Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ad Campaigns 101 - Getting the most out of online advertising

With so many of our merchants creating advertisements on Google & Yahoo; I thought I'd share some quick tips on getting the most out of creating a great campaign.

1) Include a keyword in your Headline title. A keyword consists of a word that describes your advertisement, business, or offer, and is used by search engines to deliver pertinent results to customers searching for related topics. For example, if you run a bakery that specializes in pies, related keywords could be applepies, pies, coconutpies, and yummypies. MarketingSherpa, a market research organization that runs extensive studies on maximinzing online marketing says, by including one of your keywords in the headline of your ad; it has the single greatest impact on generating returns.

2) Highlight your core differentiator; For example, if you're the low priced leader, include that infomation in the body of your ad.

3) Creative copy: test titillating phrases in your ad body or headline. One recent example came from an ad campaign for stock management software. The company ran multiple online ads with different headlines, varying between sensational and informational. They found that the headline "Don't bring a knife to a gun fight" resulted in a 15% jump in click throughs over any other ad.

4) Include common misspellings, use as many and the most relevant keywords you can think of for your campaigns, and exclude keywords not directly pertaining to your offer. Customers want to find relevant results and it's a rare person who runs their Google searches through a spell check first.

5) Include the most efficient url from your ad. For example, if you are promoting an item on sale, link directly to that item's page on your website. If you have a sophisticated website, you many even be able to generate a link that sends customers directly to your checkout page, with the item already in their shopping cart. Simplifying the purchase process for your customers will increase the chance of closing a sale.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

New Exemplary Merchants

Things are continuing to move at incredible speeds around here; namely our merchant growth and so I think it's high time again to showcase some of our latest exemplary merchants to join the 'Circle'!

Let's all welcome them to the community! And, if your in their area and or decide to make a purchase, make sure you let them know you found them on MerchantCircle.

1. For Rock and Stamp collectors check out Ackley's Rocks and Stamps of Colorado Springs, CO.

2. Although not a traditional merchant, but definitely a vital contributor to their community. We welcome Jamestown Volunteer Fire Department of Jamestown, CO.

3. Here to join our fastest growing group and to provide their Real Estate services we greet Marilyn Messenger & William Raveis Real Estate of Sudbury, MA.

4. Looking for a full service painting company? Be sure to check out Empire Painting Company Inc. of Flint, MI.

5. In the San Antonio, TX. area and want a refreshing smoothie and or fruit snack? Well, stop by Fruitilicious for a great treat.

6. For all you pet lovers; pamper your pet at Sherry's Pampered Pet Parlor of Chester, SC.

Great stuff guys! We all look forward to your success at MerchantCircle.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Affiliate Pilot Program

Hello everyone,

We're looking for a few merchants who may be interested in participating in our pilot affiliation program. We will give participating members a unique affiliate code to place on their MerchantCircle listing and or other websites.

Each time someone uses that affiliate code to join MerchantCircle, the new member will get a discount on the purchase of any membership package and the referring member will earn a discount on future purchases of MerchantCircle services and perhaps additional prizes as we develop this system. If you'd like to participate, shoot us an email or leave a comment stating your interest. We'll let you know more about how to use the code to earn discounts for your friends and yourself.

I lood foward to hearing from you!


Monday, July 17, 2006

Great Deals

I love what merchants are doing on the 'Circle'! Today, as I was going through the deals offered by our members, I began to notice a lot of great bargains to take advantage of and so I thought I'd take some time to point out my favorites for all to see.

1. In the Brentwood, TN area and need some Hardwood Flooring services? Well check out what Heritage Hardwood Flooring has to offer!

2. Looking for some original jewelry? The ladies over at Veronica's Jewel Box of Tuscon, AZ are offering $10.00 off when you buy $75.00 or more worth of merchandise.

3. Need some residential or commercial wiring done? Well, if you're in the Atlanta, GA area you're in luck! Redd Infinity is offering $10.00 off your next wiring job.

4. Looking to improve your singing with a voice coach? Check out Kaye Vocal Studio in Sunnyvale, CA. She's offering an Initial Audition and Consultation for you to take advantage of.

5. In the Cordova, TX area and looking for a great fitness center? Check out the Cordova Wellness Center. Through August they are offering a FREE one week pass or 20% off any 1 year membership.

6. Shopping for some new clothes for the kids? Well, if you're near Marietta, GA check out the PolkaDot Kids! They are offering $5.00 off any $30.00 purchase.

