Intermediation Biz Opportunity: Curation

In this introductory post, I opened up the idea of potential business opportunities that exist by thinking of The New Intermediation.

Briefly, we need to see that there are huge needs at the intersection of loads of “stuff,” which need to be translated into strategic business directions and deliverables. Graphically pictured:

Intermediary1

Now, let’s consider one of those new intermediation roles: Curation.

In this case, the Big Pool is information. We live in an age of information overload (getting exponentially worse), and no-one in an important business role has the time to keep up with it; let alone know how to filter, process, and assemble it into a strategic roadmap.

Enter the curator. Filter, process, assemble, deliver/present.

IntermediationCurator

In the early days of social media and blogging, first-movers got into the curation business by assembling information resources and making money by advertising, or by selling subscriptions. Nowadays, there’s a ton of on-line noise (including information-assemblers), but there are still many opportunities to add value by curating targeted business information for an audience that needs it, and is willing to pay for it.

A curator may make money directly by selling the information, or, by selling some other valued service that becomes known because a free (or low-cost) curation service drives awareness and credibility. This latter approach is one I followed in establishing my pharmaceutical consulting practice.

In ancient times, Reader’s Digest was an example of curation. In more recent days, Marketing Profs is a great example of an on-line version. But this role can also be adopted by a solopreneur with deep domain knowledge and experience. If you know where to find things in the deep pool, AND you are aware of the related business intelligence needs, you can become a valued intermediary. Opportunity knocks!

What are some other examples of curation intermediaries (people or businesses) that you know of or rely on?

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 Network Growth that Truly Matters

We who are active on social network like to measure our growth by followers, subscribers, page views, and other numerical metrics.

These things have their place, of course. But ultimately, they’re quite self-referential. I’d like to encourage us to notice some other, more important growth.

Let’s pay attention to the people we’re connected to as THEY grow <<–(click to tweet this) in stature, in skills, and in new endeavors.

ID-10024306

Mack Collier was once (just) a blogger. Now he is a budding author, a more in-demand speaker, a Twitter chat host, and someone who has made slow and steady progress for years. Have you noticed? Isn’t this great?

Over the past year, I’ve seen Tim McDonald grow in stature as he finds a new niche in community management (now working with HuffPost Live). He’s hustling. He’s making the most of his opportunity (and I think he’s on his honeymoon right now, in fact – congrats, Tim!).

Tom Martin was known by a limited (but appreciative) audience as a smart New Orleans-based blogger who did creative digital stuff. Now he’s finding his voice as a thought leader in digital marketing. 2013 will see his star rising even further.

Who hasn’t been thrilled to see the growing influence of Angela Maiers in the educational space? She’s paid her dues and influenced many. Speaking of midwest beauties, when I first encountered Carol Roth a few years ago, she had a great track record in business but little exposure in a broad sense. Now she’s grown into a published author, commentator, and rising star on TV news broadcasts. She even has her own action figure (long story…).

Jessica Northey, Chris Westfall, Lou Imbriano, Susan Cain, Michael Hyatt – all conquering new ground, growing their influence by doing good work and providing value (not by buying Twitter followers – the network growth that means nothing).

When our friends grow, that’s what really matters. Take a few minutes away from your subscriber numbers and pat some folks on the back who deserve it.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 Books for Business-Starters

I’m about to hand over a book to someone I’m coaching on his career direction. This made me think: if someone was considering starting their own business, what books would I recommend as “required reading” before taking the plunge?

Here’s a handful:

BooksPurple Cow, by Seth GodinDifferentiate, or don’t bother

Enchantment, by Guy Kawasaki - Develop yourself and your people skills above all

The Entrepreneur Equation, by Carol RothDelineate how your idea will actually turn into a successful business

Amazing Things Will Happen, by C.C. ChapmanDream and then do

The $100 Startup, by Chris GuillebeauDon’t wait: opportunity surrounds you.

Each of these books is practical, straightforward, and approachable. In combination, they provide an excellent mix of the idealism and realism that are both required for entrepreneurs.

>>Your turn – what would be on your recommended reading list for new entrepreneurs?

(note: links to book titles above are Amazon affiliate links – which means if you buy from Amazon through following this link, I might earn a few shekels!)

The Clarity of FedEx

FedEx planeThe World On Time.

Those four words summarize the FedEx marketing message. And, it’s brilliant.

