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On my travels around the web and in real life I get to see and study a lot of small businesses.  I admit that I look specifically for them, I study how they work, what they do, how their customers relate to them and vice versa.  And along the way I take note of the business practices that don’t work and can cost you customers and give you a bad name.  Here’s a couple that I’ve seen recently.

Forcing site visitors to sign up to your newsletter before they can see your site.  Years ago this was touted as a way to build your newsletter list, these days it’s bad practice at best and rude at worst.  The whole point of having a website is so people can see what you’re about, and decide if they want to come back and/or recommend you to their friends.  Make it easy for them and they’ll come back.  Put obstacles in their way and they’ll click off and you’ll never see them again.  Subscribing to a newsletter (or rss) is a choice that people make after looking around and seeing if they like what you’re offering.

Harvesting email addresses from personal or business sites and using them to promote your business.  This is a tricky subject, and it’s about knowing where the line is that your emails become spam.  If you have an email address and you send them a link to your site with “I’m letting you know about this because it may be of interest or useful to you” that’s ok as a one-off email.  However, if you use that email address and add it to your newsletter list so the person has to unsubscribe – that’s spam.  If you send more than one email to a person who has not specifically requested you contact them – that’s spam.  Your email address is likely to be blacklisted, and will result in your emails being trashed as spam before they ever reach your customers.

Ignoring customers at a stall or in a shop.  Standing talking to a friend or on the phone when people are looking at your wares.  I was at a Fair last weekend and there were approximately a dozen small business stalls there, my daughter and I wandered around looking and touching items at all of them.  There was only ONE stall where the person behind the counter came up and spoke to me.  Guess which one I bought something at?

More bad business practices coming up in the next few days!  And if you’d like to add a few that you’ve seen, tell us about it in the comments.