Bitcoin is a cool technology with a lot of die-hard fans trumpeting its potential to revolutionize how we think about and use money. There seems little doubt that in ten years the world’s financial systems will be dramatically different than they are now. The world is set to go through another one of those paradigm shifts that will completely change everything.
At the moment, though, for the vast majority of people, if they’ve even heard of it, Bitcoin is a mystery. They don’t know how to buy it, how to spend it, or how to keep it safe. And, to make matters worse, most pundits, when they do talk about Bitcoin, feel it is necessary to mention that it can be used to buy drugs or launder money in the same breath, ignoring the fact that most of those activities happen with the same kind of money they have in their wallets. This keeps people away.
When Bitcoin really takes off, it will not be because it can make people rich from speculation. It has done that already and will certainly do it again, but Bitcoin’s real success is going to come on the back of widespread adoption. That adoption is going to come about because people realize how useful it is in their personal lives. Email didn’t catch on because it was a cool technology, but because it is easier, quicker, and cheaper than sending things by post.
Some of the uses of Bitcoin:
- A currency
- A commodity
- A way to ship money across national boundaries in any amount at any time for next to nothing
- A way to permanently record information (certify documents) without the need for a notary
- A way to automatically transfer ownership of smart devices once payment is confirmed
- A way to set up automatic payments such as trusts or inheritances without the need of third parties
- A way to automatically handle contract payment once the terms have been fulfilled
These are just a few of the uses that are currently being envisioned or implemented for Bitcoin. Once people really begin to start building on the protocol, it is difficult to know just what innovation might come out of it. What this all means is that the frequent cries that Bitcoin has no inherent value is wrong. Unlike most money, Bitcoin’s value will finally be in its usefulness; and it is going to be more useful than regular money.
One of the challenges of this, though, is that outside of a few, highly-publicized success stories, most of the businesses that I’ve been in contact with tell me that they rarely get any Bitcoin business. There are a lot of reasons for business to accept Bitcoin, including the very low transaction fees, a deflationary currency that will increase in value just by virtue of having it, and a potential market explosion in the next couple of years. In the meantime, though, how should a business that is accepting Bitcoin make the most of it?
Making the most out of accepting Bitcoin:
- Be noisy: Let people know about the fact that your business accepts Bitcoin. Put your “Bitcoin Accepted Here” placard someplace prominent. Several sites I have reviewed had their Bitcoin buried so deep in the site it couldn’t be found. Not only does accepting Bitcoin put you on the cutting edge, it can give you something to talk about with your customers, and maybe you will turn them onto it. If you have the time, help them learn how to set up an account with Coinbase or your favorite way to purchase Bitcoin. They’ll become your loyal customers because they’ll remember who helped them learn about Bitcoin.
- Contact the media: Let them know you accept. They may do a piece on you, and if they let you display your QR code, you might even get some tips!
- Do Guest/Sponsored Posts: Write to websites like BitcoinWarrior.net and ask if you can guest blog or be interviewed – make yourself known to the Bitcoin community.
- Offer discounts for Bitcoin: Bitcoin is a deflationary currency, so if you are only seeing a few sales in Bitcoin, offer a discount and hold onto coins rather than converting. The slight discount you give today may payoff big in the not-too-distant future. That being said, be sure to take your profit and spread those Bitcoin around a bit too. The Bitcoin community only grows if people use them.
- Offer affiliate programs: – let others drive targeted traffic to your business for a small percentage of the sale.
- Get registered with directories: Get your business registered on Coinmap.org or the Bitcoin Pages. The number of directories is growing. Find out which ones the Bitcoin community in your area prefers and get on those.
- Advertise: Advertise with Bitcoin related programs like CoinURL and Anonymous Ads
(A-Ads). By doing this, you will be targeting the specific type of people you hope to attract.
2013 was the year that Bitcoin became more than just a technological curiosity and really began to build out the infrastructure it is going to rely on in the future. 2014 is likely to be the year of adoption—when we will see more and more businesses and people begin to start making Bitcoin part of how they manage their finances.