Unlocking an expert’s expertise by a nonexpert

As I listened to a new client talk about the intricacies of his company’s fund management solution I could tell this would be challenging writing assignment. I needed to take a complex topic and turn it into a white paper and other marketing materials.

Now the point in creating these materials is not to go into  exhaustive detail about the technology  and systems behind the solution but instead  find a compelling story about the solution that grabs decision makers and makes my client’s company the inevitable choice after reading the material.

So where to find that story? As usual it was locked away. Locked away in the clients’ expertise and knowledge. Often it takes a non-expert who has more distance from the topic to unlock the story.

Whether on the C-suite level  or on a manager level, clients know more about their business than any outside writer does. But they are often so close, so deep into the details, they can’t see the compelling story. Or they  let the story get bogged down in  details and side issues.

A good way to start writing for such a client is to first  read all the available material. And I certainly did that for my fund management project. But the real secret in unlocking the story is to talk to the expert(s). An interview with carefully planned questions is the best way to capture the elusive core of the story. Ideally the interview should be recorded with a transcript so you can go over it again and again.

The interview can be tricky and needs to be done right. Certainly come in with a  list of standard questions. For example: What do you think the prospect’s problem is? What makes your solution unique?

After listening closely and absorbing the material I find it beneficial to bounce some ideas off the client. Such as:

“As I hear it, the main story here is……… Does that sound right to you?”

Or,  “so what we need to do here is convince the prospect that ………….Correct?”

This kind of feedback points the expert to the story itself and not the details.  And it gives the expert something to react to.  It leads him to clarify the most important issues.

Then always ask for  some success stories. You’re not looking for complete case histories (unless that is the task), but summaries that are part of the overall narrative.

Often the  expert gets animated here because he or she  is relating how the solution works in real life situations. In that animated state, the expert reveals key parts of the story. And that’s gold for the writer.

(photo: Johan Larsson   Flickr)

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