October 2, 2019

What Does it Mean to Say That Content is the New ‘Middleman’?

Everyone’s trying to get rid of the middleman.

Warby Parker exists to allow people to buy glasses directly from the manufacturer, without having to pay the middleman’s markup.

Lyft removes the middleman that is (was?) the taxi company and allows drivers to effectively work for themselves.

And Bonobos got its start selling pants directly to consumers. No going to the mall. No paying a retailer’s markup. Just click and buy. (Yes, that has changed a little for them recently, but you get the idea…)

The middleman adds cost, slows down the process and introduces inefficiencies.

But is the idea of the middleman truly dead?

Douglas Eldridge from Contentserv had an interesting piece on this recently on CMSWire, in which he pinpointed one of the reasons that direct-to-consumer sales are so hot right now: it allows brands to break free of the old B2C supply chain. They can finally go off and do their own thing.

But not so fast.

Even in the “post-middleman era,” there is a new middleman entering the picture: attention.

Without all of the old B2C infrastructure in place — the catalogs and retail stores that get your products in front of customers, for example — brands today have to come up with new ways to be found, particularly online. It’s not as simple as convincing a buyer to carry your line in their store. You have to actively go out and find potential customers, and appeal to them directly, each and every day.

This is new, and it’s creating new hurdles.

Here’s what Douglas had to say:

“But … there is a middle man. And the middle man is the content. (You could also argue it’s the marketer, but it doesn’t have quite the ring to it). The fact is, whether you are selling B2C, B2B or D2C no one is going to buy your product if they haven’t heard about it. Somewhere along the supply

chain you have to utilize content before you can expect to move your product from point A to point C.  

“Let’s start with B2B. According to the CEB (now part of Gartner), 70% of buyers want to speak with a rep, but only 8% trust the rep they are working with. As a

marketer it’s bred in me to blame sales for every deal not working out. As a realist, I know I’ve worked with some amazing sales people. 

“So why the disconnect? I’d argue that the content the professional consumer is given during the research stage of their buying process might be putting the salesperson at a disadvantage.  

“Point B of the supply chain is content. If it’s not delivered as seamlessly as the product itself, you’re putting yourself at a grave disadvantage. And content for content’s sake doesn’t work. We used to send press releases loaded with keywords then bold those keywords in blog articles. Ten years ago (maybe) that worked. Five years ago, we’d just create a bunch of ebooks and whitepapers (there is a difference, trust me) and put those on the resource page after the initial promotion via email and social media — and that was enough. Now it’s not enough to simply create quality content, you have to make it for the right person at the right part of the sales cycle and be able to put it in front of him or her.” 

Read the full story

He’s right.

Getting found, and getting attention is more important than ever. And the tools at our disposal to make that happen are getting more and more crowded every day.

Go ahead, run a few Google ads to a site and see how effective they are on their own.

It’s on brands today to offer buyers more, not only for their money but for their attention. Distractions are up 1000x. Shiny new stuff is everywhere.

What makes your offer so special?

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