working with a Subject Matter Expert
SMEs can be a great boon to your content if the relationship and process are managed correctly. Keep the following best practices in mind when working with an SME:
1. Set Clear Briefs
A comprehensive brief is important when working with any freelance content creator.
Such a brief may include the type of content to be created, the goal of the content (for instance, driving sales vs building brand awareness), the language to be used, etc. It will also make both you and the SME clear about the expectations and outcome of a specific piece of content.
2. Keep an Open Mind
Your SME should bring new and differing ideas to the table, nuances to a topic or theme that you might not have known or even considered. Be open to this - one of the great advantages of using an SME - is that you can discover a different angle on a topic altogether.
You might even need to update your buyer persona based on the industry knowledge you could discover on this journey.
Working with a subject matter expert can greatly benefit your brand by boosting awareness and establishing your company as an authority in a specific field.
By providing your audience with accurate data and highly-informative content, you're solving a pain point for them and laying the foundations for a mutually beneficial relationship.