8/5/2020 – Reading time: 6 minutes
40 meters from us stood a beach kiosk that rented surfboards.
Efren: We could try paddle surfing? Looks easy.
Edo: Yes, sure. Never tried it either. Let’s ask the guy how it works.
While approaching the kiosk, there is a big sign with the price: 1110 Escudos/hour (10EUR). A voice in my head says, “OK, that’s clear, no need to ask for the price.”
(This seller removed one doubt with this handmade sign).
The guy is welcoming us with a smile, saying “Ola amigos”.
Efren: Hey, can we rent one paddle surfboard – to see if we like it? If we like it, we’ll come for another one.
Guy: Sure. So, as you are beginners I will give you this one.
He takes out the bigger board, which is easier to handle passes us the paddle, as he starts carrying the board to the water.
(Let’s stop here for a moment. See how this guy is skilled. He heard us saying that we want to try it first, so he understood that we are beginners and he chooses the easiest board for us without making our life complicated telling us about 30 more boards).
Efren: Hey, do we need to pay upfront, do you need any documents?
Guy: No (with an even bigger smile, even though he could add friction by asking us to leave our passport or to pay upfront, or to sign a big boring paper).
Efren is already in the water, climbing on the board, while I am taking a photo of him and waiting for my turn.
It took us only 6 minutes from wondering if we would try something new to climbing on it.
This guy didn’t create any friction to rent his board. He made it so easy for us.
We only had to walk to the water and climb on it. Beautiful.
Usually trying something new makes us think more about it – making it so easy helps.
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What is “removing friction in marketing”?
Friction is all the obstacles we face while reaching the final goal.
That final goal can be renting the paddleboard, buying a dress at your shop, downloading pdf from your site, or any other interaction between your client and your business. For example, if we need to cross 10 steps to download a simple PDF from your website, then we might just quit on the 4th step.
If we remove obstacles, people like it, then they buy from you. They even become your fans.
People like it easy. For most of the products once they learn the easy way, they never come back.
In the past, you had to put on your jacket, wear your shoes, go out, walk to the video rental shop, choose the movie, wait in line, rent the movie, go home, watch it, rewind the tape, and go back the next day to return and to pay for it.
Today, you click on the Netflix icon, then you click on the movie. It starts. No friction.
Even my friend who was the ultimate torrent pirate uses Netflix. When I asked him the reason, he would say, “It’s just too easy”.
Tomorrow, when you build your shop, your service, or your website, how can you optimize it so people say, “It’s just so easy?”
For example, one common mistake that causes friction when people pay for a product online is a long form with many unnecessary questions.
Instead of asking your clients to fill 12 fields in order to make a payment, just ask for an email and the credit card and only ask them for more details at a later time (give them the option to fill this when they have more time).
After an easy payment if they would like an invoice, they can then fill in their data.
Friction of discomfort
Would you prefer to go to a dentist who will fix your tooth on the same day, or to go to another dentist who will make you return 3 times for the same tooth?
A frictionless experience is when we sit at an available table at the cafe and say, “Coffee please”.
On the other hand, friction is when you walk toward the disco, with the huge Hulk-like bouncer standing in front of the doors, who may or may not let you in. If you are let in, then you have to negotiate the first set of dark doors, then the second set of dark doors, and you don’t have any idea what is happening inside.
Clear communication and open doors remove friction. Borders between countries are the friction that makes the world suffer.
The unknown is friction, and it causes discomfort.
Ema is taking an online exam and she has only 12 seconds left to submit her work, the deadline is ticking but she can’t find the “Submit” button. Her whole year of schooling could depend on this one little button. This search for a button is called friction, and it causes discomfort. It can be solved with better design (placing a better button in a more obvious place).
While applying for a visa online, the website tries to charge us extra fees. We know that there is a way to skip this step with fees, but they intentionally hide that option, so we get confused. This type of communication and design is called ugly friction, or in tech speak: dark UI pattern. This time you can’t even go to your competition, because it’s a state-owned website that makes you suffer. Please don’t do this.
Action of removing friction can be applied everywhere, even to optimize physical spaces. In Sende Portugal, we are designing a simple frictionless kitchen where you only need 1 step to reach a kitchen object, instead of 3 steps. The blog about this is coming soon.
Bureaucracy is a form of friction, familiar to all of us. What we could do online in one click, they make us bring 10 papers, to receive the 11th paper. It makes us furious.
That’s how your clients feel when you implement obstacles that often make sense only to you, but not for others.
“Fixing bureocracy” is great place to look for business ideas. If you help someone to get one official paper in 2 clicks instead of going to some institution to fill 5 forms, you will win.
Estonia branded their country with an e-residency system which allowed anyone in the world to open a company online in their country. You could even get any important document you needed in just a few clicks, which put the bureaucracies of our countries to shame.
Naturally, this made global headlines. This is good marketing.
How to remove friction
First of all, analyze your competition. Do they have fewer steps in their process? If they can do it, you can too.
Ask yourself, “If my client could get to my product in half the number of steps than they do now, what would it look like?”
Have you achieved the smallest number of steps required for your client to enjoy your product or service?
Remove doubts with answers on the most pressing questions that are buzzing in the head of your client. You can do this with copywriting (maybe in FAQ section on website), or in front of your shop and with design – like the clear price for renting paddleboards.
You should make the decisions instead of your client.
Many people have a difficult time making decisions. If you know your clients well, you can do it for them, for example:
The paddleboard seller overheard that we were beginners, and he picked a board for us.
If you go every morning to your favorite café for breakfast, and for 10 mornings in a row you order the exact same thing, then on the 11th morning the waiter may “risk” bringing you your breakfast instead of asking you what you want (just to make you smile). This is a brilliant example of frictionless service, because you get what you want, without having to even call a waiter.
The more we know our customers, the more we can risk to offer them what they want.
To sum up:
Frictions are obstacles. People don’t like obstacles (except in these cases). Our job is to recognize them and remove them. The easiest way to remove them is to know our clients. To know them better we should observe how they behave on our site (our space): is everything clear, what they are whispering to their friends while buying your product, etc
Find out and answer their questions for them even before they start whispering.
Can you list 20 interactions in your company? Try to simplify them during the next month. Measure the impact.
I am emailing more of these articles
When you click “OK” you regularly get articles this and at least one of them will make you say, “Thank you Edo, this opened my eyes?” Because the same happened to me when I discovered all these concepts.
At least one of these texts can inspire you to completely transform your business, whether you’re running a company, a non-profit campaign, or just starting your own small business.
Some text may inspire you to start your own project. I believe that social businesses can completely transform the lives of families, neighbourhoods and countries.
I will share what my desk looks like with each “To Do” step I follow to launch my next small social business (such text will only go through email, but not publicly). You will be able to zoom in and see how I do it, and of course, take each step and apply it.
We will also plant a tree on your behalf in exchange for your email or if you share this text. We plant trees in burned forests in Spain and Portugal (read more here. We plant 3 times a year. And instead of paying Google clicks to read this, you share, and we pay for seedlings and tree seeds.
Maybe I’ll invite you to come to Sende to one of the coworking and coliving spaces. They are located in one Spanish and one Portuguese village. Sometimes I will charge for your stay and sometimes it will be free because we design a lot of programs for you to participate in, using the tips from these texts.
Basically, all I share here are my notes from my notebooks and from computers and from travel, and every text at least to me is pure gold because these tips have helped me or someone I know. And you get it all over the mail, for a joke.
and plant a tree