The death of the gatekeeper?
It’s not a great time to be a “gate keeper.”
Real estate agents. Travel agents. Book publishers. Music and electronics retailers. Web developers. The Classified Advertising manager at the newspaper.
These guys were formerly gatekeepers to a product or service you needed, and the only way to get to it was through them. They were the only game in town. You wanted to play, you had to pay.
“Cutting out the middleman” used to be an old advertising saw to make a low price believable. Today, it’s an accepted way of doing business. The Internet and instant availability of cloud-based technology has thinned the herd significantly. Less and less do we need the guy in the middle who was merely a broker and added no real value to the transaction.
As endangered as gatekeepers are, they are by no means extinct. Today there are still some real estate agents who are having their best years. Last we checked, high-end web people are also doing quite well. And anyone who thinks the music retailer is dead has never paid a visit to Amoeba Records.
How do they do it? The simple answer is by adding value. A few years ago, Stohl Research Group released a study that showed only 27% of purchasers across all categories named “Price” as the dominant factor when choosing where to buy. So taking the POV that “If our customers can find a lower price elsewhere, they’ll take a walk,” you’re walking through life with self-defeating blinders on.
Price is important. But it is not the total of the story you’re creating for your customer. Performance, reliability, peace of mind, support, selection, personal contact, follow-through all help form the story of your brand in your customers’ minds. The key is to view your number one purpose not to sell stuff, but to understand the consumer and be a resource and empower them to make a satisfying decision they’ll feel good about. Every transaction provides the opportunity to create a “branded experience”—one that is not only satisfying to your customer, but is also not replicated by any other competitor.
In his book “Outliers,” Malcom Gladwell tells the story of a Realtor in New York state who is among the most successful in the country. He doesn’t win sales by holding open houses or circulating glossy brochures to a large mailing list. He does it by being buyers’ “portal to the neighborhood,” introducing prospective buyers to the community and making them feel at home—before they’ve ever been shown a house.
Today’s technology tools are time-saving marvels. And, yes, you can book the entirety of your Italian vacation online yourself. But also know you could go through the travel consultant who visits Florence every year and can point you to the gems that will make your Tuscan holiday memorable.
There is a market out there for both.
Posted by Mickey
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