I’ve interviewed hundreds and hundreds of people while doing brand discovery. Some at the absolute top of their fields. Highly impressive people. I’ve worked with members of Bell Labs, software engineers and healthcare system CEOs. People are so interesting if you give them the opportunity. And some bait. But one thing I’ve found when interviewing so-called SMEs (subject matter experts), is that they often answer questions with what I call copy points — dumbed down generalizations about what makes their product or service better. It’s like they are copywriters.
For a recent interview I asked a CEO who sells software to specialty pharmacists about differentiators. Here’s what she said:
“We provide one-on-one specialized services. With us you are not a number, you’re a person. We are more focused on your individual wants and needs.”
Woo. What Am I going to do with that?
So we probe. We ask for examples. We storify and cajole. I did get what I needed but this CEO started out spouting copy.
As smart as SMEs are, they often need to be drilled in more evidentiary explanations of value. SMEs are conditioned by poor marketing claims too. And like the rest of us they have been conditioned all their lives.