Saturday, December 27, 2008

MerchantCircle Members Taking Up the Cause

We came across this article by one of our merchants, Upon Request Assistants, on eHow titled: How to Attract Customers Using MerchantCircle For Free. It's a good, easy-to-read how-to guide and important for the millions of merchants who are still lacking a web presence.

We're honored that so many of our merchants have taken it upon themselves to not only help other merchants in our forums, but also across other networks and blogs. Check out some of what they're saying:
Community Relations

Friday, December 19, 2008

Who is the New Head of the SBA?

President-elect Obama today announced Karen Gordon Mills as the new head of the Small Business Administration (SBA). Mills has a background as an investor and venture capitalist.

"A venture capitalist who invests in small businesses, Karen understands the challenges faced by both small businesses' owners and the workers they employ," says President-elect Obama. "With a background in the private sector and experience helping Maine's governor promote growth across the state, I am confident that Karen will lead an SBA that will not only help small business owners realize their dreams, but help our nation rebuild our economy."

You can find out more about Mills here and here. Here are some other posts on MerchantCircle about the SBA.

Community Relations

Thursday, December 11, 2008

MerchantCircle Company Timeline and History on Dipity

We recently put MerchantCircle's history, or timeline, on Dipity. Check it out below. We plan on adding some more pictures and videos, and we have plenty more historic events in store for our 655,000 merchants. Expect some big things for the beginning of next year!

Happy Holidays!
Community Relations

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I'm Unemployed - What Can I Do?

With 6.7 percent now unemployed in the United States - or 10.3 million people - Americans are distressed to say the least. President-elect Obama has cautioned that there will be no quick or easy fixes to this crisis. As more and more people join the ranks of the unemployed, more and more people will be competing for the fewer jobs that make themselves available. While there is much to be discouraged about, there is still a lot of opportunities to be had.

There are ways to stay afloat, even if you haven't had luck getting a job and your unemployment benefits are running out. Google recently announced that their Local Business Referral Representative (LBR) program is shutting down at the end of the year. Essentially, the program was meant for LBRs to collect information from businesses for Google Maps, including hours of operation and store pictures. The LBRs would also introduce the business owners to Google Maps and Adwords.

Greg Sterling writes in his blog, that he believes Google didn't fully commit to the program and that 'Adwords itself, is not a self-service product that can be readily adopted by the mass of SMBs.' We agree with Greg, but we also believe that there was just not enough incentive for people that would've made the program lucrative enough for them.

Back in October, we introduced the MerchantCircle Marketing Advisor Program. The benefits for our advisors are a monthly reoccurring revenue from the members they sign-on to our paid products. With over 10,000 paid products sold to our merchants since December 2007, our merchant base of 655,000 is only at the early stages of being introduced to affordable, effective online advertising solutions. Even in the midst of a recession, we've argued before that marketing is one of the last things a consumer-oriented business should cut. Instead, expensive, ineffective advertising like the Yellow Pages should be the first to go.

Month over month, we've seen one of the lowest churn rates in the business. We've actually seen less business owners stop online advertisements since the economy was officially declared "in a recession." The fact of the matter is, we have over 700 Marketing Advisors who are helping local business owners find more customers online. In this economic time, this means a lot to us, and to the business owners, and quite possibly to you.

To find out how you can be a MerchantCircle Marketing Advisor - click here.

Community Relations

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What Constitutes a Recession and How to Survive It

After the nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research officially declared the recession began in December of 2007, it's worth noting that there's no 'official' definition of a recession. A short definition, generally accepted, would be the U.S gross domestic product, a measure of the total output of the U.S. economy, declining for two consecutive calendar quarters - or six months.

The NBER sees it a little bit differently, but mostly factors in the gross domestic income as well. The good news here, if any, is that we've survived the recession for almost a year now. With estimates that things are only going to get worse before they get better, it's important to figure out ways to, not only survive, but take advantage of the recession.

In this US News & World Report article:

Live below your means. Some people are shopping for this year's holiday gifts while still paying off their 2007 purchases, says Gail Cunningham of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Now's the time to re-evaluate those habits, she says, before piling on even more debt. You can make sure you pay as little as possible for gifts by using online comparison websites. Another option is taking advantage of layaway programs at retailers that let you pay off purchases before you bring them home. That way, you avoid paying high interest rates to credit card companies.

Bolster that emergency cushion. Even in flush times, financial advisers say consumers should have about six months' worth of expenses in their bank account to guard against job loss or other emergencies. Now, with the unemployment rate headed toward 7 percent, it's more important than ever.

