Thursday, January 25, 2007

They Call Me Hammer

Ok, they don't, but it would've been cool.

T-Bone. Red Dog. Diddy. Definitely not Koko the Monkey. Where would we be without nicknames - a short, easy-to-remember moniker that people can remember, while at the same time adding depth and personality. Check out this picture below. What would be a good nickname for them? Kraus and Boharshik? Probably not.... Serial Killers might be easier to remember.


Back in the day, this storefront with the family was a company's personality. As the years progressed, reviews and letter grades were sometimes placed prominently in the windshields and business names got trendier and easier to remember. Now as customers browse for businesses on the web, those same reviews and personality come back into play - only this time on the web.

For the 80,000 merchants who have now claimed their MerchantCircle business listing, half of them use their listing as their sole source of a business website! And why shouldn't they? It's free, easy-to-use and puts them in touch with like-minded individuals. Now it's time to up the ante! If we are your web presence, sure, people can find your MerchantCircle listing through generic search on Google or Yahoo because our nearly 15 million listings are search-engine-optimized, but for those who ask, you should be able to tell them something easy.

That's right, come up with your own store name or nickname and tell people how to find you on the web. or As long as it's not taken, that's your new identity baby!!! I'm sorry, I got a little excited. I probably shouldn't call you baby yet. This is a feature we plan to add in the next few weeks. So keep an eye out and let us know what you think. Until then, this is a strictly platonic

Monkey love


Community Relations

Friday, January 19, 2007

Sometimes Things Work Out Faster Than Expected...Sometimes It Just Takes Patience

I recently was at a board meeting for Spoke which I founded with a number of people including Chris Tolles from our advisory board. This was a meeting about patience. After a number of years Spoke is really taking off based on a lot of the learning from here at MerchantCircle. This is just proof that sometimes you have to have a lot of patience. On the other hand, here at MerchantCircle, we have not had to have a lot of patience. Yes it has not been easy, but since last June the growth has been amazing because of our absolute focus on bringing merchants on board and solving their issues. How about 75,000 merchants on board! Our efforts and yours were recently recognized as we were named "Newcomer of the Year" and one of the Top 100 Private Media Companies in the world.

This of course, wouldn't have happened if you hadn't claimed your business, started blogging, uploading pictures, building coupons and writing newsletters to your customers. Essentially, you made your MerchantCircle listing your own - which is exactly what we want you to do. It's a busy consumer-driven world on the internet and your MerchantCircle listing is YOUR voice on the web. Customers write reviews about you all over the web - we aggregate them for you under your MerchantCircle listing because you've got plenty of other things to worry about.

There's nearly 15 million businesses in the U.S. we've created a listing for and we want to make sure you're connected to a 'local' audience and not forced to market yourself on the Yellow Pages - an outdated form of advertisement. Fewer and fewer customers use the Yellow Pages to search for services, instead relying on the internet to find where they're going next.

With more and more merchants signing on, you're giving those customers a chance to find your MerchantCircle listing when they search Google or Yahoo. The interesting thing is that as more of your other friends who are local merchants come on board and are linked to you, the network becomes even more effective at getting you visibility with local customers.

Ben Smith, IV
Chairman and Co-Founder, MerchantCircle

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture!

Instead of Beyonce's and Lucy Liu's we're talking about Facebook and Craigslist among our esteemed colleagues. On top of being named Top 100 Private Companies next to such industry stalwarts, MerchantCircle also garnered the award of Newcomer of the Year! Past winners include Linden Lab (of Second Life fame) and Photobucket - both of which are pretty cool services.

Newcomer Blog

We're excited to be recognized, but the award stands more for our 75,000 business owners who have claimed their business listing and taken it upon themselves to manage their online business reputation. We'll continue to innovate and if you'd like to throw Beyonce and Lucy Liu our way as well, we might even dust off the robot.

The Robot

Community Relations

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

We Win!!!!

Couch Jumping

Classy, debonair winner? Aww shucks, American Idol-type winner? Or Tom Cruise jumping-on-the-couch-excited winner? Truth be told, a little bit of everything after being told MerchantCircle has been selected by AlwaysOn Media as one of the Top 100 Private Companies. And no, the winners were not compiled from a list of 105. There were actually over 1,000 companies up for the honor!

So before we bore you to death with the numbers, we'd like to thank you for all the work you've done making your MerchantCircle business listing your own. From those fancy pictures you uploaded about your business, to those neat coupons you built on your listing, it's been a breath-taking experience to watch our business network grow from zero to nearly 75,000! (Sorry, once again those numbers).

Along the way, we've added video options, an easier to use Merchant Dashboard, and of course, the groundbreaking Web Identity Manager, which lets you keep track and manage what customers are saying about you on the web. For over half of you, your MerchantCircle listing IS your sole source of a website. We're glad we've made your online experience an easy one and saved you the time from needing to go anywhere else.

Now run off and take the extra time you've saved to run your business, spend time with your family, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Thanks for helping us get recognized as AO Media's Top 100.

