Features

Subject Matter Experts: Your Strategic Secret Weapon

Written on
Jul 24, 2013 
Author
Doug Austin  |

ADOTAS — Picture a modern advertising agency. What do you see? Organized, dependable account executives? Quick-witted copywriters? Maybe an artistic, dedicated chef or a fun-loving professional skier?

I’m guessing the last two didn’t match up with your vision.

In marketing, it’s become increasingly important to be a generalist in most things and an expert in a few. But for many agencies that work in marketing within specific industries — such as food and beverage, hospitality, agriculture, healthcare, or sports — it can be difficult to find talent that meets both your company’s skill and knowledge requirements. Hiring a subject matter expert who can consult with your agency and provide insight into a client’s challenges will bring real value.

Experts Cultivate Credibility

Employing subject matter experts not only means hiring employees with invaluable knowledge, but it also increases your agency’s credibility. Our agency network, which works with many clients in the food and beverage industry, has a group of culinary-focused experts, including chefs. They understand how brokers and distributors — the business aspect of the culinary world — play into the existence of commercial and non-commercial restaurants. Their knowledge of the entire spectrum of the culinary world brings our agencies the reliable intelligence we need, which is transferred to our clients.

It’s key to be able to stand up in front of a client and say with confidence that the proposed communication will resonate with the audience. Let’s say that you’re an agency that works with many clients in the sporting and skiing industries. You’ll gain trust with clients when you have ski enthusiasts or professionals on staff. It gives you the ability to tell your client — for instance, a ski manufacturer — that you’ve determined the product’s key benefit and conferred with professionals. Then, you can build off that and speak to the emotional connection around a sales proposition (the believability of a product) when you move to market strategy.

In addition, when our agency is working to market our own services or is involved in product development, our chefs can tell us whether our strategies will resonate with our target audience (culinary experts) to gain market value. This helps with product development and innovation because we nip poor ideas in the bud and build out those that will hit home with our audience.

Pros Provide Perspective

Having professionals at our company helps round out communication. For instance, if we’re putting together communications for a chain restaurant, then our chef’s perspective is extremely valuable. Having that extra strategic element and industry perspective gives our communications an edge that a traditional agency staff alone could not provide.

So, is hiring a professional for you? If so, is it more cost-effective to hire one full-time or part-time? Here are three questions to consider:

1. What types of clients do I have?

Do your clients usually come to you for one-off projects or overarching strategic consulting? If they’re asking you to participate and contribute at a high-strategy level, then having access to experts in the field is imperative.

2. Could I keep an expert busy?

This is simple ROI. Evaluate whether you’ll have the work and the income to justify keeping an expert on hand.

3. How many people are in the conversation?

The key to uncovering the most believable truth of a brand’s promise is by including diverse perspectives in the conversation. It’s great to have input from marketers, salesmen, and creatives, but their perspectives alone on how to position a product may fall short. Unless you have a very strong market research team, it’s probably time to bring in an expert to provide that insider perspective.

Whether it’s food, the automotive aftermarket, or sports equipment, having someone in-house who has specific and in-depth knowledge of the subject adds immeasurable value. Consider your clients’ demands and your agency’s needs to determine if this is a good option. There might just be room for a chef at your table.

 





For nearly 30 years, Doug Austin has been studying the “art of observation” and filtering out the human truths. Whether digging for key customer/consumer insights or preparing the next national retail promotion, it’s all about the ability to “hear and see” what others may not and asking the hard questions that get us to the possibilities. Austin is the SVP of Growth & Innovation and leads product and brand innovation sessions for Marlin Network

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