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Subject matter experts: why and how to use them in B2B marketing

Expert advice makes the world go round. 

Why? Because it makes our understanding of topics better, richer, and more interesting. 

This is something Cognism’s demand gen marketing team has learnt. 

And in this article, you’ll find out about our journey with subject matter expert (SME) Ryan Reisert, featuring insights from: 

Without further ado, let’s get into it! Scroll 👇 or use the menu to get started. 


#Influencing: the theory behind subject matter experts

To kick things off, why did the demand gen team bother with a subject matter expert? 

Alice said it was about filling in the gaps in the team’s knowledge:

“We had marketing insights covered, but we needed access to sales knowledge to help us level up our content.” 

And why should a demand gen marketer and a subject matter expert pair up? 

Alice commented:

“Ryan Reisert is a salesperson inside and out. He’s not going to have the mindset of a marketer. So what we’re dealing with here is someone who can provide quality content that the demand gen marketer can then package up and guide what the content will look like and how it’ll be distributed.”

After hiring a subject matter expert: what comes next?

James (who’s based in Cognism’s demand gen team) was assigned to work with Ryan. 

Here’s what he had to say: 

“Ryan had worked on content for our blog, LinkedIn, YouTube etc. But the next question we had was: ‘How can we create a channel out of Ryan?’” 

He went on to stress the big picture approach.

“When you’re thinking about a subject matter expert, you’ve got to think about why you’ve got this person and what are they going to be doing.” 

For James, the big picture was built on 3 aims: 

  1. Ideal demand: the decision is made before the choice even emerges. 
  2. Community: learn from B2C, with an emphasis on building individual relationships at scale. 
  3. Trust: it’s all about mutual benefit and being genuine. 

What happens when you invest in and prioritise these 3 goals? James delved into the results, telling us:

“At Cognism, Ryan is reaching out to our target audience or ICP with content so valuable and useful that they’re coming to him with questions. And then Cognism is being wrapped up in it as a result, because our audience is imagining Cognism as part of their workflow.” 

So, it’s clear that subject matter experts give your B2B marketing efforts a huge boost.

But how does it all work? 

Keep reading to find out, as James will give you a crash course in…

LinkedIn 101: Executing your subject matter expert strategy

Deciding on a subject matter expert is the easy part. 

The tricky part is finding out how to make noise on LinkedIn, because as James said:

“It’s a competitive space. So it’s important to find your niche and figure out how you can be most useful. And it’s also crucial to establish where your subject matter expert sits within the industry.” 

James told us how he worked this out with Ryan.

“There’s so much on cold calling, being an SDR etc. But there’s a few spaces we’ve really made our own stance on. For example, one gap we identified are tactical posts for SDRs.” 

Something you should NEVER lose sight of is the purpose of LinkedIn. James rightly reminds us that:

“When it comes to LinkedIn, you’re not pushing an agenda. You’re not trying to be promotional. It’s just day-to-day, tactical advice. That’s how you can make a valuable impact in such a short period of time.” 

Once you’ve identified your niche posting space, you’ve got to figure out the format these posts will take. And for James, videos were a no-brainer.

“Videos have an engagement that’s 3x higher than the average engagement of other posts.” 

What about the argument that video is only worth doing if it’s done well? James’s answer is that being professional doesn’t always mean being better.

“With video, it doesn’t have to be professional. I took our video executive’s template and tweaked it so it’s not super-brand-y. It’s super-accessible and easy to engage with, and it’s nothing super-fancy.” 

How often should you post? As with a lot of things on social media, consistency is key:

“If you get them out on a regular cadence, engagement goes up massively because it increases reach to other networks. And these individual interactions build the community.” 

And remember: make sure you’re posting relevant content that has the potential to go viral. 

What if your subject matter expert leaves?

When you work with subject matter experts, there are risks involved. 

For example, what if a subject matter expert decides to leave and takes their community with them to one of your competitors? 

It can be scary to start from scratch. 

But James and Alice both agreed that the benefits far outweigh the fear of an SME leaving. 

Alice said:

“There’s always a reason not to do something. But there’s one way we helped to alleviate the fear - we diversified. Also, all the content we’re creating with Ryan is our property. We still get to utilise that expertise.” 

For James, working with SMEs provides a long-term return on investment.

“Through working with Ryan, we don’t just have access to his community. The connections Ryan has on LinkedIn means we get so much traction with our posts with him because he tags people he’s known for years. These are people that then interact with us, giving us the credibility we wouldn’t have had, had we made the decision not to work with Ryan.” 

When it comes to working with subject matter experts, it’s clear the pros far outnumber the cons.

Watch the webinar 

Subject matter experts weren’t the only things our team discussed - they also dived into content team structures, distribution, metrics and more!

Press ▶️ to watch the full episode of Demandism.

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