March 1st, 2018

Can You Write Content if You’re Not a Subject Matter Expert?

Author: Laura Lynch
Laura Lynch
Director of Marketing

In content marketing, being a subject matter expert is only half the equation.

One of our most frequent questions from marketing clients when we propose content writing for their blog is “but how will you write it if you’re not a subject matter expert?”

It’s a fair question. The last thing we want to provide our clients is shallow puff pieces. Our goal is to write a marketing blog that is truly worthy of its readership. But most niche blogs are written by industry insiders—people with the experience and expertise to talk authoritatively about their subject. How are we supposed to match that?

I’ve given several answers to that question over the years. For one, it’s not unheard of for an expert to have someone else ghost write for them. Being a subject matter expert doesn’t make you a good writer, even if you have time to keep up with the week-to-week commitment of a regular blog.

But if I’m honest, the ghost writer proposition is of limited value, because it still requires a substantial time commitment on the part of the client. And one of the big reasons our clients need us is to save time—not add to it.

More importantly, a good content writer has more to offer than the ability to write for you. Content marketing requires a broad skill set, which we bring to bear when we take on your marketing blog. Here’s just a few advantages a content marketer brings to the table, even if they aren’t a subject matter expert.

1. We bring an outside perspective.

Probably the biggest problem most subject matter experts run into when they go to blog is that they’re too far lost in their own jargon to speak clearly to the customer. (We know, we’ve been there, too.) Their knowledge level is critical for managing the business and talking with peers, but they struggle to communicate that in a way that makes sense for customers whose jobs lie in a completely different industry.

When a content marketer first takes up your blog, their outside perspective helps translate that message to the customer. We know what the entry-level questions are, because that’s where we’re at ourselves. By focusing our early blog posts on these subjects, we can deliver answers that match the customer’s knowledge level.

2. Our job is to understand your customers.

Another problem many subject matter experts face is that they want to spend too much time talking about their business and what they do. But the more important question isn’t “what do you do,” it’s “what does your customer need?” The questions and topics that an expert finds most interesting often don’t align with what the client needs to know.

When we start a blog, we begin with a period of persona development. We take a deep dive into your client’s pain points and the benefits they stand to gain from using your product or service. Our goal is to become experts on your clients first, because we have to know them in order to present your business in the best light. That’s an introduction our expertise leaves us well-qualified to make.

3. It’s not all about the subject.

Remember those skill sets we talked about earlier? Running a marketing blog requires more skills than a deep knowledge of the subject matter. We touched on strong writing ability, persona development, and the ability to craft messaging that appeals to your target audience. But what about larger questions of marketing strategy and tactics? What about the footwork that goes into creating an editorial calendar, conducting keyword research, and performing on-page SEO?

They key point here is it’s not just about the content, it’s also about the marketing. If you only focus on the one, you miss out on half your investment.

4. We work closely with you.

In the beginning phase of any content project, your content blogger should interview you, key knowledge experts at your company, and (if possible) a selection of your clients. This is similar to the onboarding process of many employees.

The purpose of these interviews is three-fold: first, we learn about you and your business. This helps us craft messaging that meets your brand. Second, we develop buyer personas that allow us to identify and speak to your ideal client. And third, we assemble a content strategy based on our research, including keywords, a review of your internal resources, and an external audit of other blogs and publications on the market.

We work with you and other subject matter experts in your organization to establish a content plan that will cover key subjects for you and your clients. And when we write to these topics, you will be able to review the content and make necessary corrections to ensure that it’s factually sound.

5. We learn fast.

At a certain point, you do want a content marketer who understand your business as thoroughly as you do. And if they come to you with an in-depth understanding of your clients and their needs, all the better.

Fortunately, while content marketing comes with a steep learning curve, after a few months working with and writing for you, any marketer worth their salt will have become a subject matter expert in their own right. After all, by then, your content writer will have written a lot of copy.

The average blog post is one-thousand words. If your marketing blogger writes one blog a week, that will be over 50K words a year. Meanwhile, your typical business book is also in the 50K word range. That means that, after a year of blogging at a rate of one blog a week, your content marketer will have written a book’s worth of content, all of it branded for your business, and with your target market in mind.

And that volume only goes up if you have them blog more. After a year or two, we will literally have written the book on your subject.

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