Toughen up your portfolio. It doesn't matter how smart your investing strategy is if you won't stick with it. And the roller-coaster stock market is sure making that tough to do. Jittery investors might want to think about stashing somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of their portfolio in less risky investments, such as bond funds, treasury bills, or money market funds. But don't overdo it. Investors who are decades away from retirement should keep the bulk of their portfolios in stocks. If you want to dial down your risk, look to stock funds that have been bucking the bear, such as Apex Mid Cap Growth and Reynolds Blue Chip Growth. Also, exchange-traded funds, which look like mutual funds but trade like stocks, give you more diversified exposure to a particular sector or industry than betting on individual issues.
You can click here to read the rest of the article. They also had a great article on the Top 15 Small Businesses to Start. Some of them include:
  • Higher Education Services
  • Outsourcing Manager
  • Financial Advisor

Here at MerchantCircle, we've seen every form of entrepreneur possible through our 650,000 members. While many of you are constantly looking for new entrepreneurial opportunities, others are just growing out your core business and succeeding with lower costs of online advertisements with MerchantCircle. The first thing you must do is drop the high-risk, high-cost proposition of Yellow Pages advertising, and even if you don't pay for any online ads through MerchantCircle, you still should claim your free listing on our network and edit your profile. Read what many of our free members are saying here.

Community Relations

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Politically Incorrect Business Names

We've posted once before about Creative Business Names - this time we decided to post some politically incorrect business names. Blame our bored engineer for finding these listings on our MerchantCircle network. I encourage you to not read on if you are easily offended.

Happy Thanksgiving:
Community Relations

Monday, November 24, 2008

Yellow Pages Association Response Shows Lack of Leadership, Vision

If you haven't already heard, The Wall Street Journal published an article last week titled: "Yellow Pages Faces Extinction." The headline should pretty much give away the subject, and sure enough, the Yellow Pages Association is back in defense mode. We've argued before that the YPA needs to take a more aggressive approach as an industry leader, as opposed to constant "no I'm not" mode, and reorganize the priorities of their sales force.

In this email sent out to YPA members and past attendees of their conferences, the tone is essentially: 'We tried to talk them out of running the article, they didn't call us back. You must remember these reporters are all young and they don't use the Yellow Pages.' Below is an excerpt:

Key Take-Aways: We must never lose sight of the fact that most reporters in this space are young, fresh grads from Gen Y or the Millennial generation. In order to resonate, we must speak their language and challenge their assumptions.

- Steel’s perspective on the business is not very dissimilar with other young, urban-dwelling reporters and analysts who don’t use the print Yellow Pages. She is very much up to speed on new media and its new entrants. From her perspective, the fragmented nature of the IYP space in light of this emerging competition is problematic for the Yellow Pages -- hence the direction of the article.

Here, at MerchantCircle, we've never argued that no one uses the Yellow Pages and we've also never argued that it doesn't have value for many local business owners. Where there should also be no argument, is that the Yellow Pages faces a decreasing consumer and audience base. We can quote different studies all day long on decreased usage and ad spending in print directories, but all it takes is some common sense to realize that more and more searches are taking place through personal devices. Even though the Yellow Pages has taken a multi-tiered approach to their advertisements, with digital offerings, their strategy is inherently flawed.

In the article, Emily Steel writes:
Analysts say yellow-pages sales teams face an inherent conflict. While they are pressured to sell both print and online ads, Internet ads are often a third of the price of the print product. The top priority for the sales teams often is to sell the print book first, then sell the digital products.

Even if online revenues were growing at a faster clip, analysts are cautious about the prospects of online-only directories. Yellow-pages ads are the only form of advertising many small businesses buy, and the online ads are typically sold in conjunction with print listings, Mr. Simonton says. That means that if businesses aren't buying the print ad, then the online ad disappears too.

It's hard to get a YP salesman to 'flip the script' when they know the majority of their profits will be made by selling the print ad. These are salesman that have been very successful in the past. Asking them to refocus their efforts and make less, is not an easy proposition. We have hundreds of thousands of merchants who have dealt first-hand with these salesman.

"I got one response from that $400 ad - I was really disappointed. I tried the Yellow Pages, and I think they still have value, but they charge too much," said Gary LaChapelle, owner of Maury's Kung Fu in Worcester, MA.

"The reason I don't do Yellow Page ads anymore is because I personally don't look at Yellow Pages at all. The ads were expensive and I wasn't seeing a difference in customers. Most people search on the internet, so it's important that they can find me," said Barbara Joseph, owner of Arrow Gift Shoppe in Morgantown, WV.

Rather than try and fight it, the YPA should take a proactive effort and introduce a campaign that would generate a headline of: 'The Yellow Pages Attempts to Reinvent Itself.' This will allow them to continue to plug the value of print yellow pages, as well as show the leadership they are taking in a space of emerging mediums that they are most qualified to lead. Anytime a new product or medium is introduced, put out a new press release about how YP salesman are incorporating it into their interactions with merchants (even if it hasn't happened yet). Control the discussion, especially with what journalists love. NEW.

Here's a lesson in Public Relations 101. If every journalists is saying something about you on terms that are not to your liking, you create your own terms so that you can control the conversation again. By simply repeating, 'no we're not' - it's not going to get the job done.

