How to Nail Subject Matter Expert Interviews

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    Tips for Better Performing B2B Content Marketing 

    63% of marketers say content helps build loyalty with existing customers and 67% say it generates more leads. (Content Marketing Institute)

    Can you say the same for your business’s content plan? Not if you have the same content strategy as your competitors.  

    If you want to take your content marketing plans to the next level, you must give your customers what they aren’t getting from the competition.  

    It doesn’t require expensive think tanks or endless brainstorming sessions to elevate your marketing.  

    It’s quite simple, actually.  

    Give your customers access to your company’s extensive knowledge and expertise. These valuable insights help your customers make better decisions for their businesses; they also create a powerful bond and position your company as their trusted resource.  

    Want to know the quickest way to do this?  

    Call on the experts.  

    Subject Matter Experts elevate your content and help it stand out against countless blogs and articles that are all saying the SAME thing.  

    What is a Subject Matter Expert? 

    A Subject Matter Expert is a fancy acronym-friendly way of identifying people who are experts in their field. You’ll often hear them referred to as SMEs. 

    A Subject Matter Expert may be adept in a specific job, technology, product or process within your organization. If you had a question on that topic, that person would be your go-to. They attain that reputation through education or extensive experience. 

    Examples of Subject Matter Experts in Your Company: 

    • C-Level Executive: CEOs, CFOs, COOs offer high-level, big-picture business goals. They are also a wealth of information regarding company values, history and plans.  
    • Production Manager: Production and operations managers have experience with day-to-day operations and work directly with employees, on the floor and in the office. They may also have a direct line to your customers. 
    • Warehouse Supervisor: Warehouse supervisors have a direct view of the products and processes that drive business operations. They manage inventory, are often well-versed in product offerings and may work directly with production managers, production teams and owners.   
    • Salesperson: Your salespeople have a wealth of customer-centric insights. Not only do they know what your customers are looking for, they often have years of experience problem-solving and troubleshooting solutions for the company and its customers.  
    • Employee: Employees are an often-untapped wealth of insight. They have the boots-on-ground knowledge of operations, products (what works/what doesn’t) and how products/services impact their work.  
    • Consultant: Consultants are usually business or operational experts with knowledge integral to the industries they serve. They offer great insights that guide business owners on market conditions, industry trends and how to lead more effectively. 
    • Applications/Software Expert: These experts can include anyone who is proficient in understanding the products, processes or applications integral to the business (i.e., IT specialists, hydraulic hose assemblers, VMI managers). They have deep knowledge of how products or software solutions can impact business operations, efficiency and customer satisfaction.  
    • End User: The end user may be the most important person in the supply chain. Everything in the manufacturing and distribution channels comes together to help them work safer, smarter and more profitably. Their insights are invaluable to manage customer satisfaction and expectations better. 

    Want to create a stronger, more competitive online experience for your customers?  

    Check out our Industrial Marketing Playbook. 

    Why We Need Expert Insights for Content Creation 

    Your Subject Matter Expert may be a salesperson, C-suite executive, consultant, delivery driver, warehouse specialist or end-user. They are the expert. Without their insight, content may be generic, stale, outdated or just plain wrong.  

    Why should you include Subject Matter Expert interviews in your content development? SMEs:  

    • Understand their industry better than anyone 
    • Know what information customers are looking for 
    • Streamline content production efforts 
    • Help your content stand out from the competition  
    • Give your content legs (aka, reach) and help with distribution efforts 

    In building out content to support your organization’s sales and marketing needs, Subject Matter Experts play an important role. Not only do they have the knowledge you need to put together an authoritative blog post or other collateral, but they know your target audience better than anyone else. 

    As a marketer or business leader, you may not know who to rely on in your organization as the Subject Matter Expert for every topic. Reach out to each department and ask what team members excel in. Create a spreadsheet of those experts as you build your content strategy so that you can easily reach out to them for interviews or to check your work for accuracy. 

    Bonus: In addition to leveraging that list for your internal content creation, you’ll have a go-to source for media requests for interviews. 

    How to Prep for Your Subject Matter Expert Interview 

    The Subject Matter Expert interview is the most important part of the content creation process. Here, I’ll outline ways you can prepare and get the most out of an interview with a Subject Matter Expert.  

    At 3 Aspens Media, our approach is to either schedule a call with a Subject Matter Expert on a one-off basis for a specific project or plan a monthly call depending on our needs around a topic. We record the call, and that transcript serves as an ongoing resource for existing and future content needs. 

