Ah, The Middlemen

I’ve been receiving about three aggressive requests a month to participate in someone’s great program/web site/resource community—you name it. It’s always a “great deal” for me, yet there is never any money up front and I’m immediately to lend my name and brand to their endeavor.

But the “great deal” is so alluring! After all, I’ll get a buck or so every time someone listens to intellectual property of mine. And I’ll receive free DVDs, or CDs, or eight-track cassette recordings. And I get a fifty-cent commission if I send people to their site! Oh, yeah, and then the benefit-cum-insult: I can have my demo DVD redone for free, since mine is unquestionably not as good as their version would be.

I always write back to say “no thanks.” Not everyone understands either “no” or “thanks,” apparently. One guy wrote back to me urging that I reconsider, and dropped names like snowflakes in a bad January storm around here. I had actually done this guy a favor years ago, working at below my rates for sessions he set up for people I felt couldn’t otherwise get to hear me. He made a profit of course, and returned the favor by booking me in the cheapest, filthiest hotels he could find and not bothering to provide any local transportation to the suburban sites he used to save money. Now he comes back to me after years of no communication because he wants something. He was bitterly offended when I told him that I don’t participate in these middlemen gigs, and that he apparently hadn’t even bothered to investigate what I was doing these days. (He offered to help me build a community, and to build my brand. He could get me into varied media.)

He was so appalled that I would refuse him that, besides calling me names and suggesting I needed psychological help, he sent me photos of his home to try to prove that we was doing better than I! I don’t care if he is, but that he’s doing it as a middleman parasitically leaching off others is appalling. And who needs the shrink?

You and I can make a case that a realtor, or an insurance agent, or a financial expert, or a literary agent are learned intermediaries who lend value to potential transactions and enhance the results for buyer and/or seller. But I can’t make that case for brokers, and agents, and assorted other middlemen in consulting. If this is a relationship business, why put someone in the middle of the relationship?

Moreover, why provide your hard-earned brand and repute for someone else to profit from? The allure of quick bucks based on volume (“They will download this a thousand time a day!”) is false 99.99% of the time. The ego of being with other “names” on some site is important only if you perceive you are not of value yourself and believe that osmosis builds business. (In effect, you’re an unlighted ornament on that tree.)

Just because you don’t invest money (“It costs you nothing!” he proclaimed) doesn’t mean you’re not making a major investment. If your value is profound and needed, you should be able to provide it for people directly, or have someone pay YOU as the talent to provide it through them. Up front. In advance.

Resist the middlemen. Ask yourself if they are truly adding value or just trying to siphon off some of yours. I mean, come on, if they had real talent, why would they need you?

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.


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