Kevin L.
Community Relations

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Web 2.0 Equation for Local Businesses

We released our press release today on a study of our MerchantCircle members and their activity online. I'm live-blogging right now from the Kelsey Conference, where Darren Waddell, Vice President of Marketing, MerchantCircle, just gave a speech on the panel for 'The Web 2.0 Equation: Community and Viral Effects.' Below are some of the slides Darren used for his talking points. Essentially, business owners teaching business owners about the benefits of their MerchantCircle listing.

Picture 002
Educating Each Other
News Feed
Talk To Me

Community Relations

Introducing Social Networking to Business Owners

As part of our ongoing studies into our merchant base that represents local business owners in all 50 states and almost every county in the U.S., we recently conducted a study, in conjuction with Rapleaf, about our merchant demographics and their activity, or lack thereof, on the web. Our study on small business concerns during the Presidential Election was cited in a recent edition of The New York Times. We've also surveyed our 650,000 merchant base on their advertising spending habits and preferences. It's because of many of these MerchantCircle studies, we've been able to form a comprehensive view on merchants everywhere, and sometimes, become an advocate for local business owners as well.

We're humbled and grateful to be a voice to the largest social network of local business owners in the nation and we'll continue to innovate with your business suggestions. Below is the study conducted by Rapleaf, that shows we've introduced 'social networking' to over 400,000 business owner across the nation. The majority of the business owners we've brought onto the web are over 26 years old at a clip of 86%. 54% are older than 36.

Consumer Dataset Profile Analysis
Social Networking Site Usage Analysis
Age Analysis
Location Analysis

Community Relations

Monday, November 17, 2008

Finding Small Business Loans When Banks Won't Lend

Since a $700 billion bailout was approved and almost half of it has been dispersed among the banking industry, small business owners have yet to see any of this money in the form of loans. Despite warnings from congressional leaders, and even President Bush, to not horde cash and begin loaning again, the banks seem to be reluctant to do so.

In this story, titled 'Message to Obama: Send Loans Fast,' the author suggests President-elect Obama should do exactly what he promised to do during the campaign, which is: 'start cutting loan checks directly from the government.'

In October, Obama proposed temporarily suspending the fees the Small Business Administration charges for participation in its flagship loan-guarantee programs, which insure banks against losses on a portion of the money they lend to qualifying small businesses. But he also suggested making direct loans available through the SBA's Disaster Loan Program, which traditionally assists natural-disaster victims.

Well, until President-elect Obama takes office, it seems unlikely a President with less than 10 weeks left in office will be able to accomplish anything in a Democratic Congress. We've written before about Small Business Help, Resources, and Loans, but if you aren't having any luck and have been maxing out your credit cards, check out this article titled '5 Alternatives to Borrowing from Banks.'

MerchantCircle Community Relations

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Refocusing on Main Street: MerchantCircle in The New York Times

For politicians and the media, talking up Main Street is a much tougher pitch than talking up Wall Street. On Wall Street, you can see the valuations of companies rise and fall by millions in a day. On Main Street, it's much harder to gauge a new business opening or a store closing in, say, Pocatello, Idaho. As the economy dramatically began to shift downwards during the Presidential Election, the politicians finally began throwing around "Main Street" in their campaign speeches. It's a good thing too, since Main Street creates two-thirds of all new American jobs.

Well, the media started to come around as well, once Joe the Plumber became Mr. Main Street. Today, one of MerchantCircle's small business surveys on the financial crisis was featured in The New York Times:

"In a survey in September of 4,200 small-business owners by MerchantCircle, a social networking Web site for small companies, four of five respondents said either that the federal bailout of financial institutions would not help them or that they were unsure whether it would.

At the same time, the election intensified scrutiny of Mr. Obama's tax plans. He has pledged to raise taxes on households earning more than $250,000. He has also pledged to create a $5 billion Small Business Rescue Plan, similar to the Treasury bailout, to be run through the Small Business Administration, as well as to scrap capital gains taxes on investments in small businesses and provide them with a small tax credit on their health care costs."
Click here to read the full article. Click here to see the survey results mentioned in the article.

Community Relations

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Small Business Survival Tips During a Recession

No matter whom you ask, one of the most important things you should do for your business during a recession is to market, market, market. I highly recommend reading this article from SFGate called Tips for Small Businesses to Survive Recession. On marketing:

"Don't stop marketing. Scrutinize your marketing budget to make sure you're not wasting money, but don't stop marketing or advertising completely. If you can afford it, you may even want to increase your sales and marketing team."

From BNET, (even though this article is dated 1992, the information is similar to tips from today):

"5. Marketing is everything in a recession.
Smart firms continue with a strong marketing effort even in difficult times. But don't expect instant gratification. Marketing in tough times paves the way for future profits. It's the best way to keep your name in front of both clients and prospects.

..... Maintaining the status quo is for those destined to be the dinosaurs of the 80s, not the dominant firms of the 90s."

Besides marketing, it's also important to operate your business in a lean manner. If you think you're already lean - think again - you can probably get leaner. Through the Merchant Marketplace, you can compare prices on products you're already using to operate your business.

