Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Local Businesses Everywhere!

We'd like to show you some of the small to mid-sized towns that the majority of people in the U.S. tend to overlook. Most folks zoom in on Silicon Valley or New York City as the places to be for entrepreneurship. And it is true that these are definite hotspots, but definitely not the only spots for business! It's time to showcase some businesses that are coming into their own, building their MerchantCircle sites, and gaining more web presence:

One4U-Services, Inc. out of Albany, Georgia is leading the way in their town with blogs. By the looks of things, One4U is on their way to building a great site for their customers. If you're a business owner in the area, sign in and connect to this merchant and increase your affiliations with your local community!

To kick off the winter season, take a look at Mighty Tidy Air Duct & Chimney Sweep's helpful tips for your fireplace! And be sure to check out the awesome reviews locals have written about Mighty Tidy of Collinsville, Illinois so far.

Ackley's Rocks & Stamps of Colorado, Springs is one of our favorites. Be sure to check out their photo slideshow that highlights their best gems! Helena and Art are doing a great job with accumulating great reviews and communicating with their community -- which reminds me, take a look at their latest newsletter for more info about this family-run business.

Enjoy the holidays and remember to contribute to your fellow local shops this season!

Best Regards,
Product Marketing

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Major Case of the Runs (Parental Guidance Suggested)

Hell hath no fury like a customer scorn - and unfortunately for merchants, the voice of the condemned rings much louder than the enlightened.

Take for instance this MerchantCircle Safeway listing. I've never been to Wheatland, Wyoming, which means I've never been to this particular Safeway, but ouch - talk about harsh customer reviews. And this Safeway isn't the only target. No stone is left unturned, including deadbeat dads, sexual tolerance, terrorist organizations, and STDs. Heck, customers will even post pictures of dental work (scary), rear ends, and even one of the most hated characters in movie history - not flattering.

A customer will go to great lengths to ruin your business reputation and, as you can see from above, your personal reputation as well. It's like an ex-girlfriend (or ex-boyfriend), spreading rumors about you to anybody who will listen in hopes of ruining your dating chances for life! (I still haven't recovered, but that's another story.)

As a merchant, your business information is everywhere on the web. Several sites allow and encourage consumer reviews - MerchantCircle is the ONLY site that allows you to delete any reviews you find unnecessary. These are YOUR search-engine-optimized listings. Your web presence is an important one and to gain control of that with no strings attached is pretty darn impressive. (Pat on the back.)

So when that ex starts running her mouth about your stamina....err, I mean when that review doesn't fit your needs - delete it. It's like it never existed.

This holiday season, we hope you avoid a case of the runs - running of the mouth that is. (We have no remedy for Aunt Betty's Fruitcake - our engineers aren't THAT good!)


Community Relations

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Who Sucks?

'You suck!'

Would you take it personally if someone out there wrote about you or your business in that way? I would hate to assume, but I would and have. I use to be a television reporter and while you're taught to have a thick skin, inevitably someone out there thinks you do indeed, 'suck'. Unfortunately,

Being an on-air personality, much like being a business owner, you do have to take into consideration what your audience thinks. And while you can't make everyone happy, you do try your darnedest. Management never showed me what our viewers complained about, but I assume it's the same things I complain about when I watch a newscast: "her hair looks like a helmet," "his voice is too nasally," and my favorite, "did this station take a good look at their reporters before they went HD?"

We're all critics, but wouldn't it be great if everything everyone said or wrote about you could be found in one place? That way you can absorb everything people say about you and make the changes you feel necessary. Well, that's what we've done for you here at MerchantCircle. Our merchants can now sign in and see all the reviews and ratings that people have left for them on third party online sites.

People ARE writing about you on the internet. In fact, several websites cater strictly to customer reviews. Instead of trying to figure out where all this information is at, you can see it all under your Merchant Dashboard. We call it the Web Identity Manager and it's just one of the numerous free tools we provide to make sure you can easily handle your online needs from one location.

Check it out, I guarantee that it doesn't..... well, suck.

Community Relations

Holiday Shoppers Like Small Businesses

As we are now midstream in the holiday season, I'd like to encourage all of you small business owners to continue updating your websites. As stores fill with shoppers and roads cram with cars, many customers will opt to take a load off and browse the internet for good deals instead of fighting the masses. This means more opportunity for your website to be picked up by their Google and Yahoo searches!

I just read a BusinessWeek article that quoted a nationwide survey of 2,766 U.S. adults that said 75% planned to buy from small businesses online. And even if you don't sell your products online, having an online profile greatly increases your chances of catching the eye of online shoppers. According to this same survey, the reason these customers preferred to shop at small businesses was because they offer "variety, value, and unique gifts."

So enjoy the season and take advantage of an increase in online shoppers. Show off your coupons and fill your regular customers in on your unique gifts this season!

Check out a couple of our merchants who have the right idea.

1. Ackley's Rock and Stamps of Colorado Springs, CO.
2. Max Muscle of Akron, OH.
3. Therapeutic Massage - Self Kimberly LMP of Burlington, WA.

Best Regards,
Product Marketing

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

What is Community?

What do you think about when you hear the word "community"? Webster's first definition of the word is "a group of people living in a particular local area." I think of something a little more concrete like playgrounds, baseball fields, volunteering at the Red Cross, family dinners, barbecues, and fun! So to me, community is less about placing boundaries on geography and more about expanding definitions. Community is about finding common interests and sharing insights with people who might not have been in your social/business circle before.

Since we've updated our Merchant Forum, there have been great discussions and tips shared by merchants. The forum is a great place to expand your business network and meet people you otherwise wouldn't come into contact with. You, as a business owner with a website, are in a special place since you can make contacts online as well as offline through your business. Please use every opportunity available to reach out to your fellow business people or just browse the forum and see what your fellow business owners are talking about.

I was looking through our Merchant Forum today, reading some interesting posts by merchants from all over the U.S., and took note of Debbie's Mobile Tax Service, based in Port Hueneme, CA. Debbie had this to say about her newly acquired site:

Pretty new to MerchantCircle
I recently joined MerchantCircle, have added a coupon and a blog, and told a few other businesses about the site. I havent seen any activity from my site either, but I have seen my business name clearly jump higher on Google. It has made me much more visible, so I am expecting to find more people who let me know that they found me on Google. Since the majority of my business is seasonal, I will find out in a few months if more people are finding me.
Debbies Mobile Tax Service

Great work on the website so far, Debbie. I really like how you're utilizing the bulletin board to show off your coupon! And it's always good to hear when merchants notice that they're getting more visibility online. I'd like to see even more people using the forum and stretching the limits of that word "community."

Best Regards,
Product Marketing