Wednesday, May 31, 2006

MerchantCircle Video - Enabling Local Businesses Online

Check out Ben talk about everything from "Enabling merchants online" to "Competing with the Big Guys" all the way to "Tools and Features of MerchantCircle".

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Merchant Blogging

A few months ago we released the ability for our merchants to blog. Ok, I am the first to admit that when this idea came up, I said it was nuts. For me, the guys at Ben’s BBQ in Fairhope, Al are never going to figure out how to blog.

(No shot at Bubba at who owns Ben’s, he is a very smart man who prints money in addition to making some of the best BBQ in the south)

Well, I was wrong. 30% of our merchants are blogging. I don’t think they think of it as the traditional internet crowd’s definition of blogging. Merchants see it as communicating with the local consumers they want to talk to. When you look at it this way, it is a natural behavior. If you look at the most successful local merchants you will find their core skill set is communicating and connecting with local consumers. It is what they do. They communicate, they listen and they bring value to their consumers. The idea that they are going to use a modern idea like blogging is not so surprising when you look at how close it is to a core skill they already have: communicating. In fact if you look at the local merchants who write “real estate corners” or “how to landscape tips” for their local paper, this is really the same thing.

The interesting thing is that blogging drives more traffic and visibility, more of a customer connection and more of a powerful impression for local merchants. The merchants who have done it are seeing an immediate response and then blogging even more. So my suggestion for all our new merchants is to try it. Try it for 5 minutes every 2 days for 3 weeks and you will see a result.

How about this, if you don’t; I will buy you a 6 pack (Budweiser or Pepsi). Shoot me a note with what you tried and how it did not work and I will have it delivered.

Take a look at some of the chatter going around in a couple neighborhoods (Scotts Valley CA, Fairhope AL, Boulder CO)

Now on a side note, I want to know how California could possibly need 2001 Starbucks, I bet that is more Starbucks than we have elementary schools. They are everywhere. There are 2 of them in just Scotts Valley alone. Maybe we could all use a few more local shops like the Coffee Cat and few less Starbucks.

For more on blogging visit my in depth podcast on blogging benefits.


Friday, May 26, 2006


The company I founded a couple of years ago with a bunch of great guys just released a new version. Wayne who put MerchantCircle together with me was on the Advisory board at Spoke. It is really a tremendous improvement and finally shows a recognition of the new to provide value to the free user. You can sign up for free and get access to over 30M people. I expect to see some interesting further changes at the company.

Hell, it even has roundy corners. This is clearly now a web 2.0 company. If you want access and want to Kill the Cold Call, you can try this and experience what we have been talking about since 2002. It is great to see the CEO grabbing ahold of the Kill the Cold Call messaging we laid out in 2003.

best regards,

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Merchant Protection

Recently we've had a few more people ask about the specifics of our fraud measures. In response, I figured I'd list our steps on suspicious accounts for all to see.

As of now we rely on random samplings and the policing of MerchantCircle from both ourselves and our community.

When sent inquires the following steps include:

1. A source verify on Name, Business Name, Phone, Email, Website, and Address. We make sure that these values check with the person claiming the company (ie. for a bank listing - is the phone number and address associated with an actual bank location?).

2. If the source verify turns out fuzzy or still leaves questions, we then proceed with a contact. We begin with an email for clarification and a request for confirmation. We specifically ask to speak with the owner to confirm the listing and in extreme cases will ask for identifiable proof of business (ie. name attached to business mailing or billing).

3. Overall, if the listing still seems incorrect, we do have the right to freeze or terminate the suspected account and will pursue this course for the better interest of our community.

I hope this better sheds some light into what we do.

Merchant safety is among our top priorities.

best regards,

Friday, May 19, 2006

Merchant Activities

I like to see what our merchants are up too so I often scour through our many listings to take a look at what's new and interesting. Check out some of these excellent merchant pages being created.

All American Gutter
Majestic Art Gallery
Cordova Wellness Center
Blonde Bear Bed and Breakfast

Great stuff guys!

Among these, I also ran across AnnaBelle's Bakery in Dayton, Kentucky and apparently she is having her Grand Opening tomorrow - May 20th 2006! This is definitely a first for MerchantCircle and we welcome her advertisement on our site. It goes to show yet another way to get the word out and to bring the power of the Local Internet to local businesses.

This is excellent news and I wish you the best! Definitely keep us all posted on your happenings.

best regards,

Thursday, May 18, 2006

More on MerchantCircle

Another great MerchantCircle Interview by Chris Tolles of Next Stuff Now. Chairman and Co-Founder Ben Smith speaks again on MerchantCircle and our value to local merchants.


* The start of MerchantCircle
* A Yellow Page Alternative
* Helping local businesses bring real customers through their door

click here to listen


Monday, May 15, 2006

MerchantCircle Interview

Our chairman Ben Smith was recently featured on Ad-Tech Radio with Susan Bratton.

Listen to what MerchantCircle is about in our own words!