During a recession, you can find some great deals, from hiring excellent employees, to cheaper products, including advertising. It's important to clear your books of expenses that don't work, namely the Yellow Pages. Of course, this isn't for everyone. Some businesses still find the print Yellow Pages to be effective. The majority of MerchantCircle's 650,000 members do not. Here's a list of quotes from merchants from almost every state who have turned their attention away from the Yellow Pages and their high prices and long contracts.

If you haven't already claimed your MerchantCircle listing, you should know that it's free. You can write blogs, newsletters, upload your business pics, connect with other business owners, and communicate with your customers online. Even if you already have a website, MerchantCircle strengthens your overall online presence in a Web 2.0 way. If you're looking for advertising options, MerchantCircle has the most extensive, affordable, and effective advertising options on the web.

Remember: Be aggressive, stay lean, and stay strong.

Community Relations

Monday, November 10, 2008

What President-Elect Obama's Email Campaign Can Teach Business Owners

Whether you're Republic, Democrat, Independent, or other, it's hard to argue against the effectiveness of President-Elect Barack Obama's game-changing online outreach. Armed with more than 10 million e-mail addresses, his legion of supporters were constantly kept up-to-date with the campaign, and were directly responsible for organizing, registering, and rallying millions more.

Nearly 1/3 of the 10 million donated money to the campaign and shortly after winning the election, a message was sent to his supporters, that this was only the beginning. His campaign was able to keep him instantly connected with his supporters through the web, a lesson that business owners should also use to their advantage.

Add Customers

With MerchantCircle's e-mail options, you can upload your customer and contact information and business contacts to send out coupons, blogs, or newsletters. If you don't have any of your customer contact information, you should consider asking your customers whether they want to receive coupons and specials from you. As your contact list grows, you will be able to maximize the effectiveness of any specials or sales, without have to spend money advertising it in the newspaper, radio, or television. Just like President-Elect Obama's e-mail list, it won't cost you a thing to reach your most valuable customers.

Network of Merchants

Click here to get started on your Merchant Dashboard.

Community Relations

Friday, November 7, 2008

Best Local Business Sites

I got an emailed newsletter today from one of the merchants that's in my network for my production company: Treasure Islands of Santa Cruz. It's one of the best, most informative newsletters I've come across. I've spoken to Rick Cook, the owner, before and he says that he often fields calls from merchants asking him how he did certain things on his MerchantCircle page. Well, I guess he finally decided to put it all down in a newsletter! Check it out by clicking here.


In the newsletter, Rick wrote several articles, including:
  • How to Create a Free Website Banner and a MerchantCircle Ad with Bling
  • Make Your Own Free Banner for Your MerchantCircle Ads or For Your Website
  • Creating an Ad on Your MerchantCircle Page With Your New Banner
  • In Layman's Terms How MerchantCircle Can Work For You
  • Helping Out a Fellow MerchantCircle Member in Need

Thanks Rick, for making my job a lot easier! Follow some of his tips, which increased his website traffic by 500%. Check out his MerchantCircle listing here.

Treasure Islands

Community Relations

Thursday, November 6, 2008

How Do I Make My MerchantCircle Listing Look Better?

It's nice for MerchantCircle to have been featured on many sites that recommend the best places to list your business on the web, including here on Entrepreneur and Search Engine Land, amongst others. We now have merchants in every state and nearly every county in the Unites States. For the 640,000 business owners who have already joined MerchantCircle and future members, it's important that you utilize your listing to the fullest of it's abilities. Besides writing a blog, which you should definitely do consistently, you can dress up your listing as well and make it stand out more. Here's a look below at just some of the color options, which you can find by clicking here on your Merchant Dashboard:

Color Options

You also have the option of placing icons on your listing that are relevant to your business. This will help make your listing more visually appealing and personalized. Below are just a few of the options you can choose from. Clicking here will take you to your there.

Icon Options

Take a moment to dress up your page. It's all free, fun, and can quite possibly catch the attention of a customer's eye.

Community Relations

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

4 Essential Tips for Writing a Great Blog

Out of the many free tools we offer for your MerchantCircle listing, one of the most important is the blog feature. If you don't already know, a blog is essentially a web log, or public journal, that can be found and read over the internet. While writing this blog and a personal one over the last two years, I've found out a lot about what works and what doesn't. Here are four essential and important tips on having a successful blog that will bring you new customers.

1. Write Often - It's important to write and post as often as you can, which search engines love. Many people make the mistake of writing one or two blog posts, lose interest, and never write another. Put it this way: the more you write, the more material you have floating around the web, thus more chances that someone will find that material and click through to your MerchantCircle listing.

2. Write Early - Be ahead of the curve. If you can think of a topic, or are the first person to write about a subject before everyone else starts writing about it, then your blog post will come up at or near the top of search engine results. This traffic will bring your blog and listing more credibility with the search engines and more visitors.

