Making things easy for the customer
I learned an obvious, yet valuable lesson this weekend about the effects of convenience and simplicity in making a sale.
I travel to Pittsburgh every other month or so. I travel to New York at least 2-3 times a year, and I go through the Harbor Tunnel in Baltimore a ton. And every one of those trips I pass through multiple tolls (6 separate toll booths totaling $19 the 200 miles to Manhattan, and 7 totaling $21 on the way home), and see that EZ-Pass lane allowing traffic to flow smoothy. But every time I'm stuck in the cash line digging for dollars in my car seat. Five or six years ago there was just one lane, then two... now every lane takes EZ-Pass, and there are only 1 or 2 cash lanes. So I kept meaning to get an EZ-Pass, but each time there was an obstacle that kept me from doing it.
First i'd think of it on the road, but completely forgot once I was home and didn't need to pay tolls. Then if I did remember to look on the web, it was usually right before a trip, and I would encounter a PDF file that I had to fill out, mail in, wait 6 weeks and receive an EZ-Pass. That sure wouldn't help me this trip...oh well I'll fill it out later. Then they started allowing online signups... but same deal, plus I saw you had to pay a $3 maintinance fee every year. Sure don't need to do that with cash....oh well. But Finally this weekend, as I was on the Pennsylvania Turnpike ($8 toll from Pittsburgh!) I stopped at a rest station. After playing the handwashing game with those faucets that only stay on for 2 seconds (punch, wash, repeat), I was killing time and noticed an EZ-Pass machine. "Get out of here!" I thought to myself. You can get an EZ Pass from this vending machine? Sure enough, it had a keyboard and let you enter all the info, slide a credit card and out would pop an EZ-Pass. I didn't even think twice. Who cares about the cost? I can have one now and use it on the way home! They could have charged me a $5 convenience fee and I still probably would have bought it.
Lesson Learned? No matter how useful or how much people want your product, if it's not easy, REALLY easy for them to get it, only the really hard core people will go through your hoops to get it. If you require someone to give a page of info just to download a demo, you've probably lost a ton of people. This is how AOL got so many subscribers. While other ISP's required you to "call them" or "buy their kit in the stores", AOL just shipped 50 to every home. It became the default because it was so easy to buy. Keep it simple!