No one likes a know-it-all, but everyone needs an expert. The digital marketplace has empowered consumers to research, learn, and compare all on their own. So much choice, however, can leave even the savviest among us feeling overwhelmed. Establishing yourself as a subject matter expert (SME) is the key to projecting your professionalism and setting yourself apart from your competition.
Subject matter experts inspire trust in their customers by demonstrating a keen understanding of their product or brand and industry. They call on their experience to underpin this knowledge, and work from a solid base of credentials. Becoming a subject matter expert is not something that happens overnight. But chances are, if you’ve been working in one area for some time now, you have some subject matter expertise already. Don’t let it go unnoticed by your customers and target audiences. Let’s explore some ways to demonstrate this expertise.
Becoming a subject matter expert in a particular field does not necessarily require a standard set of credentials or a particular educational background. But it does require visible commitment to your professional growth. Join industry organizations and keep your memberships current. Attend, learn from, and write about (and post about, and blog about, and tweet about…) professional development opportunities. Better yet, consider submitting proposals to host sessions or workshops at industry conferences. Articulate your commitment to professional growth through your social media presence and website. Anybody can claim expert status. But when customers see ongoing dedication to your field, they see a professional who cares about more than the bottom line.
Another way to demonstrate commitment to your field is to become an “ambassador of the industry” that you’re a part of. Jesse Torres, publishing on this topic for LinkedIn, suggests this approach, noting that “there are many ways to act as an ambassador. One technique is volunteering with a local, regional, national, or international trade organization. Salespeople can volunteer to assist with membership drives, conferences, and other activities undertaken by the organization.” These kinds of events are wonderful ways to demonstrate your commitment to your profession in an ongoing way.
No one will know that you’re a subject matter expert if it’s your best kept secret. Devote some time to broadcasting your hard-earned knowledge and experience. Many of the ways you might do this dovetail with content marketing strategies you’re probably already prioritizing. So, be strategic and you’ll find that this takes less time and energy than you might imagine.
Stephanie Chandler composed a set of suggestions for establishing your SME status for Forbes. In the digital arena, for example, she suggests writing articles, blogging, and hosting your own internet radio show or podcast among other ideas. These may seem like time-consuming tasks, but remember all you know about the value of quality content and think again. Chances are, you’re already paying an opportunity cost for the time spent on tracking down quality content. Creating it yourself gives you the ultimate assurance that it will be pertinent, genuine, and credible. And it gives your customers some idea of the depth of your knowledge and the way you view your work. Best of all, it’s incredibly rewarding to talk about topics with which you have some expertise.
Subject matter expertise means nothing without the ability to problem-solve and deliver solutions. When you’re working with customers or in B2B scenarios, consider ways to bring the experience you’ve amassed to bear on the situation at hand. Remember that your knowledge is only as helpful as the unique solutions you can provide.
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