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Sunday, April 03, 2011

A number of months ago I was consulting for a company that had a number of search engine optimization related needs.  With an extremely negative online reputation, this company needed help managing their top ten search results.  In not time at all, we had their search results filled with home grown micro-sites, blogs, and other digital assets.  Even though the reputation was now "clean" the company said, "we can't see any difference in our revenues" and discontinued our arrangement.

The reality is that they company was not very effective at measuring results and couldn't measure the effectiveness of our transformation.  And that got me thinking.  Even if my company were to do all the right things... set expectations, deliver results, and drive revenue for our clients, they could still decide to break off the engagement.  That's not a great position to be in.  So it hit me.  Instead of being the store, I wanted to be the mall.  

The Benefits of a Mall

When you're offering services, it's all on you.  And there's nothing preventing customers from bringing in a return or saying they're unhappy with a product or service you've already provided.  However, when you're the shopping mall, stores are paying you for space and you're no longer in the business of dealing with customers directly.  Of course this doesn't completely free you of all responsibility.  In fact, you want businesses to be successful so they can keep paying your rent.  But if one business fails there's usually another one to take its place.

This is where my recent thinking has brought me.  I decided to convert my latest consulting endeavor, UpwardSEO: SEO Experts, and transform it from a site where users could contract with my business for consulting opportunities, into a marketplace for SEO providers and companies looking for search engine optimization services to come together.  By so doing, I've become the mall and no longer have the challenges associated with the traditional consulting relationship.

The Changing Landscape

Don't get me wrong.  I know that owning the mall has other "issues" and I'm not free of providing value or supporting customers.  However, what I can say is that I won't go through hundreds of hours of consulting for someone to say, "I don't think it's working" or "I'm not sure if we're seeing results from number one rankings."  

Maybe I'm just easily frustrated by whimsical customers or individuals who are not as effective as they should be at managing their online assets.  Regardless, I think there's something to supporting multiple vendors and providing value in the form of an audience that needs their services.

How about you?  Would you rather be the store of the shopping mall?


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