Saturday, September 2, 2006

Bringing Merchants Online: A sure thing

I meet with people all the time who want to tell me about the great ideas they have for my business. Frankly, I see one of my primary jobs as meeting with different people and getting their views as I shape my strategy and execution. Basically, I buy into The Wisdom of Crowds.

Having said that, I also believe being sure is a lot more important than being right. I can control being sure even when there is limited information but, I can never control being right with limited information. Since business strategy is almost always done with limited data (unless you run a Railroad), it is a place you have to be sure. I am constantly amazed by people who try to convince me not to be sure with some individual fact. Most big industry changes begin to happen before the data ever allows you to be right so there is always some facts or opinions stated as facts that contradict me when I am sure. Here are some that came up recently:

* The Yellow Pages is a big business and is not going to die since people still buy their ads and a lot of people use them.

* You can never change merchant behavior and most of them don't use the web, so you should just go after the ones who do.

* Revenue is the metric that predicts who will be a great company.

I am not going to spend a lot of time refuting these because it is a waste of your time.

Some of the things I am sure of are very core to my beliefs. For example I am sure that Freedom is a fundamentally good thing for the human condition and that over time free economies win out over closed ones.

Some of the things are just core to MerchantCircle. I am sure that 15M local merchants need to use the web as a vehicle to advertise and express themselves and that bringing merchants onto the web in mass is the most important lever we can focus on for the local industry. I may not be right, but I am sure. So if you have ideas on how we can help bring more merchants online and deliver them the value they deserve so they can stop wasting money on the yellowpages ---let me know.


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