    But the first step is to define your primary interview goals. What questions are you trying to answer? Do you want to explore:  

    • Industry trends 
    • Changing customer needs 
    • Supply and demand constraints 
    • Product and application knowledge 

    Once you define your goals, research the topic to identify what information you can get from research and what you can only get from your SME. Sources may include published journals, internet searches and trade publications.  

    This important step helps to narrow the focus of the interview and saves time by not asking more general questions that could be answered elsewhere. 

    Your second step should be establishing rapport with and buy-in from your Subject Matter Expert. That means you need to over-communicate the process, what you need from them, the status of the piece, and the timing for review and publication. This conscientious treatment will give a good impression you can build on for long-term content support. 

    Email your Subject Matter Expert ahead of the scheduled interview with an outline of what you’re going to discuss. Sometimes they know why you’re reaching out, and sometimes they are coming in without knowledge of what support they’re intended to provide on the request of a colleague to support a project. 

    Your email can include simple bullets or a list of questions you want to ask. This prepares your interviewee to have a productive call. Give them a heads up that you’ll probably stray from that outline based on what they contribute, so they don’t feel locked in if you are missing critical questions.  

    Inevitably, the Subject Matter Expert will be a busy person. They didn’t get to where they are without being in demand. You will usually have 30 minutes to an hour with them. But if you ask the right questions, that time can be fruitful and feed or even seed multiple projects. 

    At the start of the interview, repeat why you’re doing the call, how you will use the interview, that you’ll be recording and transcribing the call to ensure accuracy and you’ll send them the first draft for review when it’s ready. Let them know they will see a final draft, as well, before it’s published.

    Finally, when the interview is complete, share the timeline for when they can expect to see the first draft. You can also ask if they have other resources they could share – such as a slide deck, a whitepaper or older collateral or articles they’ve written on the topic. 

    Subject Matter Expert Interview Questions 

    When crafting your questions, avoid those that can only be answered with a yes or a no. “Why,” “how” and “give me an example” are your best friends in an interview. Open-ended questions allow your SME to expand on their responses and often reveal important points you didn’t think to ask.  

    If your Subject Matter Expert initiated the call because they want to write about a specific topic, start the call with: 

    “Why did you want to speak about this topic? Has something come up in your conversations with clients that triggered this idea?”  

    (This usually produces some great anecdotes you can use as examples in your piece.) 

    I always wrap up the interview by asking whether there were questions I didn’t ask – but should have. Without fail, the Subject Matter Expert adds something that ends up being critical to the overall piece or adds supporting evidence that strengthens it. 

    Need some inspiration crafting your SME question set?  

    Download Top 15 Interview Questions to Ask Subject Matter Experts

    Be your Subject Matter Expert’s Guide on their Journey 

    Interviewing experts in their field has always been my favorite part of my job. And when you approach the task as an opportunity to learn – not being afraid to ask what you might think are stupid questions (they’re not) – and show genuine interest in the subject, the content you develop will reflect that. 

    As interviewers, it is our job to show how our Subject Matter Expert’s input can lead to improvements for themselves, their companies, their customers and the industry. 

    Remember, although your SME is an expert in their role, they may not be accustomed to being interviewed and sharing their expertise. To make it easier, I’ll share a few ways you can prepare your Subject Matter Expert for success. 

    Scroll through for more advice on getting the most out of your SME interview:



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    Trust Us, Interviewing SMEs Makes for Better Content 

    At 3 Aspens Media, we have interviewed and worked with thousands of Subject Matter Experts as part of creating helpful content for our clients. (Read about the ghost-writing process.)  

    We use Subject Matter Expert interviews to ghost-write articles, craft copy for websites or email, draft resources for sales teams and more. It is far more efficient than asking those experts to write something themselves and ensures a level of accuracy and depth that our clients need to establish brand trust with their customers. 

    Collectively, we have written about diverse topics such as:  

    • Auto body paint and restoration 
    • Fastener selection 
    • Inventory and warehouse optimization 
    • Wildcat oil drilling 
    • How to improve occupational safety and compliance 
    • Credit management 
    • Residential electrical  
    • Pork farming 
    • ESOPs 
    • The wood flooring market 
    • Industrial vending machines 
    • Moving your technology to the cloud 
    • CAD-ERP integration 
    • Cybersecurity for government organizations  
    • The impact of the Russian invasion on Ukrainian families 

    No matter how practiced we are in our crafts, there is no way we are experts in all these topics. We are successful writing about topics we’re not overly familiar with because we work closely with the experts who are.  

    Need further assistance or want to partner with 3 Aspens Media to develop your own content strategy? Give us a call at 970-581-1752 or email us at [email protected] and speak to our team of expert content writers.  

    How to Nail Subject Matter Expert Interviews