Travel agents… gone.
Stock brokers… gone.
Real estate brokers… in trouble. Photographer’s agents, too.
The problem with being a helpful, efficient but largely anonymous middleman is pretty obvious. Someone can come along who is cheaper, faster and more efficient. And that someone might be the customer aided by a computer.
In the 19th century steam power replaced muscle. The entire world changed. Godin, as usual, is up in the crow’s nest seeing what is out in front of us. And while Heinlein said that “Specialization is for insects“, I agree with Godin that the future does indeed belong to the insect. Or, rather, the entrepreneur with an idea that is specific enough that it still requires expert knowledge, experience, or pure talent to execute.
He also writes that evolving from middleman to frontman means saying “No”.
To thrive in a world of self-service, agents have to hyperspecialize, have to stand for something, have to have the guts to say no far more than they say yes. No, you can’t publish this book. No I won’t represent you. No, don’t take that flight. No, I won’t sell this house, it’s overpriced, list it yourself.
In a world where pretty much anything can be done by anyone willing to put in the effort instead of having to pay someone else agents need to be far more than simply representatives. Mack Collier touched on this subject a while back in his post, “Do You Know the Social Media ‘Rules’” I would submit that the role of the expert consultant and that of the agent are going to continue to overlap and converge until they are indistinguishable.
“Today, companies and individuals are rushing to this space, and it’s exciting to see. And as people discover this space, they are looking for people to give them guidance. Which is often where the trouble starts, because it’s where people start hearing about social media’s ‘rules’. They start hearing about the ‘right’ way to blog, or the ‘correct’ way to use Twitter.“
This is what Agents did in the past, one might even call it the pre-industrial model, when gatekeepers controlled access to markets for buyers and sellers. Today the marketspace is open to (nearly) all via the marvelous tubes of the internet.
- Publish your own letter to the editor, or the CEO. They will probably see it.
- Sell your home-made crafts, not to your neighbors, anywhere in the world.
- Record an album and give it away. Or ask for donations.
What role do the agents play in this, a DIY Marketspace? The agents of the future will be able to tell you the ‘right way’ for you to blog, or the ‘correct way’ for you to use Twitter. Today some are calling them (or decrying them as) ‘Social Marketing Experts’ – perhaps tomorrow the non-charlatans will be known as niche-agents…
What say you? Leave a comment.