3. Write Pertinent Titles - It's not always the best to write a witty, intriguing title. Go with a title that spells out exactly what you're writing about. Think about what a customer might enter into a search engine box, and write a post with a title of those exact words. Make it easy for customers to find you. While a spelled out title may seem bland, that doesn't mean your writing has to be. Once the customer finds your blog post, you still have to make sure they stay there by having an informative, interesting, or humorous blog.

4. Write to Link - While writing your posts, make sure you link relevant articles. This essentially means that someone reading your blog post can click on certain words that you've left a link for and it will take you to a new article or blog posts that's relevant to what you're writing about. For instance, if you click on the word link in the first sentence, it will take you to a Wikipedia page that explains what a link is. Also, comment on other people's blogs, if it's relevant, and leave a link to the relevant blog post you wrote. This can bring you added traffic and loyal readers.

By following these four rules, you can drive traffic to your site quickly and effectively. Getting the same people to visit your blog regularly can be hard, but if the stated goal is attracting NEW customers, then you're only as good as your next, well-titled blog post.

Happy Blogging,
Community Relations

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Vote from Wasilla, Alaska: Thank Goodness It's Over!

Over the last few months, we've chronicled the election day viewpoints of business owners all over the nation. When Governor Sarah Palin was announced as the GOP Vice-Presidential candidate, we went into her backyard and interviewed business owner in Wasilla, AK. When Senator Joe Biden was chosen for the Democratic ticket, we did the same thing in Wilmington, DE. Today, we went back and interviewed some of those same business owners to see how their views and votes may or may not have changed.

For Denise Rexford of Stampin Moose in Wasilla:
"I voted this morning for McCain. Whether Governor Palin was on the ticket or not, I still would've voted for McCain. I think he has the experience, whereas Obama has no experience. On a business level, his tax policy just keeps getting lower and lower. First it started at $250,000 and below you won't get taxed and now I hear it's $150,000."

Business owners on both sides of the fence said that the Vice-Presidential candidate made almost no difference in their selection for President.

Francine Byrd of The Diagnostic Center in Wilmington:
"I voted for Obama today. I think our economy is really struggling right now and I hope Senator Obama keeps his promise. He said he would do a complete audit of the government and it's spending, which I think is sorely needed."

One business owner in Wasilla that I spoke to was still undecided just 4 hours before her polls were to close.

Becky Raterree of Northern Mist Gifts in Wasilla:
"I am really torn with my decision. I'm a small business owner, the wife of a veteran, the mother of a son who may get sent to war, and I have healthcare concerns. While I know Sarah very well and like her, my choice is based off of McCain and Obama. I like that McCain's a vet, but I don't like some of his policies that will extend President's Bush's. On the Obama side, I don't like that he has no experience dealing with the military. I really think the decision I make will come in the voting booth!"

All of the business owners I spoke to are just happy that the election is over for a myriad of reasons, including being able to watch regular programming on television, and in Wasilla, for the reporter circus to make it's way out of town.

We're just glad you voted here at MerchantCircle and wish you future business success.

Community Relations

Monday, November 3, 2008

Where Do I Go and Vote?

logoOne of the most exciting election days in years is almost upon us. Tomorrow, millions of people will make their voice heard by heading out to their nearest polling location. If you've watched any of the Presidential or Vice-Presidential candidate's speeches over the past few weeks, I'm sure you've heard "small businesses" at some point or another. It's time to vote for you candidate, and no matter who wins, make sure that they stay true to their promises.

Click here to find your nearest voting station.

Community Relations

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How Many Business Owners Would Be Affected Under Obama's Plan?

As the economy becomes the focal point of this Presidential Election, Joe the Plumber is still making headlines all over the place. He has already decided to endorse Senator John McCain. We've previously written about how Joe Wurzelbacher might have trouble trying to buy the business from his employer, but even if he were able to, he would join less than 2% of business owners making more than $250,000. That's the threshold of increased taxation under Senator Barack Obama's plan. According to a Small Business story:

"....even using the broad definition of small business that McCain likes, very few owners would see their own taxes rise. That's because the lion's share of taxable income comes from a small number of wealthy businesses. Out of 34.7 million filers with business income on Schedules C, E or F, 479,000 filers fall into the top two brackets, according to an analysis of projected 2009 filings by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. The other 34.3 million - or 98.6% - would be unaffected by Obama's proposed rate hike."

A recent Fortune/Zogby poll showed 45% of small business owners were 'worse off' than they were three years ago. This falls in line with our recent MerchantCircle poll showing more than 55% of business owners seeing a 'moderate' to 'severe' decline in sales and revenue over the last year. Even with those results under the current administration, many small business owners seem to have separated from blaming one party or the other. 54% of members surveyed said they would vote for Senator McCain, compared to 36% for Senator Obama.

Small Business owners around the nation also weighed in on CNN:

"I'd really love to see major change in the government. I don't think the problems are going to be solved in the next four to eight years, but at least we have to start somewhere."

Read what our small business owners are saying here.