What do I care about if I’m going to use a package shipping/delivery service? Reach and speed. Reliability. The heft to get it done fast and consistently. FedEx says they’ll get it anywhere (the world), and I can count on it (on time).

That’s what I care about if I’m an individual, a corporate professional, or a supply chain director.

The World On Time.

Contrast this with UPS’s misguided efforts to sell common people on the concept of “Logistics”, their phrase “Synchronizing the world of commerce” painted on trucks, and the sad effort to personalize a color (“What can Brown do for you?”).

That kind of marketing message is too much effort, trying to educate an entire marketplace with abstractions. Leave logistics to the supply-chain, operations-level people.

The World On Time is all I need to know. That’s the power of a clear, succinct, on-target message.

That’s clarity.

BE CLEAR: Drop the Buzzwords

Do you want your customers to be dazed and confused? All you have to do is cloak your message in a blizzard of buzzwords.

Obviously, I don’t recommend that. We all want to reside in the memory box of our (potential) clients. More words = more fog.

Instead, use simple, clear words.

See what I mean in this one-minute video:


It’s always tempting to adopt the impressive-sounding biz language that buzzes around us like a pack of mosquitoes. Swat them away and use clarity of speech if you want to have a memorable impact!

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Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> BE CLEAR: Narrowing Your Focus

In Six Words, Some of the Best Business Advice Ever

I don’t remember who said it to me first, many years ago, but the advice has always stuck with me:

Not all business is good business.

What does this mean? Simply this: there is business you can take on that will likely hurt, not help you.

We are all tempted to take on certain clients and projects because of one overriding factor: Revenue. I’d like to suggest that you make each of those decisions based on a different factor: Purpose.

Here are examples of business that may NOT be good business:

  • Taking on a project with a client who is hard-nosed, and/or cheap, and/or indecisive. There is such a thing as a bad client. Avoid – let some less wise competitor suffer.
  • Taking on a project that has very poor definition, and in which you cannot seem to get more information. This will become a moving target of scope creep that will frustrate you for months on end – guaranteed.
  • Taking on a project that is a good bit out of your sweet spot, with an existing client. Don’t endanger the relationship with a high-risk-of-failure attempt to keep all the client’s dollars to yourself. Short-term gain often equals long-term loss.
  • Taking on a project or client that moves your company and its resources into a direction that you really don’t need to pursue. Rabbit trails waylay any kind of focused growth and dilute your message.
  • Taking on a project or client despite warning bells of good judgment and conscience. Don’t let dollars delude you into ignoring your better instincts.
  • Trying to compete in an area where you are just one of many potential suppliers, and your offering cannot rise above a commodity level. Find a more narrow niche that you can dominate.

Over and over again, as I’ve counseled small business owners and consultants, I’ve heard the tales of woe that result from pursuing or taking on not-good business. The best way to avoid this trap: have a clearly-defined purpose and highly-focused offering (including the clients you wish to pursue) so that you have a solid basis on which to say no. Otherwise, you’ll dilute your efforts by chasing (ultimately) unprofitable revenue. And that’s a game at which nobody can win.

What would you add to the list? Put your lessons in the comments!

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Do you need a clearer purpose and message? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Following Your Passion: A Story

>> Using Words to Say Nothing

Business Love

Who ever created the dividing love between the business and the personal?

I get it, of course – the two realms aren’t the same – but I’m not sure we can completely maintain hard and fast distinctions on every level.

Because in our families, our communities, our companies, and everywhere else in the world, we’re rubbing shoulders with…people.

If people in the business realm exist to be used – if they are a means to profitable ends – then, of course, we can limit our caring. And, let’s face it – we work and do business to make money. When I network and present and consult and write and connect others, long-term and short-term business goals and strategies are woven throughout all of it. I’m not in the least embarrassed to admit it. Ultimately, whatever else I may earn in the business realm, I have to earn revenue primarily.

Or, to put it another way, it’s not about the Klout – it’s about the Ka-ching.

But this other, more personal drive keeps weaving itself in, dis-allowing me to treat people as business objects. And I see this drive in many others as well. When we interact face-to-face, there is a caring that goes beyond some anticipated short-term revenue gain.

It’s that pesky, inconvenient, hard-to-suppress, human, real, and amazing thing called love. You know – caring about others on a personal level that goes beyond today’s subscriber numbers and tomorrow’s paycheck.

