Perhaps your view of a matchmaker is colored by the yenta from Fiddler on the Roof:
Tzeitel: But Mama, the men she [yenta] finds. The last one was so old and he was bald. He had no hair.
Golde: A poor girl without a dowry can’t be so particular. You want hair, marry a monkey.
Who wants a matchmaker that brings you the dregs? And who would pay for the services of such a yenta?
However, loads of people pay for the matchmaking services of, say, eHarmony, because a service of real value is being offered — sifting through a myriad of potential choices to narrow things down on the basis of compatibility — and then, facilitating the introduction.
Quite a business model. Can it be replicated by an entrepreneur? Yes, it can. Anytime there is inefficiency in the choice-making process, and expertise that can be employed to help two parties “win”, there is an incredibly valuable service. And in times when many great professionals (some of them potential entrepreneurs) are being laid off and hoping to create something of value that won’t be destroyed by the next corporate mis-step, it’s worth considering whether you have the potential to be a business yenta — a matchmaker.
For a case study, I’m going to describe my 3-year old consulting business, which was launched on a network/matchmaking model, servicing a very select and well-defined niche. I share this, not to gain new business on my part, but in order to potentially help others consider how they might launch something similar in their areas of expertise. Also, I happen to know this particular business model in full first-hand reality mode, not in the abstract!
The problem: Vendor selection. Pharmaceutical training & marketing professionals outsource a lot of development and delivery, and a slew of providers service the marketplace (sometimes, clients are getting 20 vendor calls a day!). Many of those in the training depts. are in rotational positions, so not only are they often not career training or marketing professionals per se, but they are hardly there long enough to know 10% of the vendor landscape. Hence, it is difficult to identify and select optimal vendors, and there is a tendency to default to “the devil they know” (an existing vendor that may or may not be good for a specific project), or just make a guess based on a series of pitches. How to find best-in-class vendor partners for short-term and long-term projects?
On the vendor side of the fence, there is also a problem – suppliers have difficulty gaining new clients (remember those 20 calls a day? – they’re just part of the noise), and the cost of sales/new business development is very high. How to get solid, targeted new business without high up-front costs yielding an uncertain return?
The solution: A third party matchmaker. I consult with clients, free of charge, on the whole range of their needs, without having a pre-set sales agenda. Then I identify one or more well-targeted potential vendor/partners, and make recommendations. I get paid a referral fee (by my preferred partners) if, and only if, new business is transacted, and only when they start getting paid by the client.
It’s a TripleWin (maybe I should trademark that?) business model. The client wins through time and effort saved, and costly mistakes avoided; the vendor/partner wins by gaining qualified new business generated without up-front cost of sales; and only then does the matchmaker win. It’s a networking model also – this matchmaking is a person-to-person introduction via a third party who is in a position, by knowledge and experience, to make solid recommendations as to the “fit” between the need and the provider.
Another aspect of the networking advantage is this: my clients also provide ME with THEIR recommendations about the best vendors they have found. Therefore, I am better able to serve the community by using the network to sift out the wheat from the chaff, and I can continually discover new suppliers that have a track record of being good “matches” through proven performance. And, needless to say, the network and recommendation processes subtly enforces great customer service – if you’ve been recommended as a provider to a client and then mess it up….what do you think are the consequences?
Now, step back from the particulars of what I’ve described for my little niche, and think about your own area of business. Are there inefficiencies that can be solved? Are there connections that you can help make? Are you in a position to help two other parties win, so that everyone is profoundly happy that you are there making things happen? Then maybe you ought to consider a high-value, low overhead, entrepreneurial business as a matchmaker. How would you see the yenta model working in other industries and business settings? Feel free to discuss in the Comments!
A lot of folks are settling for hairy monkeys, or frogs. If you know how to bring princes, you can become a very valuable partner. Let’s face it; there’s isn’t a lot of job security out there anymore – xcept for those who provide unique and valuable services! A trustworthy, smart, networked “matchmaker” can carve out a very secure career by making the pie bigger for everyone.
[this post is actually, in a sense, part 3 of a series on Social Media, Networked Business, and Matchmaking - part 1 and part 2 on the StickyFigure blog provide some backdrop]