Last week we visited the world of SMEARS (subject matter experts at rest) and the compelling reasons why marketing needs to step up and turn these poorly-used resources into something every bit as exploited as the rest of us. I mean that in a good way: subject matter experts include product managers, lawyers, C-suite dwellers, technicians, designers and other people whose job it is to know a great deal about a very specific thing.

Customers like them because they offer some level of assurance that doing business with your company will not see them land in jail, and might even get them a promotion. Sales people like them because they help sell stuff. Marketing ought to like them for a bunch of reasons because, used properly, they help us too by becoming SMELTS (subject matter experts liberally talking).

Today I’d like to look at the ways in which we can use each of our previously identified SMEAR types to move us along the continuum from credible to superior to (dare we dream of it) essential to our customers.

Hermit Crabs
Characteristics: Shy, reclusive, easily spooked, often misanthropic.
Internal Helpfulness: Reviewing white papers, product literature, web pages and sales presentations for accuracy; helping to design user group or customer training programs.
External Helpfulness: Moderating online forums; leading user groups; participating in highly technical panels or industry standards groups.
Justifying it: You will need to show a direct relationship between your Hermit Crab’s work and an improvement in marketing material quality and quantity or in better CSAT or lower technical support call volumes.

Wind-Up Evangelists:
Characteristics: Gregarious, effusive, articulate, occasionally on the run from a real job.
Internal Helpfulness: Sales launches; writing (or pretending to write) a blog; briefing agencies; generating internal excitement.
External Helpfulness: Large conferences; media briefings; key customer meetings and important sales pitches; webinars; presenting technical papers; Tweeting about absolutely everything; participating in important panels.
Justifying it: Evangelists can be expensive so you need to tie their wanderings to revenue, media impressions or reduced costs. Make sales do that for you.

Demo Dudes:
Characteristics: Outgoing, enthusiastic, resilient, may keep their mouths running long after the facts run out.
Internal Helpfulness: Reviewing sales literature; showing sales how stuff works; showing your agencies how stuff works; supporting channel implementations.
External Helpfulness: Setting up and managing trade show demos (trade shows are a good test drive for possible Evangelist potential); moderating user forums; participating in webinars or obscure panels; helping with channel launches.
Justifying it: Because you are almost always taking Demo Dudes away from their workaday code monkey jobs, you can sell this either in terms of revenue, which may be hard to track, or, better still, as professional and skills development. Demo Dudes are usually pretty good at advocating on their own behalf. For them, a trade show in Tuscon is a good thing.

Irritated Overlords:
Characteristics: Distracted, busy, socially adept but not necessarily social, a strong tendency to bail out an hour before a critical meeting. Be careful they don’t send a Hermit Crab in their stead.
Internal Helpfulness: Credibility for your project by association; may open doors to other Irritated Overlords; can help with sales launches.
External Helpfulness: Senior level sales pitches; speaking at large conferences; putting their name on important papers, blogs and articles; sitting on big-deal panels; golfing with customers; media events.
Justifying It: Overlords generally only need to justify stuff like this to themselves so you need to tie their time directly to their favourite metric. Start with revenue and look for a CSAT score to make it sweeter.

Next week we’ll talk about how to build a formal SMEAR campaign that creates more SMELTS.