The Business Opportunities of The New Intermediation

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I’ve been consulting with a company that has a tremendous opportunity to grow through the differentiation of its offering. They stand between a huge pool of unstructured “stuff,” and a business need to make that stuff intuitively useful (even beautiful). This type of creativity is a rare gift.

Many companies and people have lost work due to the internet-driven trend of disintermediation (the removal of no-longer necessary “layers” in the business chain – think about what Amazon has done to entire swaths of the publishing/book-selling business). But there are whole new business models on the other side of that coin – people and companies who can step in between two parties/needs and provide value.

These are The New Intermediaries. And, for an entrepreneur, this is a model ripe with opportunity.

A new intermediary provides value by creatively translating “stuff” into strategic business value. <<–(click to tweet this)

For example – the client I described above specializes in creating intuitive visual design. Now, if you can look into a vast sea of poorly-structured information and create an information design presentation that advances business goals, you have added tremendous value as a specialized intermediary. How many of us have experienced corporate on-boarding that was slipshod and poorly structured/designed?

This business problem needs a specialized intermediary (apologies, in advance, for the Ugly Graphic!):

IntermediaryDesign

The above is one particular expression of a generalized New Intermediation structure, which we can generically portray this way:

Intermediary1

The new intermediary has enough of a foot into the big pool to understand the possibilities and extract the core value (think of an experienced digital marketer who can talk to programming geeks), but also has a foot in the strategic business world and can see the market application (that same marketer discussing potential applications with the CMO). This intermediary is a filter and a translator and an interpreter between two worlds.

What is an on-line curator of information? Exactly – a new intermediary. The internet (and social media) has created an explosion of “stuff,” but also there are tremendous opportunities that come with the enhanced ability to build and cultivate networks. Social networking can be a mechanism to enable business intermediation.

In fact, I launched my Impactiviti business 6+ years ago based on this concept, though I wasn’t really thinking so much about the generalized potential of the model. I create partnerships with the best outsource vendors for training and marketing development (out of a vast pool of providers), and then I “matchmake” my pharma clients with the optimal providers – helping clients more efficiently choose vendors, while helping vendors more efficiently gain targeted business opportunities.

IntermediaryImpactiviti

A major enabler of this business model, from the get-go, was digital technology for networking and communication.

The intermediary has to have solid domain expertise and a trusted reputation to be effective. Bingo – only the top people and companies can do this. And, hey, isn’t that what we want – business growth opportunities for those who have earned differentiation through competence and trust? When I do Clarity Therapy with professionals looking to gain a clear direction for their future, it’s surprising how often we quickly identify a potential opportunity involving new intermediation.

I’ve scribbled down some other applications of this model somewhere in this vast pool that is my desk – I’ll dig it up this week and post a few other suggested ways people can carve out this role for themselves. I’m thinking that a lot of people in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s who have built up a strong base of knowledge and credibility can find themselves a nice niche as new intermediaries and role their own. What do you think?

The En-visioners

Two books that I’ve read lately have renewed my appreciation for an amazing gift possessed by a relatively few number of people.

Of all the abilities we might see in our children and colleagues and friends, this one, if present, ought to be steadfastly fanned into flame.

Steve Jobs (I highly recommend his biography) had it. He could en-vision how things could/should/will be. He had a grasp of ideals, overlaid on the current reality, and the indisputable gift of “seeing” a solution to move from point A to point B.

He was a dreamer-doer.

The amazing geniuses who created our earliest computers (new book: Turing’s Cathedral. Very techie, and very interesting!) understood, conceptually, how such a machine would work. There were massive calculation challenges facing them – many brought on by the need to win a war – and the most remarkable thing for me, reading the account of their efforts, was how firmly they envisioned what the computer would do – and how it would work – before the technology parts and pieces were available. They foresaw it, planned it, invented it – took their vision and theories in hand and brought it to life.

This gift does not require an IQ of 222 (though that certainly won’t hurt!). It’s a way of seeing, and a compulsion to “make it so.”

