Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Barrier Removal" Marketing Strategy

"Barrier Removal" is a tactic I've used to great effect many times in strategic situations where customers don't seem to be behaving the way companies want them to. In many cases, to a customer, there are hurdles galore when getting information or making a purchase. To companies, these barriers may not be at all apparent.

Barriers can be physical, rational or emotional. Physical barriers might include:
  • Long load times on a web page
  • Credit disapprovals at a car dealership
  • Small type size in an ad
  • Long distances to a dealership

Rational barriers might include:

  • Higher prices than competitors
  • Feature sets mismatched to needs
  • Confusing steps to buy

Emotonal barriers might include:

  • Fear of the unknown
  • The brand doesn't match my identity
  • Distrust of the product / brand

When a marketer adds up all the barriers, you get something similar to a Markov chain. Each barrier can be thought of as "erected" or "non-erected." A non-erect barrier means the probability of a customer passing through that barrier is 1--because the barrier doesn't exist. But an erect barrier will cause some fall-out, and will effect all downstream barriers, too.

Doing a buying analysis based on barriers can be a powerful tool. One gets the sense that a company like Apple has done them in their retail stores, but maybe not for their B2B business. Looking at an Apple store, there are very few barriers.


  • Everything is in stock
  • The stores are close to target populations
  • There are products available for demo all the time


  • Prices are clear and intuitive
  • Features meet consumers' needs
  • Buying is simple--just talk to an associate and you walk out with your mac / ipod.


  • The store is appealing and comforting
  • The brand is trusted

However, when you look at B2B, there are barriers galore.


  • Where does one go to get Mac for business? The store? A distributor?
  • What if my battery runs out? Why are the batteries internal? (some insulting me emotion here.)


  • Apple doesn't work seemlessly with Office. Or does it (some confusion mixed in here.)
  • Apple doesn't make servers.
  • There isn't enough business software available for Apple.


  • I've never thought of the Apple brand as being built for businesses.
  • Apple spends all its time marketing iPods.

Anyway, it's a simple example for illustrative purposes. But I love doing these barrier / hurdle projects. Maybe I'll do another post on the simple math... which gets to the upside business case of barrier removal.

1 comment:

Wholesale Buyers said...

Great post. It can be amazing to observe the amount of money that some organizations spend to get a customer to make a purchase only to then drop the ball by putting their new customers through an arduous sales process.