Being an Subject Matter Expert (SME) will help you become the “go-to” authority within your niche within your audience if you understand what a subject matter expert does. The only thing standing in your way of being a subject matter expert is the time and effort it takes. Anyone who wants to do it can do it. You do not need formal education; you just need to know how to find the information and learn it… I know, I’ve been playing with web design and online marketing for over twenty one years now… long before you could learn this stuff at universities and to many I’m considered a SME.
Study the Subject
Take the time to study your chosen topic in all the ways that you can find. Read online, offline, talk to people, get involved in groups discussing it and immerse yourself in the topic for as many hours each day as you can. I’ve heard people say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert; use that as a guide and go for it.
Understand Your Products
If you sell products, you need to know how your products align with that topic and help your audience in that topic. One way to accomplish that is to match each of your products with your customers’ buying cycle, opps that also means you need to understand their buying cycle.
Interview People in the Industry
You’ll learn a lot from other industry experts. Asking them questions to fill in the gaps of your education will help you enormously with becoming an SME. When you demonstrate your knowledge to these experts as you’re asking the questions, they’ll see you as an expert and tell others.
Read Published Literature
Anything that is published on the topic, past and current, should be read and understood. It often helps to keep information organized by taking quotes from the things you read into Evernote or old-fashioned note cards. Always state exactly where you got the quote so you can use it later.
Read Industry Websites
Find as many industry websites you can and start reading them regularly. Sign up for their newsletters, buy some of their products and even use some of their services to really understand.
Read Competitors’ Websites
Don’t forget that the competition knows a lot too. The people who are lobbying against your industry or trying to get people to leave your niche are important, because they may have some insight that you don’t have.
Follow Industry Influencers
Identify and follow industry influencers, because they’ll be sharing a lot of information with you that you will need to know. Set up alerts to help you get the information when it’s just about the niche.
Publish What You Learn
As you learn information, write about it; talk about it on a podcast; get interviewed about it. The more you publish in some way via books, blogs, video blogs, podcasts and other methods, the more you can demonstrate and solidify what you know.
The more you can share what you are learning about the niche with your audience, the more people will start seeing you as an SME. What you do with the information you learn as you’re studying your industry, niche, topic and audience, will inform every step you take from here on out.