Marketplace Rep: Creator or Commodity?

Posted on April 4, 2011

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What do people think and how do people speak of you and your company when you are not around?

A reputation in the marketplace is a hard thing to shape. Much like trust, it takes a career of consistency to build and one mistake to destroy. One short-sighted company decision, like a hire-and-fire event, and a firm can be branded by colleagues in all the wrong ways.

In a recent article in Architect, the following statement was made:

“The fork in the road that is coming into clearer focus reveals an increasing scale of organizations providing commodity service and delivery on one hand, and on the other a class of practices driven by the production of knowledge and content.”

The message here seems to be:  develop original knowledge useful to your clients or be classified as a commodity. The market confirms clients pay a premium for value, and price shop commodities.

We know what a commodity is. So, for those set on the alternative, being ‘creators’, what does this knowledge and content look and feel like?  Is it being a regular conference speaker—is that creation?  Is it physical:  writing a book or publishing articles?  Is it always having a handy best practice to relate whenever you meet with your client? Is it having a million Twitter followers, a snazzy website, or a successful blog?  What is valuable knowledge and content from the client’s perspective—and how does it work to advance your reputation?

I have my own ideas. I feel it is not as simple as creating knowledge; the proper framework for acceptance of knowledge must also be created. To me, this includes at least three things:

  1. Integrity – ethical action on what was promised.
  2. Quality – providing the most accurate, complete and unbiased content.
  3. Customer Service – being responsive to the client.

With these three things provided, knowledge is more likely to be accepted by the client with a positive impact. And yet, a creator must recognize not everyone is a potential client. Therefore, the knowledge created is not to be foisted on everyone; some judgment and selectivity is in order.

Somehow the modern expert must craft a reputation on knowledge, performance and the intangibles—not all of which can be reliably conveyed through social media, nor should they. Even a 21st century reputation is only partially built on social media. We are left to figure out what is valuable knowledge creation as defined by a potential client, and just as importantly, will that knowledge create a buyer? It is easy to know what not to do to avoid the road to commodity, yet still so much of a struggle to figure out, definitively, what to do on the information superhighway as a knowledge creator.

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