Content marketing is quickly becoming a cornerstone of corporate marketing programs. In fact, 70% of B2B marketers are creating more content this year than the previous year, and 77% of B2C marketers have implemented a content marketing strategy.
Content marketing is built on the premise that brands will publish high quality content that communicates without selling - which can be surprisingly challenging to many marketers. While there are several ways to strengthen the impact of a content marketing strategy, this column will discuss the value of incorporating subject matter experts (SMEs) or marketing outsiders into your content program to strengthen your message. A marketing outsider who has deep expertise in the subjects that interest your customers can be a significant asset to a content team, even if they don't have any experience in the marketing, sales, or communications fields. Outsiders are often the very best people to turn to when you need to communicate without selling.
Getting Beyond the Cookie Cutter Approach
The term content marketing is used liberally but content marketing should not be taken with a cookie cutter approach.
Content marketing is defined as a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content; content that attracts and retains a clearly defined audience - to ultimately drive profitable customer action, according the Content Marketing Institute. What this means, especially since content marketing is used to reach increasingly diverse audiences, is that brands must publish content that is unique and appeals to each audience-it must be honest, authentic, familiar, and value-added. Innovative approaches, such as bringing in SMEs and marketing outsiders who know the customer audience can give brands a boost in industry credibility.
When to Use Marketing Outsiders to Connect with an Audience
Walk through a marketing agency and you'll likely see a cadre of creative people hard at work delivering content for various clients and programs. The standard agency fare includes designers, developers, writers, strategists, and client services teams. Representatives from the target audience-whether it be a physician, nurse, investment banker, financial advisor, IT manager, or software developer-is rarely seen working alongside agency pros. However, these representatives bring valuable first-person experiences and knowledge that audiences can relate to.
So why would an agency bring in an industry insider as their marketing outsider?
Marketers increasingly need a marketing outsider to act as a community insider.
These industry insiders are living, breathing personas who represent the target customer for a specific industry or sub-sector. They are instrumental in helping marketers connect with audiences in highly specialized sectors such as healthcare, technology, and finance--especially given the nuances for each industry. They provide context and relevance to the industry audience that marketers are trying to reach.
For example, an agency with clients targeting hospitals can retain a nurse to influence its content creation, validate positioning and messaging, or provide critical context for a marketing initiative. The nurse will enhance the delivery of up-to-date information and provide the needed guidance and context for the client. The nurse's comprehensive understanding of the latest medical guidelines, advances, and techniques--as well as the most important vernacular--will provide a high level of authenticity, credibility, and relevance to engage and attract knowledgeable, vertical-savvy audiences or customers. The healthcare expert's non-marketing viewpoint is a competitive advantage in engaging the hearts and minds of your client's target healthcare market.
Another example is marketing firms targeting the technology sector. Marketers targeting software developers need to be familiar with the latest technology innovation and trends, appropriate technical terms, what attributes matter most to developers and what triggers research of a new developer tool. Employing a software developer or IT manager on the marketing side can deliver the kind of deep technology expertise required to engage discerning technology specialists and build strong developer relations.
Steps to Identify and Leverage the Right Subject Matter Experts for Your Client or Brand
- It helps if they are employed full time. You want your outsider to remain an outsider - look for people who are full-time professionals in their industry, and then give them an exciting opportunity to experience something new (but on the side).
- Look for people who fit the profile of an ideal buyer. If you are marketing technology, it should be someone who purchases technology for their primary employer. If you are selling services, it should be someone who purchases services.
- Even though they don't have to be marketers or trained in communications, it does help if they are socially savvy and decent writers.
Audiences connect with brand content that they can relate to. And by incorporating a subject matter expert who can inform your content with a deeper level of content authenticity and audience appeal, you have a valuable best practice for your content marketing strategy.