In an article on, the author argues that raising taxes under Obama's plan would mean less businesses would be interested in expanding, thus less new jobs produced.

"The economic law that 'taxing something more and getting less of it' would apply. Fewer Americans would be interested in opening or expanding small businesses. Tax evasion and legal tax avoidance would spike, as tax shelters would once again become a booming industry."
The argument on both sides for who will help out Main Street America the best, is nearing the home stretch. Less than six days remain until election day.

Community Relations

Monday, October 27, 2008

Showing Value to the Web 2.0 Small Business Community

When MerchantCircle first launched in June of 2006, the emphasis was on growth, community, and value. As the nation's first Web 2.0 social network and online directory for local business owners, we knew that community and business owners would be far more powerful than a fast-talking Yellow Page salesman in a suit. Now, nearly two and a half years later with over 635,000 members, we've been able to confirm many of our initial thoughts and continue to innovate to make sure that business owners can easily have a strong web-presence and find new customers.

Recently, I've spent some time speaking to a lot of our local merchants around Santa Clara, CA trying to find a business owner who has had a lot of experience advertising in Newspapers, Yellow Pages, and various online mediums. The Kelsey Group had asked if we had any local business owners in the area to speak on a panel on November 19 - 21. (Our own Darren Waddell will be speaking on a panel titled, The Web 2.0 Equation: Community and Viral Effects.) Many of these merchants I spoke to were biased, naturally, since they pay for advertising through us - but there was some really great insight to be heard. We already hear from thousands of merchants each month about how costly and inneffective Newspapers and Yellow Pages advertising is, but hearing about the shortfalls of online advertising through many of the large "players" in the field was relatively new.

It seems that local business owners are getting BOMBARDED with calls all the time now from online Yellow Pages directories and other online advertising firms. One business owner in Mountain View (Nunley Custom Homes) has been actively advertising his business since 1989. He told me that many of the online firms he's advertised through don't deliver, overcharge, and offer no value. I asked him why he chose to go with us next, and he said, "at least with MerchantCircle, you know what you're going to get. You already get value through your MerchantCircle listing page - and it's free."

Another business I spoke to, Treasure Islands of Santa Cruz, has been advertising with MerchantCircle for over a year. He currently averages over 7,000 visitors to his MerchantCircle listing each month and has grown his business to two locations. He regularly gets calls from merchants in his network asking him how to get the most from their MerchantCircle listing.

By showing merchants value with a free customizable web listing that helps your business have a stronger web presence, we've gained the trust of many of these merchants when it comes time for them to decide they want to start placing ads on search engines and across the web. Because we have merchants all across the country who trust and believe in the network, (blogging, creating newsletters, uploading pics, networking with other business owners), it has brought the entire network up and our merchants are our biggest promoters on the street - not slick salesmen who offer nothing but talk.

We're proud to have such an active, engaging group of business owners who have sounded off on everything from politics to business practices. They don't always agree, but they are the heartbeat of America - producing more than 2/3 of all NEW American jobs. It's important for anyone who wants the attention of local business owner to show them VALUE first.

Community Relations

Friday, October 24, 2008

MerchantCircle Interview on The Wall Street Journal

Wall Street JournalAs the financial collapse has spread from Wall Street to Main Street and back, MerchantCircle's co-founder Ben Smith was interviewed in today's edition of The Wall Street Journal. The article titled, 'Venture Capital Financing Slows Amid Economic Downturn,' talks about venture-financed companies becoming more fiscally responsible and lean to survive the economic downturn.

Ben also wrote a post a few weeks ago on the MerchantCircle blog titled, 'How to Survive the Financial Downturn.'

Be sure to read both.

Community Relations

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Small Business Help, Resources, and Loans

With many local businesses struggling due to the recent economic condition, we've launched a number of programs to help merchants save money and find more customers.
  • Marketing Advisor Program - Pays you money for each merchant you sign-on to the MerchantCircle network.
  • Merchant Marketplace - Saves you money on essential business needs and products from Fortune 500 companies.
  • Instant Website - Instead of paying a company hundreds of dollars to build you a website, buy a domain name, and host the website - MerchantCircle offers all of this for as low as $6.99 a month!

There are many government organizations that are designed specifically to help out small businesses. With the $700 billion dollar bailout, some of that money is supposed to help out local businesses. Check out these sites:

Hopefully these links come in handy.

Community Relations

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Small Business Owners Weigh In on Obama and McCain: And It's Not Pretty

Obama McCain DebateAs over 4,000 small business owners weighed in on our MerchantCircle Presidential Election Survey, more than 90 comments have been left on our survey results found here. The comments show that business owners are taking a very active, and vocal role in this year's election. The arguments for or against McCain/Palin and Obama/Biden are not always pretty. In fact, some of them border on outrageous. Here are some of the commenters against Obama say:

- "I don't know how Obama (we know what his middle name is) is so high in the polls when most people I talk to say they would not vote for him. He scares me to death!!"

- "Obama hates all that America stands for, and if he is elected it will be the begining of the end of America."

