How to Unlock Brilliant Insights from Subject Matter Experts

During my time in high-tech corporate marketing, I often needed to interview product managers or engineers in order to create messaging documents, white papers, and more.  What I quickly realized was these folks had a wealth of information in their brilliant brains, but they didn’t always understand how to give it to me verbally. So I developed skills to gently “tease” it out of them during interviews.

This skill has been invaluable as a copywriter and content marketing expert, too.  I often need to interview clients’ subject matter experts (SMEs) to understand their business and put myself in their buyer’s shoes. Knowing how to conduct a thorough, but succinct, interview is a critical skill in order to create great content.

If your copywriter doesn’t understand how to interview people to pull out the necessary information, then you’ll likely get back poorly written copy and/or spend a lot of time on the phone explaining details to them.  Not good and not what I aim for when working with clients.

Two Keys to Successful Interviews

The key to successful interviews is thoughtful, upfront preparation.  It’s critical to carefully consider the information needed about a client’s business or product and capture that in short but probing questions that can be asked in 30 minutes or less (I try to take up as little of the client’s time as possible while still getting the information I need).

The next, and possibly even more important, aspect of interviewing is the willingness to go deep with your interview subject.  If I’m interviewing a quiet software engineer in order to understand a new technology, I might need to probe at their answers in order to really get to the meat.  When SMEs wander off on irrelevant tangents or give high-level answers that don’t really answer the question, it’s my job to bring them back and make sure I truly understand the information they’re giving me.

Of course, reviewing background materials is also helpful, but I still consider them secondary to the all-important interview. That’s really where I get the true story.

The next time you hire a copywriter, make sure they have a process for interviewing your subject matter experts.  Great content hinges on conducting an outstanding interview.

Learn More

By the way…whenever you’re ready, here are some ways I can help you stand out the noisy tech market:

  1. Grab a copy of my report on original research, which includes all the details on how to use original research to capture prospects’ mindshare. Download it here.

You’ll learn why marketers are getting so much value out of their original research, the steps in conducting an original research study, and you’ll get my 9×14 content grid that gives you 14 content ideas to fulfill nine different marketing strategies. Get it here.

  1. Work directly with me to create an original research roadmap. There are a lot of details to running an original research study and creating content that gets results. I’ll work with you to create a roadmap plan that ensures you’ll get the biggest ROI from original research. Contact me, and I’ll get back to you with more details.