Thursday, March 30, 2006

Great Content

We recently had a couple new merchants join our service and create some excellent content. Check out Instant Request DJ Entertainment from Minneapolis Minnesota, Designing Florida Website Design from Plano Texas, PET-PALS Pet Sitting in Spokane Washington , Slender Lady and Day Spa of Phoenix Arizona, and Jason Thomas Flooring from Milwaukee Wisconsin.

Good job guys! Fresh new content is important for exposure and these guys have it right. So for all our other merchants out there that want to be recognized take a look at some of these listings and start uploading pictures, publishing blogs, creating coupons, sending newsletters, and inviting users.

On another note, check out some of these community services and non profits joining the MerchantCircle community; Jamestown Volunteer Fire Dept. of Jamestown Colorado, Saint Stephen Lutheran Church of Milwaukee Wisconsin, The American Diabetes Association of Dallas Texas, and the Beloit Road Baptist Church of West Allis Wisconsin.

It's awesome to see not only merchants getting involved but the community now as well.

best regards,

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Small Business Advertising

If you look around any town you'll often see local merchants doing all sorts of neat stuff to advertise. Go for a drive and you are bound to see billboards sponsoring local merchants (Realtors especially), vehicles branding company logos (often landscapers do this), and even people waving in the street welcoming you to take advantage of close out sales.

Aside from driving; if you go into a community center, local restaurant, or any other local business for that matter you'll often find bulletin boards, business card drop offs, and newsletters all promoting its merchants and friends. Here are a couple examples I found from a local taco place nearby.

I think all this stuff is great and it definitely shows the ingenuity of small business owners to get their names out. Why do you suppose merchants do these things? Well, for 1) it works, 2) its easy, and 3) its CHEAP. At MerchantCircle, we've taken these principles and ideas and have built them into our product. Merchants are now connecting with each other and their consumers through networking, coupons, advertisements, and newsletters online. It's GREAT!

However, we would still like to do more. Is there anything we can do to help you out? Know of any other ways we can promote the small business? We would love to know your thoughts, so drop us a comment and we'll get to work on some of your ideas.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Even with good intentions, sometimes you make mistakes

We tried some big new experiments this evening to make it even easier for new merchants to sign up for the service. While the overall experiment was very successful, resulting in scores of new merchants getting introduced and signed up for MerchantCircle, due to a technical issue, we made some mistakes. Our goal is to only share good news with merchants about the service and their listings on the service, but sometimes, even when you have good intentions, you make a couple missteps.

We're very sorry about any mistakes some of our new merchants may have encountered this evening. For example, some merchants found when they got to their listing, we had incorrect data (e.g., an old street address). We've moved to correct those changes, and thank you for your patience. The good news is that when you find your listing may have old data, you can quickly claim that listing and make the appropriate changes, just for registering for free. We require registration to make sure you're a legitimate business owner, and not just someone who wants to change the data.

We've already received some feedback, and we invite others to share their ideas on how we can do this better, and help you ultimately drive more customers and visibility to your business. Thanks again for your understanding. We're just starting out here, and we're likely to make some mistakes, but as long as we can learn from them, and try our best not to make the same mistakes again, we hope we can continue to help you be successful.

Monday, March 27, 2006

How Yellow Pages Is Disconnected From Real Small Business Customers

I spent part of my afternoon listening to a panel of experts from the local internet business. Three things really came out of this for us that I want to share with the industry and most importantly our merchants:

  • The Yellow Pages industry sales force thinks the answer to getting merchants is to leverage the transparency, value, and flexibility of the Local Internet -- forcing you to buy it with their expensive, onerous, opaque offline product. I don't get how a "massive feet on the street" sales force is the right way to deliver a solution to real small merchants -- especially a sales force known for selling based on the fear of you losing business. The Internet is about the hope you have in growing business.

  • A key to success of local merchants online is drawing the local customer in. The key is for the small merchant to bring more of their unique local content onto the web. We have found blogs, newsletters, consumer pictures, etc., all critical to driving actual customers to our local merchants. Small businesses invest in relationships with their customers, and communication is a critical part of that relationship.

  • User generated content is driving new local information onto the web. This is the information people used to get at the local coffee-shop bulletin board, the local newspaper, or even the Local Little league game. Today, more consumers look to the web for local content. We are providing a platform for small merchants to generate and leverage local content. If you look at our merchants who have used our platform to create content they are seeing orders of magnitude more consumers, who are in turn now seeing more of their local ads.

A few interesting points that were raised:

  • Small merchants pay $6000 a year for advertising today. Our solution that will include everything from Google to Yahoo, the local newspapers, broadcast media websites, 411 and even TV ads will deliver significantly more value than the Yellow Pages "tax" merchants are currently paying.

  • $55 billion will be spent on local internet search by 2010. 55% of search ads will be locally driven.

  • None of these traditional advertising businesses believe small merchants are smart enough to actually buy online advertising. They believe it has to be SOLD to them and forced on them. We know they're wrong.

  • In local online advertising, CPC is too complex, and small merchants don't need that complexity.

  • To get past the 300,000 small merchants who are advertising online today, self service has to work but most of these guys just don't believe the SME is smart enough to do it.

  • The people who have the majority of today's small businesses online ad dollars have expensive sales forces. Growing this base of advertisers will require something special and innovative -- beyond a traditional sales force.

Thanks for tuning in.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Innovative Ways to Find New Customers

Here at MerchantCircle we are constantly looking for ways to help small businesses find new customers. Whether it be allowing the merchants in our network to advertise for free on the webpage of any other MerchantCircle merchant they invite, or us placing the ads of our merchants on Google and Yahoo, from getting all of our merchants' pages listed highly on local internet searches, to creating and placing a cable television ad for one lucky merchant, we are dedicated to bringing results and new customers to our network of merchants. And it's beginning to get noticed.

