What if every small town merchant or even every merchant in Manhattan not only was able to express their views, perspectives, opinions, and opportunities to the Local Internet every day---but found it easy enough that they became addicted to it?
A lot of people have told me that this is a pretty dumb question and that it will never happen. I am sure they are wrong. Or at least, I am sure that while not every merchant will participate; most merchants can get to this point. At MerchantCircle we believe we can bring 2, 3, 5M new local merchants online in the next few years. We are so sure, that we are betting everything on it. We have just over 60K online today with a majority having MerchantCircle as their first and only experience on the Internet.
* Do you believe you can get 100M people to build a web page and keep it updated as frequently as 4 times and hour ? Of course not, why would anyone want to waste all that time, where is the ROI. MySpace was sure and they have changed the internet by turning 100M people into publishers of new content.
* Do you believe you can get 70% of college students to spend more time writing on the web than they do in class? Mark and Sean were sure they could and they have not created something that has changed the way college campuses work
* Do you believe that every merchant will express themselves on the web? Wayne, Doug, Walt, and I all believe that we can bring 2, 3, 5M merchants online in the next few years. We are sure it can be done.
As we learn from our experiments and continue to reach towards a model with zero incremental cost to bring another merchant on, here are a few things we have learned:
* Merchants are naturally social people who want to share their story.
* Merchants have something to say
* Merchants want to express themselves and look good on the web
* Merchants are some of the smartest most customer focused people you will ever meet.
* And most importantly, we love merchants...merchants are a blast to get to know and work with-even when they want us to make changes.
As we reach for our next 60K merchants, we are excited about learning even more.
On another note, one of the things we have found as we continue to grow is that a lot of people would like to communicate with our merchants. While we are very focused on protecting our merchants, we are happy to find ways to share interesting information in our newsletter or even ads on some of the places where they spend their time on MerchantCircle. If you are interested in these areas or in picking up some of the thousands of very valuable information feeds we create reach out to Doug. He has some great programs.
Ben T. Smith IV