Not exactly sure what Obama's middle name has to do with his character or leadership skills or how he'll help out small businesses. Some of those against McCain have also shown little restraint:

- "He's lost his soul to win an election. We don't a need vindictive, wishy washy old troll leading this country!!"

- "If you really want 4 more years of what we have had to endure, please vote for the old guy and Gov. Avon Lady...give me a break...Just more of the Bush agenda."

Not sure what age has to do with someone's ability to lead either. Not everyone has been taken away with name-calling though, there were many comments that did focus on small business and the economy:

- "98% of small businesses make under $250,000 so they would actually benefit by Obama's plan, not McCain's. Obama wants to work from the bottom up instead of the policy we have seen for the past eight years, which is to work from the top down and hope some of it trickles down - it hasn't worked."

- "Raising taxes for anyone in this economic climate would be a mistake. Anyone who thinks that those companies who bring in 250K per year and will have higher taxes hit them won't affect those companies and individuals who bring in less are sadly mistaken. If you think unemployment is bad now wait until those tax hikes hit the employers who must cut jobs to adapt."

As the election comes down to it's final two weeks - we hope that the conversation does not become as hate-filled as some of the recent negative ads directed towards both candidates. For a look at up-to-date electoral votes for each candidate, you can check here. Here's a broad look at both candidate's proposals for Taxes, Health Care, Trade, and Startup Incentives.

Community Relations

Friday, October 17, 2008

Say it Ain't So Joe the Plumber!

JoeWell turns out Joe the Plumber's going to have a harder time buying A Newell Plumbing Repair than we thought. First of all, he isn't even a licensed plumber, which is needed for him to work in Toledo, OH. That's easily attainable, but is he even in any position to buy the company he works at? According to court documents, he owes nearly $1,200 in back taxes. When he asked Senator Obama about the $250,000 tax threshold, maybe he meant in the long-term future. To top matters off, his actual first name is Samuel and his middle name is Joe.

Check out the back and forth discussion on our comment board from small business owners weighing in on Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama. While the conversation is predominantly pro-McCain, the plumber's union does support Senator Barack Obama.

Community Relations

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Can Joe the Plumber Buy Newell Plumbing?

Joe the PlumberJoe the Plumber may face a hurdle now that the presidential campaign has brought him to the forefront of national attention. Calls to A Newell Plumbing Repairs found off MerchantCircle went unanswered, and their voice mail box was full. Sounds like business is REALLY good - that, or a ton of journalists are calling to find out more about Joe Wurzelbacher.

Joe was brought up by Senator John McCain during the third and final Presidential debate. Joe had asked Senator Barack Obama on Sunday in Holland, OH why he should be taxed more if he bought the plumbing business he currently worked at. A Newell Plumbing apparently makes more than $250,000 a year. Senator McCain's point was that no one should be taxed more during this time of economic distress.

Joe's response to being America's 'average Joe'? "Pretty surreal" according to an interview he did with the Associated Press. Let's hope that he's already closing the deal on buying the business, because this attention will bring A Newell Plumbing Repair to the top of search engine queries.

Community Relations

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Yellow Pages' Expensive 'Feet on the Street' No Longer Necessary

mcAdvisorAs the economy tightens, and business owners could use more money, MerchantCircle has launched it's Marketing Advisor program. Instead of implementing a traditional, expensive 'feet on the street' sales force, MerchantCircle has taken an approach that no one else has the membership base to attempt. By paying local business owners to sign up their business neighbors to free memberships and paid online advertising packages, Marketing Advisors can earn a reoccuring revenue each month.

By not implementing a sales force, MerchantCircle and it's Marketing Advisors pass the savings on to local business owners. Yellow Pages salesmen have to mark up their prices to pay for the production of the books, their base salary, and finally their commission - thus making Yellow Pages costly and, we've argued many times before, ineffective.

Here's an excerpt from the release:

Marketing Advisors sign-up online and can choose up to 5 zip codes for their local territory. They get access to online training and marketing materials, and they get to offer a great message to local merchants – “cancel that Yellow Pages ad and start finding customers online with MerchantCircle.” The program launched in August, and already over 700 Marketing Advisors have signed up and provided help for local merchants in over 2,000 zip codes.

Click here to read more the full press release. To find out more about how you can be a Marketing Advisor click here.

Community Relations

Monday, October 13, 2008

Down 54% to 36% Among Small Business Owners, Obama Releases Small Biz Rescue Plan

Coming on the heels of our Presidential Election Survey results, where Senator John McCain was favored 54% to Senator Barack Obama's 36% by small business owners, Obama over the weekend released a small business rescue plan. The plan would help out small businesses hurt by the financial crisis and would essentially offer tax incentives and loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Obama was quoted as saying in this article: "Small businesses employ half of the workers in the private sector in this country, and account for the majority of the job growth. But we also know that a credit crunch has dried up capital and put these jobs at risk - shops can't finance their inventories, and small firmes can't make payroll. If we don't act, we'll be looking at scaled back operations, shuttered shops, and laid-off workers."