In recent days, we received calls from a number of ad networks looking to sign up our network of local merchants as advertisers. Businesses as diverse as free phone directory assistance (411) providers, national coupon distributors, internet ad networks, and even national and local radio stations have come calling on MerchantCircle to provide access to their ad networks to our merchants. And still the phone keeps ringing!

The power and promise of the MerchantCircle network are only beginning to be felt, but in the months ahead, you can look forward to many new and exciting ad placement opportunities for your business. We're getting the word out for you!

Interested in helping make MerchantCircle ever more effective at bringing you new customers? Try the following:

1) Tell a friend! Inviting more merchants in your area not only gets you more free local ad space in our network, but it also makes the MerchantCircle network more powerful when negotiating rates with outside ad networks (like radio and cable TV stations) as well

2) Create coupons and ads! The more ads you create and place on the network, the more customers that will find you. It's free, so why not take ten minutes and create a new advertisement or coupon for your business?

3) Write newsletters and blogs! Upload more photos! The more new and interesting things you have to tell your customers, the more they will return to visit your page. And all new content raises the likelihood that Google or Yahoo will visit your page.


Doug K
VP of Business Development

Finding Success with MerchantCircle

You've heard us talk about how MerchantCircle delivers results for merchants like you. I thought it was about time we let a merchant tell you how it's worked for them.

Denise Broesler is a RE/MAX Prestige realtor in Cranford, NJ. She's been with MerchantCircle for a couple of months, and has created a great blog, in addition to purchasing a free Google campaign with her AdDollars. She's also been a big help with an experiment we're doing with local television in her area. If you are in her neighborhood, keep an eye on the television (especially HGTV) over the next couple weeks so you see her television ad we helped create for her.

Here's what Denise had to say about MerchantCircle:

"When I started working with MerchantCircle, I was impressed by the professional and courteous attention of their staff. I was easily able to locate businesses in my area, and forward them information on joining the group. Because of my response, I was awarded free advertising dollars with Google's Sponsored Links. Imagine my delight when searching in Google and finding my free ad from MerchantCircle! I was even spotted in my parking lot by another MerchantCircle customer who joined the site! I loved getting my free commercial and can't wait for it to air next week. Every business who wants to get exposure on the web should hook up with MerchantCircle. It's like an internet Chamber of Commerce."

Thanks, Denise. We'll keep you posted on the results of our tests. Meanwhile, if you haven't done it yet, try creating a free Google AdWords campaign, and see for yourself how many new customers you get.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Customer Feedback

It amazes me how much our customers want to participate and help grow MerchantCircle. I've already spoken to a great majority of our clients and the effort to help make MerchantCircle even better is phenomenal. I love seeing the feedback come in and appreciate the time our merchants are giving.

I've heard a number of different things and just wanted to touch on a few of the specifics.
Bill over at RankMagic along with John at MerchantID and Julie at Celebrant all mentioned ways to improve our category system. Their input was great and because of them we now support multiple categories which a business can use to classify themselves in our directory.

Heather of Staging Places offered some ideas on creating a better newsletter. We've touched it up since then and have gotten some great responses.

Debbie over at Annabelle's Bakery, Scott at 3rd Planet Photography, and Nathan at Groundswell Media Productions all just recently gave us some insight on a few future high end ideas. They offer great promise and are definitely being looked into.

Thanks for all the great feedback guys and I hope to hear more as we continue on. I'd also love to hear from the many other customers we have, so if you have any ideas you're willing to share leave a comment and I'll follow up with you ASAP.

Let's make MerchantCircle the best we can! Hope to hear from you soon.

Ryan Osilla

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Get your point of view out there, Walmart is.

One of the basic ideas that MerchantCircle is being built on was bringing the capabilities of the biggest companies to the small merchant. We want to bring the local internet to the small merchant so they can put it to use. One small part of this was to bring the ability to get your point of view out to the local community via blogging and newsletters.

Well it ends up that the mother of all Massive Retailers, Walmart, has been using blogging to get their point of view out to the local community. They may not really be doing it in a fair way , as is pointed out in the New York Times, but they are doing it.

A couple of our merchants are starting to see the impact of their own activities to share their story. Here are two of our favorite blogs. Because of the way these blogs are picked up by the major search engines like Google and Yahoo, this offers you a great way to not only share your story but to have it heard by your local community.

Denise Broesler's blog
RE/MAX Prestige realtor
Cranford, NJ

Travel 2 the Caribbean's blog

Travel agents
Valparaiso, IN


Friday, March 3, 2006

Want a television ad for your business?

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who responded. We have our first participant for this trial, and we'll keep you posted on the results and the experience. Stay tuned!


We're running a small promotion right now. For the first merchant who sees this, and invites five people to sign-up for MerchantCircle, and gets at least ONE of them to join, we'll give you a free television ad in your local market for your local business.

The ads are professionally done, and feature your core business contact information. However, we don't have ads for all types of businesses. So if you win, and we don't have the right ad for you, or can't get airtime in your local market, we'll give you a free month's worth of Google advertising instead.

For example, we DO have television ads for the following types of business (yes, it's an interesting mix) among a bunch of others:
* Real Estate agents
* Mortgage brokers
* DJs
* Music teachers
* Dance teachers
* Car dealers
* Restaurants
* Coffee shops
* Travel agents
* and a bunch of other businesses

This is partially a test for us, so we'd love your feedback. Again, it's simple, just send at least five invitations, and then get at least one of them to signup. Once you've done this, just drop us an email with the name of your business, and we'll contact you to set up the details.