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This is less about offering advice or profiling a company and more of a mini-rant about an obvious and puzzling mistake made by many small businesses on their websites.

All sites have a "contact" link - or, at least, they should - so people can get more information about products or services after they have discovered your companies exist. The error is using forms that people need to complete but not offering a telephone number or an address.

The consumer has to spend time filling in the various fields, hit "submit," and hope someone responds.

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Here's what wrong with this approach:

  1. It makes the consumer have to work for the information. I describe it as "grit" - something that should be avoided because people want things to be as easy as possible. Any time "work" is thrown in the way, it gives people an opportunity to click off.
  2. Failing to provide a telephone number or address impacts a company's credibility because the consumer cannot be sure there is a real person or business behind the contact information. Instead, there is a generic form that does little to begin building a relationship with a potential customer.
  3. Some consumers don't want to fill out a form, they want to talk to someone. A business has different kinds of consumers who want to interact with them in different ways. Some people are web savvy and more than happy to fill out a form but others are more traditional or want a more personal touch. A business needs to recognize these differences, and serve them in the most appropriate and relevant way.

Some small businesses may not want to publish their address, particularly if they operate a home-based firm. But it makes no sense to deny consumers a phone number. By not providing people with the option, you are basically saying you don't want the business or you don't care about potential customers.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.

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