speed B2B marketing content You know how hard it is to get time from your subject matter experts (SMEs) to brief the writer who’s creating your marketing content. These SMEs (be they sales engineers, account executives or project managers) are too busy meeting their numbers or keeping clients happy to explain it all to a writer.

So doesn’t it make sense to prep the SME beforehand so the writer gets the details they need to write a good draft the first time? That saves the SMEs the hassle of a follow-up call, endless emails or trying to rewrite the copy  themselves.

Killer Questions

Based on my experience working with “first drafts” from SMEs, here are seven critical questions they  must be able to answer if you want good, compelling copy to result from the interview.

  1. What were the business (not technology) problems that led the customer to seek your help or buy your product? The writer needs issues a senior executive would understand, such as reduced productivity, excess costs, lost sales or plunging customer satisfaction.
  2. You claim your services were “unique,” “transformational” and “optimized” the client’s operations. Just what makes them unique? What was the “bad” situation the customer was trapped in, and specifically what did you “transform” it into?
  3. Specifically how did you “optimize” your client’s operations, with dollar or percentage metrics of improvements in business areas such as sales, costs, time to market, or customer satisfaction?
  4. If  the client can’t or won’t share numbers with you about the benefits, can you at least describe examples or anecdotes to show the types of problems you solved?
  5. You list the services you provided, the industry standards you comply with, and the software, processes or frameworks you used. How are any of these better/different than what your competitors offer, and how did these help the client?
  6. You keep mentioning acronyms and buzzwords that don’t show up in a quick Google search. Remember, the writer wasn’t part of the project and doesn’t know the jargon you and the customer lived with every day. Spell out every acronym, explain what each means and how each of them helped the client.
  7. And for every phase of the project, every approach you took, every tool you used, what did you do better or differently than your competitors?

Make the Call

One other tip: Get your SME on the phone with the writer, rather than bounce emails back and forth with them. You may think getting the SME’s answers in writing will be quicker, but in my experience that never works. They often keep repeating the same jargon in each round of frustrating emails.

That’s because they are (justifiably) too close to the work, and understand every nuance of it too well to “pull back” and explain them to the writer. In a phone interview, I can insist on that “who cares?” information, and keep asking in real time to be sure I understand it and thus can explain it to your prospects. And I don’t have to keep going back to ask the SME what they really meant.

Added benefit: If an SME feels the writer is making good use of their time, and delivers content that helps them sell to customers, they’re more likely to give you more time for future content development.

What have you done to help streamline briefing calls with marketing writers?

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.