The en-visioners are our world changers. They may not fit easily into our school-factories, because they are driven by creativity, not conformity. And they don’t just invent objects – we need to encourage our young en-visioneers to create business models, networks, social structures, charitable approaches. We need to give them permission – no, encouragement – to step outside of the status quo. The next Apple, Avon, or Amazon will be the result.

Who are some of the en-visioners you see that are in the process of changing the world? List them in the comments. And, more importantly – who are the 8- and 12- and 15- and 20-year old’s who are right now seeing the future? Let’s nurture these kids and set them loose to make a better and richer future for everyone!

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Zappo’s “heels” the Barefoot Executive

zapposUPDATE: See end of this post for a major news update. The REAL reason why Zappo’s was acquired by Amazon!

In a masterstroke of brand protection, Tony Hsieh of Zappo’s, the Internet’s most famous shoe store, has bought out his main competitor, The Barefoot Executive for an undisclosed sum and a social network to be named later.

“Our shoe sales have been growing like crazy!” stated Hsieh, who measures corporate results via bottom-line profits and top-line Re-tweets. “However, we’ve noticed a disturbing trend among our ‘executive’ customers – a drop-off in sales like nothing we’ve seen before. Market research indicated that Carrie Wilkerson – the Barefoot Executive – was clearly the influence causing many Presidents and CEOs to walk around shoeless. And they’re key influencers – clearly a trend we couldn’t allow to continue. Can you imagine entire companies loaded with barefoot people trying to emulate the boss? Ewwww!”

Calling a company brainstorming meeting on Twitter using the #stopcarrie hashtag, the consensus was reached that no other shoe retailers were, in fact, worthy of competitive mention. Problem #1 was actually the Barefoot Underground – about to get worse with the release of Carrie’s upcoming business/networking/barefoot fashion book – and there was only one method that could be employed to stop this anti-footwear phenomenon.

“We bought her out,” exulted Mr. Hsieh, refusing to go into the financial details except to say that it was in the “high five figures” of pairs of stylish executive shoes over the next 10 years. “Plus, her impending book will now be re-named ‘The Well-Shod Executive,’ and will feature her discussions of the relative merits of heels, pumps, flats, and bling-blingy boots in each chapter.”

Barefoot smA quick bump in shoe sales was already recorded when Carrie, using her famous Hypno-Eyebrow Webcam Method (HEWM), recorded her first video extolling the virtues of wearing the latest fire-engine red spiked heels while blogging from home.

The surprise move may be a portent of a new trend to come. Rumor has it that @themarketingguy, Jay Ehret, is in discussions with a hair-growth company to trade in his bald pate for something more lush. Not to be outdone, Jason Falls was recently spotted pouring his favorite bourbon down the drain while talking earnestly to a marketing rep for Tab cola. Even Twitter founders Ev and Biz, famous for going against the money-making tide, were recently spotted with AOL t-shirts.

Carrie could not be reached for comment, being tended to in a local hospital after twisting her ankle rollerblading with a pair of spiked purple PamelaMartins.

UPDATE: It was announced this week that Zappo’s has been acquired by Amazon. Beneath all the congratulatory blah-blah about synergy and growth, the REAL reason has now emerged (with thanks to @techcrunch for hacking into Zappo’s computer network and unearthing secret files…).

It turns out that the announcement of the Barefoot_Exec acquisition sent the shoe business into a sudden tailspin, as thousands of former customers began returning shoes in order to join the Carrie Cult and go barefoot. The only way to halt the slide, secret documents reveal, was to “be acquired by a major book retailer and seek to quash the release of Carrie’s upcoming book.”

The documents also reveal, in conjunction with Twitter documents already purloined and published, that Twitter has finally decided on a monetization strategy and plans to acquire the new Amazon/Zappos combo, since “this 140-character market is proving blasted hard to make a profit from! Let’s sell some other stuff!”

It is not know if @barefoot_exec will be allowed to tweet on the new Twamazapp platform. Stay tuned to TechCrunch for further details…

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