I’m not talking about the whirl of romantic emotions or the carnal pleasure-seeking of one-night stands, or mere emotional sentimentalism. Love is an instinct to care about others – never fully pure, of course, but there nonetheless. Something we’re taught to suppress in that realm called “work”.

In the midst of our transition from a nation of farms and smaller businesses to the depersonalized landscape of huge companies where people are cogs in a great machine, we have tended to lose the connection of love and business. We’ve drawn a line between the realms, perhaps because it is so easy to be hurt in the world where getting ahead and winning are Job 1.

But now we are re-entering an era of entrepreneurship, where, as Mike Henry, Sr. put it in a phone call yesterday with Lisa Petrilli and me, we each have a factory on our desks. And lo and behold, love seems to be sneaking back into business.

Because we are what we always were – people. Maybe the machine robbed us of something important in our work. Maybe some of this dehumanization was a defense mechanism that we can and should outgrow.

Maybe – just maybe – love and business can be woven together.

I don’t fully understand how it all works, but I’m determined to explore it. Who’s with me?

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Breaking Free of Powerpoint

>> Trend Currents in Social Media

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Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

The 90-Minute e-book

This was one of those mornings where I issued myself a weird creative challenge.

“Take the primary business lessons you’ve learned and turn them into a brief e-book. You have 90 minutes.”

Ninety minutes to distill years of experience and thought.

As you might expect, it’s rough around the edges. But hopefully these seven lessons learned (painfully) may be guideposts to spare you some wasted effort and professional discouragement.

Or not. You’ve undoubtedly learned a few nuggets along the way – what would you add?

It’ll only take you a few minutes to read. Maybe a bit longer to digest and apply!

Seven Profound Business Lessons (that you want to know sooner rather than later!)

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Twitter: @swoodruff

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A Really Dumb Question

For years, I’ve been wondering.

Why don’t marketers get together with trucking companies and place advertising on those huge rolling billboards called trucks?

Most 18-wheelers have nothing but boring trucking company logos, or nothing at all. But talk about exposure to eyeballs, 24/7!

If Sealy can do such an effective job on their own trucks, why can’t other trucks be transformed into eye-catching billboards?

Prior related post: How to Waste 100,00 Billboards (my very first StickyFigure post!)

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Turning Points: How I became a Consultant

It was on I-80 Eastbound. On the way home from a little father-son getaway with my fourth at the Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos. After a day of water-sliding, a professional epiphany at 60 miles per hour.

For 9 1/2 years, I’d worked with a small company doing sales/marketing/biz dev in the pharmaceutical training field. Enjoyed it, saw the company grow, but came to recognize that I had fundamentally different perspectives than the owner on many business approaches. Though we got along in a pretty transparent relationship, there was the constant sense that we were pulling in different directions.

Suddenly, driving home through the Poconos, it came to me. I wasn’t going to change. He wasn’t going to change. It was time to go our separate ways. If I was going to fulfill my professional desires and drives, and add maximum value, I had to “create it myself,” and not vainly hope that someone else would conform their business to my ideals, or custom-create the perfect position for me.

And what I had found I enjoyed most, over the years, was not selling. It was consulting. This, after almost 20 years in sales! But now, I was finally ready. I had the knowledge, the desire, the network, and ability to market. Gradually, a niche business consulting approach emerged in my thinking.

Giving what amounted to 7 months notice, we de-commissioned my role in the company, and after 10 years, I launched out as a consultant providing training strategy and expertise, as well as a unique vendor-client “matchmaking” service. I long believed that the best chance for business success is by defining, creating and occupying a unique space, and this was my chance.

The first year was hard. After 9 months, I began really questioning whether this thing was ever going to get “wheels up.” But then business steadily picked up, and now, I am dependent only on pleasing my clients, not on fulfilling someone else’s agenda. Wonderfully liberating.

How about you? Where was your professional “turning point” that started you on your course? Write it up on your blog and share the story!

(Image credit)

(this post was inspired by Director Tom (Tom Clifford), who did a Twitter post about writing up the 7 minutes that changed his life in the direction of becoming a filmmaker [once his post is up, I'll link to it]. Tom suggested a series called Turning Points – so, here we are! Readers are encouraged to write up their own, and I’ll link to any that participate!)

Here is CK’s take on her career…

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Revenge or Recourse?

Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord.

I’m not a big fan of taking personal revenge – I figure that an all-knowing, sovereign, and just God is perfectly capable of dispensing due vengeance, and therefore I am free to move on without a need to “hurt ‘em back.”

