6 weird questions we ask subject matter experts (and why)

George reveals six weird-but-effective questions that can take your B2B interviews (and the resulting content) to the next level.

6 weird questions we ask subject matter experts (and why)

Some of the very best (and certainly the most in-depth) B2B content starts with interviewing a subject matter expert. We think it’s such an important skill that we even wrote a guide about it to help B2B writers, marketers and content creators get more from their interviews.

But there are more tips and tricks you can use to dig even deeper, and discover extra insights that help your content stand out.

Read on to learn six of our weirdest and most wonderful questions, and how they help take interviews to the next level.

Question 1: “What else is important here?”

Let’s begin at the end – with probably the ultimate final question to wrap up your interview. It may seem a bit vague, but it gives your expert a gentle nudge to offer that last essential point before your call ends.

Some of the most important information can come in response to this question, right when you get out of the formal interview structure and give your expert some room to just talk about what interests them.

Question 2: “…”

Nope, that isn’t a typo. One of the best things you can ask in an interview is nothing at all. Staying silent on a call can be tough, but it helps give your expert more time to add extra depth to their answers.

You might have to endure an awkward silence or two, but very often you’ll find experts break it themselves with ‘just one more thing.’ And more often than not that ‘one thing’ happens to be hugely significant.

Question 3: “Would you prefer to talk another time, or over email?”

Sometimes your subject matter expert might be phoning in from a crowded train or busy airport terminal. Other times it might just be they don’t like talking on the phone. Either way, you won’t be getting the best from them. It’s often better to ask to reschedule the call. If the expert is really not comfortable on the phone, you could offer to email your questions over instead (though this means you can’t immediately follow-up on any interesting points).

Question 4: “Why are we writing this now?”

Good content has a purpose, and often it’s an urgent one. It might be a new report prompting discussion, an industry event that everyone’s talking about, or a swanky new product launch. Or maybe the Marketing budget just needs using up?

You need to know why the piece is being written if you want to really get it right – and focusing in on the timing makes it hard to be vague.

Question 5: “How does *thing* do that?”

If you’re working in a particularly technical sector (like enterprise technology, say), you’ll know that you won’t always completely understand the stuff you write about. After all, your job isn’t to maintain, install or preserve the product – your job is to write about it (and its benefits) in a clear, concise way.

You don’t have to know every little thing about your topic, but it can help to learn more about what goes on with a product under the hood. It might not make it into your final draft, but the extra knowledge can add depth and nuance to a piece in other ways.

Question 6: “Can you repeat that?”

Even on conference calls where bad lines and phone systems are an easy excuse, you still might think you’ll sound stupid if you ask an expert to repeat something. Don’t.

Even if you think you’ll sound silly (I promise, you won’t), a simple request to repeat helps you better understand the subject – and produce much better content.

Great questions = great answers = great content

The right question – even if it’s out of left field – can prompt your expert for more info, or turnaround a suboptimal interview.

Keep these six questions in your pocket, to throw into the conversation when you need them. They can help you flesh out your interviews and help your subject matter expert to relax, talk naturally, and give you even richer information. And ultimately, that makes for great content.


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