7. And, for all our merchants on MerchantCircle, check out what Alice in Waterland is offering. Through August and only for MerchantCircle members she is offering 30% off on all bottleless water coolers! Pretty great deal and definitely a must in the office!

Great stuff everyone! Stay tuned for more from our community.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Yellow Pages: Fools Gold?

Recently ran into a great article on advertising in the Yellow Pages. It's an excellent read and I suggest anyone who's currently using them as part of their marketing program to take a look.

One bit that caught my eye the most was his little survey on "Where people are looking to find services?". According to his sample, people first seek out referrals, then local businesses they have seen before but have never been too, and then media channels.

Simply, people find value in what other people trust and have to say when looking for services.

I totally agree with this!

As the article states "Your ad, no matter how big, doesn't buy you a lot of trust." and in my opinion, frankly that's what the Yellow Pages will never be able to solve.

Another great little take away from this article is when he poses the question, "Do you actually measure your response rates from the Yellow Pages?"

Check out what he has to say, you'll definitely find it interesting.

"I have yet to come across a small business that effectively measures this. Many people take it for granted that it 'just works'. Ad pricing is different depending on category, and I don't have the exact figures handy, but to get a quarter page sized advertisement with a bit of colour, you're probably looking at around $7500 - $10 000(AU).
If we assume a 35% gross profit margin in your business, your advertisement is going to need to bring in $21,428 - $28,571 in annual sales just to pay for itself.
If your ad in the Yellow Pages is a major part of your annual marketing budget, spend 3-4 weeks to test its effectiveness. Find out how they discovered you, and write down how much they spend. You might be surprised. "

On that note, if anyone out there decides to monitor their Yellow Page results and wants to share the results with us let me know, I'd be really interested in knowing your findings. We could even post them on the blog for all to see.


Sunday, July 9, 2006

Quick Results and only the start.

Nola, of Redd Infinity in Atlanta, Georgia first came to me wondering how she can rank high in search engines and how to maximize her visibility on line. She was especially amazed at the results of one of our other merchants, Cambric of Los Altos that she decided to put her best foot forward and give the "Circle" a try.

And, only after 3 weeks of utilizing our tools and following the MerchantCircle way, Nola's business is now ranked first in Google when searching for her business name and has over 1,500 page views. Pretty quick results if you ask me and it's just the beginning wait till she starts with a premium package and begins advertising on the major ad networks.

Great stuff, Nola!

This gives me an idea, if anyone else out there has a great story to tell and or finds their MerchantCircle listing ranking high in Google, maybe even higher than their own personal website; let me know and I'll send you 400 Ad Dollars plus a featured spot on our blog.


Friday, July 7, 2006

Obvious Trends

As strong as the Yellow Pages business is today, the trend is obvious. All of this business is going online. We only need to look at examples from other industries. No use fighting or arguing about the trend.

Napster and Kazaa changed the music business.
BitTorrent and YouTube are stirring up the video industry.
Craigslist is shaking up the newspaper industry.

The Yellow Pages industry will be transformed as well.

And, it's not just going to be online directory lookups. It's going to be a different, richer -- better -- experience that's just as effective as thumbing through the yellow pages.

Yelp , Judy's Book, and MerchantCircle are leading the way.


Monday, July 3, 2006

Daphne Pharmacy

As you may have noticed from some of our bio's, we all have a special affection for some local business we grew up with. Daphne Pharmacy was one of mine. I started working there when I was in 8th grade, maybe 7th as a cashier for two great brothers; the Stallings. They were opposites in many ways, and I can remember when I worked there after church it was a completely different experience depending on which one of them was working. I vaguely remember one of them as an Alabama Football Fan and the other as an Auburn fan, but I could be wrong about that. Most importantly, one had a Timex Sinclair PC that he let me play with and that he was using to program a game.

I was down in Fairhope this week before the 4th. I had the chance to stop by the old place and was amazed to find that the old cash register and other items were still there. Unlike so many local businesses that get swept away by Walmart never to be seen again, this one actually still had its ruins there.

As I talked with someone about what these two brothers did for the community, from opening up the pharmacy at 3am for my mom or providing food and drugs on account for the dirt poor family across the way - an account that never got paid --- I thought about how the local Walmart does in fact provide a lot of service to the community. But in the end, it will never be able to replace the contribution of the 100's of other little businesses around this town that it helped destroy.

Now having said that; when my son wanted to go get some cheap sunglasses for jet skiing, the Walmart worked just fine.