Community Relations

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Cool and Contagious...

The winter time seems like a good time to catch a cold, but you know what else is contagious?

Browsing merchants' sites. Once I find a business that sparks my interest, I like to check out the other businesses in the area just to see how they're all connected and what they have to say about one another. My bet is that customers do this also, so the more businesses you connect to, the greater your chances of being seen for what you are - a friendly business with creative ideas.

Speaking of creative, I want you to see Clean Cut Creation's cool listing (and you'll know what I mean by "cool" when you read this business's blog)! Just think jazzed-up antique fridges and a snow cone mobile...

Clean Cut Creation's Snow Sled (a 1957 Chevy Step Van that's been converted into a snow cone mobile) is strutting its stuff to the MerchantCircle community. Clean Cut even has a coupon for Snow Sled customers.

What makes this listing so appealing to me is their flashy photos of The Snow Sled in action and their retro refrigerators lined up in customized colors.

It doesn't look like Clean Cut Creations has any MerchantCircle business connections just yet, so if you're feeling warm, why not make contact. They might just have some handy tips to trade with you for the upcoming year. And maybe you can give them some tips on how to stay warm this season.

Best Regards,
Product Marketing

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Coupon, Poopons

I've got a list of coupons that are my favorites. I always watch out for the $15.95 oil and filter change that comes in the mail, the 2 for 1 Big Macs printed on the back of my grocery receipt, and the buy one, get one free video rental in the coupon books. Other than that, the rest I use to look at while I'm killing time in the bathroom (which also acts as a safeguard in case I run out of toilet paper).

But the trouble with all those coupons is that I have to wait for them - whether it's a coupon packet in the mail or heading to the grocery store in hopes that my receipt's long enough to have a full Big Mac ad. That's the beauty of online coupons, there's a ton of them out there waiting for customers to find them 24 hours a day.

Did you know our nearly 70,000 MerchantCircle members have created over 8,000 unique coupons? Now those coupons can be found, not only on merchant pages, but also on third party coupon sites, including Oodle and edgeio.

It's just one more free feature we offer because we believe online coupons will have a more significant role as our society becomes more tech savvy and internet-dependent. Plus, online coupons will almost certainly not be used as toilet paper.

Community Relations

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Brazilian Heartbreak Hotel

Have you ever lost a dog? Well, me neither, but I guess you have to own one to lose one. Although, my mom did leave me at a gas station once - think Little Miss Sunshine, only I was the only other person in the car. It was quite heartbreaking for me at the time, so I can only imagine what it must be like for a dog owner to lose their dog, especially if they brought the dog with them from another continent.

Check out the great lengths this Brazilian man went to find a dog's owner. According to Mr. Nievola, the dog's collar read 'Border Animal Hospital' and what he found when searching for the business on the internet was the Border Animal Hospital MerchantCircle listing. He left a comment in the review section, and while he hasn't found the dog's owner yet - it's a beginning that will hopefully end in a reunion.

In the meantime, Mr. Nievola has a great sense of humor, saying he's teaching the dog to bark in Portuguese. As for me, I'm glad our business listings are search-engine-optimized so that people like Mr. Nievola (even in another country) can have a starting point. Presence is everything. Maybe if I had been more vocal, my mother would have noticed I existed. Although, learning to bark in Portuguese would have been pretty cool too.

Community Relations

Independent America...It's A Way Of Life

"We're more looking for the healthy balance where the corporate chains don't become the dominant institution or retailer in a town, because that really does kill the balance of what you need to have a thriving democracy," so says Hanson Hosein. He and his wife, Heather Hughes, are both accomplished television news anchors, writers, and producers who set out around the U.S. to get footage for their film, Independent America.

The documentary came out in November, 2005. Hughes and Hosein produced the independent film on a shoestring budget and never found a distributor, but the movie has been gaining in popularity through word of mouth.

On the above YouTube link, you'll hear clips from people around the U.S. supporting their local Mom & Pop shops and explaining that they want to "feel some authenticity in life...something real." And that's what local stores give them, that "you're important" and "we know your name" attitude that big box stores can't or don't give.

BusinessWeek interviewed Hosein and Hughes recently and they described some of their favorite stops during their trip (by the way, one of their rules was that they ONLY stop at Mom & Pop McDonald's or Walmart allowed).

Hosein says that the climax of the film takes place in Powell, Wyoming. This community had chain retail, until the economy went down the tubes and the population dwindled to 10,000. So, rather than driving 75 miles to shop at the closest Wal-Mart, the town started its own store -- a for-profit department store called Powell Mercantile, "The Merc" for short. Hosein says, "It opened up a few years ago, and has evolved into a successful model of community-run retail that a lot of other communities around the country are striving to emulate."

Check out a few other local stores in the Powell community:

Jeide Designs

Cowlick and Hooves

Heart Mountain Farm Supply

I encourage you to take a peak at the YouTube snippets from Independent America as well as our own MerchantCircle video - A History of Business, and continue supporting and connecting with your fellow merchants!

Best Regards,
Product Marketing