* Bringing local customers to local merchants.
* How can we help consumers to find the best local deals online.
* Networking on MerchantCircle.
* Creating deals and coupons online.
* Leveraging the web to better suit local merchants.

click here to listen


Sunday, May 14, 2006

concerned merchant

We recently had some excellent feedback from a concerned merchant wondering about our current design and attempts at fraudulent activity.

You can read his comments and our replies on MerchantCircle here.

We're learning everyday and appreciate this kind of feedback to help make MerchantCircle the best it can possibly be. As for suspicious listings, our merchant's safety is our primary concern. Although not perfect we do have several procedures in place to help better protect our users from imposters and scammers. We do hope to define this area even better to ensure merchants a safer online experience; and remember, if you happen to run into any listings you think may be questionable please let us know ASAP, we reserve the right to freeze or terminate any suspicious activity that may be going on. You can send all inquires to

With the help of our merchants we can always work toward a safer community for us all.

I welcome any added thought and would love to hear about any other issues at hand.

best regards,

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

MerchantCircle Seeks to Provide YP Alternative

"Small business," "marketing tools" and "viral marketing" = a new generation Yellow Pages that will really help businesses get more local customers. Or so hopes Merchant Circle, a well-funded startup that officially launches in June.

Peter Krasilovsky of The Local Onliner writes a great post on MerchantCircle and our cause.

read more here.

Thanks PK


The Sopranos

Last week on The Sopranos.

When a couple of goons try to shake down a Starbucks, the manager explains that everything for the 10,000 stores has to go through corporate.

The manager later responds to a little more forceful request for money and some threats with "They have like 10,000 stores in North America, I don’t think they would feel anything, if there was any broken windows at the store". The Mafia guys are walking away when one of them says..

"It’s over for the little guy"

Well at MerchantCircle we know it’s not over for the little guy, but we do know it is tough. That’s why all our energy has been focused on helping local businesses to get more local customers by connecting with one another and by leveraging the "Local Internet" to drive local success.

Later on in the episode, there was the real estate lady trying to buy the Caputo Live Poultry storefront (a property owned by Tony Soprano) for a Jamba Juice. Tony did his part by saying he did not want to sell out from under Caputo. He is just trying to protect the neighborhood with businesses like Ralph Piccolos Pizza and Manolos. He then dropped by and raised the poor guy’s rent. When the real estate lady comes and offers more, he points out as a reason not to do the deal..."You drive around America today and everything looks the same with the Ole Old Navy and Bed Bath and whatever, but the North Ward, it’s the North Ward."

But, of course Tony finally took the deal from the real estate lady and sold the business out from under Caputo Live Poultry.

Sounds like a Yellow Pages sales guy to me.


Tuesday, May 9, 2006


MySpace Small Business Listing

I recently found this listing on MySpace and started wondering what merchants are trying to do with this. Obviously they want exposure and posting a profile on MySpace isn’t a half bad idea; but what they truly need to do, is to take a look at MerchantCircle.

Let me just give you a few reasons.

1) We’re made with merchants in mind. Everything you see on our site from connecting with the community, creating coupons, and placing advertisements has all been developed from what small business owners have told us.
2) Merchants from all over the nation have already started joining their perspective communities. Check out your neighborhood today and see who already is involved.
3) Customers are searching. Be ranked in the top ten, have customer requested deals sent to you, and see more customers come through your door.

So, if you know of anyone using MySpace or any other service for that matter, point them in the MerchantCircle direction; they won't be sorry.


Monday, May 8, 2006

More on the Yellow Pages

Fred from Union Square Ventures laid out a pretty interesting post on how the Yellow Page industry is such a waste. There are some pretty humorous posts on what ends up happening with the Yellow Pages when most Local Search is moving online.

He speaks for a lot of us when he says "I haven't used the Yellow Pages in ten years and every year I have to throw them out."

The founder of How Stuff Works says in this post "There's the $1 billion dollars wasted printing them. There's the 1.5 billion pounds of paper -- untold square miles of forest. There's the millions of gallons of gasoline spent transporting and delivering them. All of that wasted because they could be delivered electronically in one way or another with very little cost and very little environmental impact."

In the end the Yellow Pages as a business will not work much longer, and in the meantime they are taking every dime they can from local businesses for a product that does not deliver powerful results.


Thursday, May 4, 2006

A NEW MerchantCircle

On Monday evening, after much planning and effort, we are proud to announce that we've released our new site!

MerchantCircle has been completely redesigned, incorporating many requests and comments from our loyal merchants. In addition to our new design, we've included a few new features we think you should check out.

1. We now offer Ultra and Basic service plans, so you can choose the right tools to fit your business needs and maximize your advertising efforts.

2. Our new Coupon Wizard simplifies creating and publishing your deals

3. We've improved the image upload and management tools for you to spiff up your listing, newsletter, coupons, and ads.

4. We've created premium badges and flags to draw more attention to our member listings.

We'd love to know what you think, so leave us a comment or send us an email at to let us know your thoughts.

It's only going to get better.


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