When building out your company’s inbound marketing program, you will require subject matter experts to weigh in, participate and ultimately sign off before you deploy all of your materials.
Getting the right people on board with your marketing processes is a crucial aspect of inbound. Now let’s bring this line of thinking back to our trusty allegory of home construction. When building a house, official signoff is required from several experts who represent various specific disciplines: the fire and safety inspector, the structural engineer, the city permit board and the like.
Getting Approval From Subject Matter Experts
The fire inspector ensures that the home’s inhabitants are unlikely to combust while they’re asleep. While the building contractor may not appreciate the fire inspector’s recommended changes or upgrades, they are not only necessary – they’ll be appreciated by the end buyer, who eventually needs to sleep soundly in that house. Ultimately, the customer only wants to buy a home to which the fire inspector has given a wholehearted thumbs-up.
There are several business-driven reasons to involve the various subject-matter experts that you have access to in your quest for inbound marketing greatness. There are also some proven methods for getting them intimately involved in your marketing processes so that they feel appropriately invested in the endeavor. Let’s have a look.
This post is part nine of a 12-part series, The Ultimate Planning Guide to Inbound Marketing Strategy and Tactics.
Why Subject Matter Experts are Critical
When one cordoned-off team – or even more so, one person – is charged with creating every piece of marketing collateral, it’s easy to be consistent with voice and tone, but there are disadvantages, too. The content is likely to reach the point of repetition. Generating new ideas and fresh perspectives is challenging for people operating in a void over a period of time, so inviting a diverse pool of participants who bring new knowledge and alternate mindsets is a healthy way of keeping your content invigorated.
Secondly, let’s be honest – marketers are often buffered from the down-and-dirty, day-to-day grind of marketing activity. They don’t answer customer support inquiries, they don’t deliver sales presentations, and they don’t develop new products or manage agitated clients. Their daily interactions are mostly limited to other marketers. Requiring marketers to sit down with the support division, sales reps, the business development team or the coders will cultivate not only new content but also a finger-on-the-pulse perspective.
Effective marketing assets are capable of addressing the cognitive and emotional gaps burning in your company’s ideal customers, so regular interfacing with the people charged with closing those gaps is a pivotal aspect of marketing asset creation.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re promoting a software product that’s highly customizable. As a marketer, you can certainly emphasize the unique selling points and try to immerse yourself in your clients’ procurement cycles and pain points. But wouldn’t messaging informed by your company’s software engineers be more likely to resonate with the technically minded people who are determining whether or not your solution is right for them? True, coders generally don’t write prose, but getting them involved and basing new content on their perspectives can significantly enhance your ability to connect with your ideal audience.
For that matter, keeping the needs of your audience at the center of your processes, who better to inform the creation of content than someone from that audience? Not every company can open the floodgates and create thriving hubs of user-generated content like Coca-Cola can. On the other hand, a marketer who is skilled at building a community around a company can certainly turn to limited groups of trusted brand advocates for input now and then.
How to Enlist the Experts
What’s the best way to get programmers, product managers, salespeople and customer support reps interested in helping you to create better content? In our experience, explaining how superior content improves the lives of all stakeholders goes a long way.
The argument for everyone to feel invested in marketing content mastery has two levels to it: micro and macro. On a micro level, better content makes individual stakeholders’ lives easier. If a sales rep, for example, is answering the same question over and over again, having a published web page that explains the answer helps to shrink the volume of queries and also gives the sales rep a great resource for sharing answers. On a macro level, better content makes for better inbound marketing performance, which makes for better all-around business performance, which is the goal of everyone in the company, right?
The key to enlisting help from these people in other departments is explaining to them what inbound marketing is all about, how it works and why their specific contributions will represent major game-changers to the success of the marketing strategy.
Make it clear that you want to hear their ideas about new directions and modes of thinking for the entire company – and that virtually all innovative ideas can be turned into interesting content. When the support team encounters a new challenge that seems to be trending among customers, for example, they should immediately alert you so you can work together on an idea for a new content piece.
Foster a Content Creation Culture
Granted, the initial reaction you receive from other departments may be, “That’s not my job – that’s your job.” On the surface, that’s 100% true, but you shouldn’t give up on convincing at least a few key allies from different units. Ideally, though, you’ll get a decent percentage of the company on board with sharing ideas with you at the least and maybe even writing their own blog posts.
In order to encourage wider excitement for content creation, praise your contributors for each success, even the little ones. Nurture their love for content creation, so that they will continue to contribute in the long term. Keep telling those who are on board how much you appreciate their efforts, and use their successes to pull in those who haven’t come on board yet. No matter what you do, though, never belittle or criticize an idea, even if you have zero intention to use it.
Ultimately, your best bet for recruiting your company’s subject matter experts onto your content creation team is proof that content marketing works. Show them examples of the pieces you’ve published, and how they’ve been used. Start by getting the sales team to explain how they use your blog posts and whitepapers as sales tools. Then move up the chain by illustrating how your guest posts are establishing the senior management as thought leaders. Display your company’s digital footprint and the ROI you’ve achieved.
As the wins build up, the task of pulling people in will become increasingly easier. Your company's culture will start to change as team members begin to recognize the power and benefits of great content.
Empower them to Contribute Easily
Even if they’re intrigued, your in-house subject matter experts will still have their primary jobs to do. This means that you’ll need systems in place to make it easy for them to contribute. If you demand full-blown articles with optimized titles, embedded contextual links, and original graphics, you’ll end up with nothing.
Cultivate relationships with each team and find out what method is easiest for them. A form that feeds submissions to a Google spreadsheet? Dropping you voicemails with idea brainstorms? Outlines sketched on napkins during lunch? It may not be your content creation process, but whatever tools need to be put in place to make it as friction-free as possible for your contributors – do it.
When you write that next email newsletter about your company’s latest product rollout, you will need an internal subject matter expert to be willing to take a look, provide constructive feedback and ultimately sign off on the article, just like the fire inspector signs off on our metaphorical house. Without these prized experts’ participation, you’ll never achieve the sign-off you need to take your marketing to the next level.