February 24, 2009 at 1:54 pm | blabbing.

With any business you have to decide what the bar or hurdle you are going to make you customer jump over in order to deal with you. You can only take cash or maybe you are only open a few days a week. Maybe they can only call you and you don’t respond to email. If you are a hardware store, people can call you or come down to the store to purchase your wares. If you really have it together maybe they can order stuff over the phone or internet to be delivered. The key is to set this bar as low as possible in order to get the most customers. Sometimes the barrier to setting the bar especially low is to much, and that is why most ice cream stores don’t deliver and why most small retail stores don’t have a web presence. It is simply not practical, or costs to much.

There are a few simple things a business can do to acquire new business or revenue by making some minor changes. The first is to make it simple for customers it already has to expand the products or services that they use. How simple is it for your existing customers to upgrade from a previous version or “Free Trial”. How simple do you make it to add credits to an account or take advantage or promos or specials. Alwasy talk to the customers you already have before spending the money to go and get new ones.

Forms and Fields
The other simple thing businesses can do is to make it super simple for new customers to sign up. How much info does your sign up form require to get users started? At what point will users think that it is to much of a burden? How high is the bar to get started? You don’t really need all that info in the form field do you? Since when is blood type an acceptable form field?

What do you do?
When you are a storefront or retail establishment you initially advertise by making it easy for people to understand what you sell, how much it costs, when you are open etc.. Old store fronts from the turn of the last century can usually give you all this information just by looking at them. “Druckers Dry Good – Surplus, Clothes and Grocery, open Monday through Saturday. The best prices in south county” Not surprisingly these things still apply on the web. This may sound like a simple recipe to follow but it would amaze you how little this simple advice is followed.

How many times have you arrived at a website and thought. “What do you do?” The site can look great and have all the bells and whistles of a Web 2.0 site but if the site still doesn’t tell you what they do and how to proceed it is a failure.

Make it Easy
My most recent example of this is one of my online banks Etrade. I love Etrade. I have multiple accounts with them. My wife and I were recently filling out our tax refund info for our accountant and I wanted to deposit my tax refund right into my joint savings account. You think that this would be easy, but you would be wrong.

Etrade survives by the extent of its deposits so you would think that they would take every opportunity to make it easy for people who already have money there to put more money in. If I were them I would be running lots of little promos on the site about how you can deposit your tax refund right into your Etrade account, but I saw not a one.

In fact it took me a long time to find the Etrade Bank routing number that is needed for all Direct Deposit / Wire transfers and even then I wasn’t sure. I finally found it buried in a PDF. Can you imagine someone who does not spend 10 hours a day on the web trying to find that information on the Etrade website?

What are the bars and hurdles that you put in front of your potential customers?