For all you experienced barter geeks reading this, there is absolutely nothing new about the concept of an alternative currency. By that I mean a currency that is not government sponsored and appeals to a specific sub-set of the total global market; a currency that has plenty of value, however is not as liquid as traditional green-backs. Bitcoins are an electronic alternative currency. One of it’s developer’s main goals was for it to be totally decentralized so (in theory) no single organization or government controls it. This currency is still little known other than in the geekiest of the Internet culture, however it is starting to catch on and there are a number of (mostly online) stores that accept bitcoins as payment. What makes bitcoins different from barter exchange currency is that there is no organization to join to use the currency, no commisions to pay when transactions are made and (Wow) it’s easy to convert to cash for a minimal fee. What makes bitcoins a lot like barter currencies is that there are a number of folks that have bitcoins and are looking to buy products/services exclusively using that currency.
So what are you supposed to do with this information? Honestly I don’t know yet. I think I’m going to see if I can sell a couple items for BitCoins (BTC) and see how easy it is to spend bitcoins or convert them into dollars. Much like barter currency, if you can’t figure out a good way to spend it, there really isn’t any value. Be forewarned: This concept doesn’t come without risk. Unfortunately an untraceable currency has a lot of value to an undesirable segment of society so there is a criminal element. There also can be volatility in the value of BTC because it is not tied to the value of any traditional currency. In the last week there was a hacking incident where some BTCs were stolen which caused confidence in the currency to drop. BTC value dropped dramatically. Everybody involved in the currency now is holding their breath and hoping that the value will rebound over time. Of course, that could mean that it’s a great time to get into the game.
simple explaination of bitcoin: http://www.weusecoins.com
official bitcoin website: http://www.bitcoin.org
technical article in The Economist about bitcon: http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2011/06/virtual-currency
Since the very beginning of my fascination with barter, it’s always been something I do “in stealth mode.” It’s not something that I mention on my main business website. It’s not something I mention to my “regular” business associates. It’s not something I put on my business cards. It’s as if I have a secret second life. Of course it’s a horribly kept secret within my own office and in my personal life because I can’t stop blabbering about it.
Of course the cause for this duplicity is that I want to preserve my cash clients and only use barter to bring in new clients that I can only get on barter. I’ve always assumed that most other businesses that operate on a cash and barter basis do the same. The only lapse of my separation between “church and state” has been when I sweeten a cash deal by offering to do a portion of a cash project on barter to win a new cash client. I’ve even had a few barter partners request that I never discuss barter in front of their other clients because they don’t especially want the beans spilled either.
So….here I am happily running my life as a double agent when, while reading a new book on barter I slammed into a brand new concept: Outing yourself as a barter geek. The book (that I’ll review on the blog soon) recommended printing right on your business cards that you are open to barter. I was aghast. In shock. And then…intrigued. Maybe it would work. We all know all of the reasons why we keep barter secret from cash clients, but on the flip side; think of all the deals you could make if you were open about the fact that you barter. Thinking about it was like the clouds were parting on a rainy day and sun was pouring down on me. I could have so much fun bartering out in the open! And here was the thought that makes me think it just might work without killing your cash business: Most people are terrible at barter and only vaguely even understand what it is. As such, most people prefer to pay for products/services in cash. Honestly when I’m recruiting new barter partners I always have to sell them on the concept. So…what if I was open about barter? Would I really lose my cash clients? Maybe not!!!!!
So far I’m too much of a chicken to actually try this concept out, but I would be most interested in your input on the topic. Please post back comments using our new Facebook-comment feature. If you don’t have a Facebook account, please just email me through our contact page.