Let’s say you want to personalize your homepage with in-depth content intended for segments you’re not familiar with.
A strategy like testing and learning what resonates via a paid program will only get you so far, so fast. Not to mention it could get expensive, and it’s tough to know the right place to start in the first place. Enter the Subject Matter Expert (SME) Interview––a technique that we recommend for our customers who are just ramping up with personalization or who need some help creating relevant content for different personas.
This process dramatically improves the quality of content on pages. When building out RStudio’s ABM program, Robert Bethell, Marketing Manager at RStudio used the SME interview process to create a homepage as well as outbound pages and paid ad content. He had this to say about the process,
“I can think of the phrase data scientist or data science leader, but when you talk with a subject matter expert, you start learning about job titles you wouldn’t have thought of. You also start learning about so many use cases that really take the content from a B-level to an A-level. Gaining deep knowledge about your buyers from internal subject matter experts is what differentiates marketing content disguised as thought leadership from genuine thought leadership that just happens to be supplemented by great marketing.”
With that as our inspiration, let’s take a look at:
- Who to interview
- The information you should be seeking
- Questions to ask
- How to summarize key insights that will help you create the website content
Who to interview
Interview an experienced sales rep who is familiar with the segment you are targeting. Sales reps are constantly getting feedback, learning, iterating and refining their pitch. Because of their familiarity with the segment’s pain points and what resonates with them, a sales rep as your SME will be able to add the nuance that will make your content shine.
Another good option for a subject matter expert is a product marketer who has done a good amount of customer interviews and market research on a segment. In smaller companies, founders who sell are a great resource. And of course customers are an excellent source of information as well, but these interviews tend to be more time consuming.
What to extract
An effective website clearly articulates the value of the product, and helps the prospect understand why she should choose this product over a competitor. In your interview, try to get to the core of why your target segment buys and what her common objections are. This will allow you to create content that is compelling and clearly addresses blockers to purchase early.
- Can you give me a few examples of customers that fall in this segment that you have sold to?
- Of the customers in this segment that have converted to a sale:
a. What were the main 2-3 reasons that they chose your product? Which aspects (capabilities, benefits, values, etc.) of your product did they care most about?
b. What were the top metrics, KPIs, objectives, etc., that your product solved?
3. Of the folks in this segment that don’t buy, what’s the most common reason for passing?
4. What are the top 3 capabilities or benefits that you provide this segment that no one else can? Or in a way that no one else can do?
5. If you could tell this segment one thing -- what is the most compelling value proposition?
As we move closer to execution, it’s time to take a look at your current page––the one you’d like to personalize––and gather critiques from your SME on how well it suits your target segment.
Focus on open ended questions that elicit responses about the whole page.
1. What works?
2. What doesn’t work for the segment? Anything that would deter them?
3. What do you wish was on this page?
And be sure to focus on these areas in particular.
1. Headline -- Is it clear? Relevant?
2. What social proof resonates in your sales conversations? Are these logos compelling?
3. CTA––is it clear, actionable and relevant? While sales may not have the best web CTA ideas, they might surface insights that inspire a better CTA.
At this point you’ll want to remain open to all kinds of input. You don’t have to follow every suggestion, but instead you’re looking for a different perspective that will help you build insights.
Preparing to use what you’ve learned
Once you’ve finished the interview, take 10 minutes to summarize what you’ve learned. Your summary doesn’t have to cover everything your SME mentioned. It should be a brief catalogue of actionable or ‘lightbulb’ moments you had during your SME interview. Order your insights by importance.
Next look at your website and decide the best place to address each insight. Focus on one section at a time, applying insights to a specific place on your website (e.g. headlines or CTA) that will help to improve the overall site experience. Your ordered list should roughly match your page hierarchy. For example, your most important insight should typically be addressed in the page headline.
Here’s an example to help you help you visualize what we’re talking about here. It comes from Carta, the equity management platform for early stage companies.
On the left are key insights gleaned during the interview. And on the right are the areas of the page to apply those insights.
Applying your new insights!
Continuing with the Carta example, here’s how two of their insights might come to life on a page.
In this first example, you’ll notice Carta changed their headline to a clear statement about what their target segment is trying to achieve. For an extra boost, they also call out the name of the segment (Easiest way to issue startup equity). And Carta changed the subhead from a generic statement that covers all possible use cases, to a specific statement geared to the goals this segment is looking to achieve - issue equity, manage cap table, and get their 409A valuation.
In this second example, Carta took the insight of their target segment’s price sensitivity and used their footer CTA to highlight that the entire platform costs the same as a 409A, alleviating concerns about price.
Let us know how this process works for you and if you make any additions or adjustments. We’re always excited to learn new twists on established techniques.