Recourse, however, is something different. Recourse can be defined as, “the act of turning to someone or something for assistance, especially in obtaining redress,” and those of us who believe in social media also see that it is a powerful tool for recourse when we are wronged.

Companies are (or should be!) very sensitive to their reputation in the marketplace. Any good or bad actions that can impact a reputation are now exponentially magnified by those of us who share our experiences in a networked world. Sometimes, our only recourse is to expose the bad business experiences that we have in order to obtain redress, or to shame others into giving up their suicidal business practices.

And so, not as a matter of revenge, but rather of recourse, here is an experience we have had over the past year with a healthcare provider (hospital). I wrote this up on my Impactiviti blog, but it is relevant here on my marketing blog as well, because it is all about brand reputation and customer service. How to Fracture your Reputation – may it serve as a signpost for others not to be stupid or indifferent!

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Your Marketing is Already Outsourced

Congratulations! As a business professional, you’ve outsourced a growing proportion of your marketing.

Whether you decided to or not.

Time was, companies could control their marketing messages to a large extent. They could craft their brand image and messages and pro-actively distribute that marketing to their target audience. Sure, word-of-mouth was always powerful in the shaping of a brand’s reputation in the marketplace, but the magnifying effect of conversation – “outsourced” marketing, if you will – was still limited.

No more. The trend is clear – the explosion of social media means that people-to-people conversations have a rapidly growing influence compared to traditional marketing/advertising. These “outsourced” conversations (esp. facilitated through on-line platforms) will increasingly impact a company’s reputation, for good or for ill (you’ll forgive the awful graphic below: I’m a thinker and writer, not a designer!)

Just yesterday, I noticed on Twitter that there was a graphic depicting the words “Delta Skelter.” It did not look good! My immediate impression – somebody is NOT HAPPY with Delta airlines. A quick Google search unveiled this. And now, this message about Delta is rattling around in my brain and my emotions, potentially impacting that company’s reputation. And, although I have not had that same experience with Delta, now I’m mentioning it on my blog as well, as a case study. Messaging, magnified.

The point is: outsourced conversations are already happening, and they now have exponential impact. It’s no longer one neighbor grousing (or praising) to 5 others. It’s people reinforcing or undermining your brand at lightning speed, potentially impacting thousands. Scary.

The market will decide your reputation and your brand value. Therefore, you’d better deliver! And, since the outsourcing decision has already been made, it’s time to join the conversation.

Hat tip: Chris Kieff for inspiring this rant.

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Top 5 things to do while stranded at the airport

It happens to all of us, of course. “Due to Air Traffic Control delays at your destination, your flight is going to be (significantly late / canceled / diverted to Duluth, MN / dangled tantalizingly in front of you for the next 5 hours, then postponed until tomorrow morning…)” – you know the drill.

And here I am, typing away in the airport, while hundreds around me board planes that actually seem to intend to get airborne. So what do you do, when the work is wrapped up, and idle time stretches interminably ahead?

Here are 5 ways to entertain yourself when your status on the video monitor is “terminal”:

cinnabon.jpg1. Stand in front of the Cinnabon outlet and breathe deeply. Ten times. Then call your spouse and boast about how you have successfully resisted excruciating temptation.

2. Let your eyes wander over all those self-help book titles in the little news and book store, snort quietly, and tell yourself that you could easily write one of those and make a fortune. Resign yourself to the fact that you’re in the wrong business, but hey, if only you could do it over again…
janitor.jpg

3. Wander up and down the terminal hallway and look for that junior high crush you always hoped you’d see again. You won’t. But you’ve just productively burned off 10 unproductive minutes, and you will see someone that looks like your high school janitor.

4. Envy all the Tumi luggage you see being wheeled about by smug and successful looking business persons. Stride on over to the airport luggage store, let your jaw drop in amazement at the prices all those spoiled prima donnas have paid for their designer baggage, and stalk out feeling downright superior that your middle-of-the-road thingie from Samsonite proves that you understand value over style, thank you very much.

be-a-tiger.jpg5. Stare at those ubiquitous Accenture/Tiger Woods posters, feel the impact of the inevitable ego hit, then do a self-affirmation that, while you’re not going to be a tiger, you might at least be a pretty decent sort of housecat.

You’ve prowled the claustrophobic halls of transfrustration. What time-killing activities would you add in the Comments?

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