There are some questions as to whether this plan would actually work, considering banks have already become more reluctant loaning to small companies. Read the full article here and feel free to weigh-in on on the comment board. There was a tremendous response to the MerchantCircle survey results, found here, that showed small business owners feel VERY passionately on both sides of the fence.

Community Relations

Thursday, October 9, 2008

How To Survive the Financial Downturn: Lessons from Sequoia Capital and Ron Conway

Philosopher George Santayana famously said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." If there’s anything we’ve learned from American history, and in particular, from the last 10 years, it’s that we must do our best to avoid repeating the mistakes of our past.

With free-spending ways, dot-coms in the late 90s focused on increasing market share with no attention paid towards the bottom line. Many internet companies were losing money, yet still going public on the hopes that ‘brand awareness’ and cornering their market would get them profitable. They were wrong. Their initial stock prices were wildly inflated, because investors were betting on their rise, not their value. When the dot-com bust took place from 2000 to 2002, roughly $5 Trillion dollars in market value went down with it.

As the current financial crisis has swept from the housing bust, to the mortgage industry, to lenders and banks, Silicon Valley has largely sat here watching from the wings. But as history and its mistakes tell us, this time, we must take proactive efforts so that millions (trillions was only on paper) are not lost again. Already, the reintroduction of dot-coms, known as Web 2.0, has made huge changes. No longer do freshly minted dot-coms spend millions on a Super Bowl commercial without turning a profit. No longer are web launch parties full of extravagance and hired talent. But that’s still not enough. Those who want to protect their investments and their money, are sounding the alarms early, because they can’t allow a dot-com bust to happen again.

Over the last few days, Sequoia Capital, a venture capital firm behind Apple, EA, and Google amongst other, held a meeting for their roughly 100 portfolio CEOs. The last time this happened was during the dot-com crash. The messages here were the same: Cut expenses and become cash-flow positive. Here are some excerpts from that meeting:

Mike Moritz: For those of you that are not cash-flow positive, get there now. Raising capital is nearly impossible if you’re too far off of cash flow positive.

Eric Upin: We are in the beginning of a long cycle, what we call a “Secular Bear Market.” This could be a 15 year problem. Previous recessions have averaged 17 years.

Michael Beckwith: Look at eBay (1,000 planned job cuts) – this is just the beginning.

Doug Leone: In a downturn, aggressive PR and Communications Strategy is key.
Ron Conway, an early-stage investor in Google and PayPal (and an investor in MerchantCircle), re-sent a few lessons learned during the dot-com bust. The messages aimed to help the companies he invested in not make the same mistakes of the previous generation. Below is an excerpt of his email to his portfolio companies back in 2000.

1. If you are in a funding cycle, you should raise your funding as
soon as possible and raise as much as possible.

2. Many companies are ignoring certain VC leads we've provided in
order to concentrate on the top tier only. While we have preached that in the past, this is no longer the case. Currently, top-tier VC bandwidth constraints, coupled with the market down draft, make it very important to take meetings with any VCs where you can get their attention. We have been working hard to open up this new bandwidth.

3. You must aggressively examine and pursue M&A opportunities
(unless you have over 12 months of cash reserves!) ro insure you have critical mass (including funding, customers, rolodex power, market share, cash, synergy, etc.).

4. Be realistic on valuations - they will fall so be ready and
willing to co-operate.

5. Look for corporate partners to invest so you can raise more
money. You should also consider a sale of your company to your corporate partners.

6. If you are entering a funding cycle start raising money sooner
rather than later.

7. While it's safe to say entrepreneurs have had negotiating
leverage with the "down draft" in the market, the VC community will start exercising their leverage.

The Key thing people need in operating a startup is maneuvering room. You need time to move around and time, in the startup world, is infinite if you are generating cash. Of course if you have a large amount of cash on-hand, and generating cash, you can be a consolidator. Take for instance JP Morgan Chase. As the mortgage crisis has led to the collapse of numerous financial institutions, JP Morgan was able to consolidate, or acquire, Bear Stearns & Co. and Washington Mutual at low prices. This applies to startups and small businesses as well. If you have cash on-hand and are generating cash, you can look to expand quickly, easily, and less expensively than the past.

So how do these Silicon Valley lessons apply to Main Street businesses? Like Silicon Valley startups, local businesses need to be nimble enough to adapt to a changing economic environment. On Main Street, local business owners very rarely get to make the same mistake twice, because one big mistake means you're out of business.

While we can all hope for the best, we should also expect the worst. Local business owners must heed some of the same advice towards cutting expenses:

· While it may be hard, reduce hours of your employees, and maybe even consider laying off employees until the economy recovers.

· Turn your attention to products and messages that work – minimize novelty products and the promotion of them.
· Stop advertising in the Yellow Pages. It’s costly, long-term, and often-times, ineffective. Move your advertising dollars to local internet marketing, where it’s cheap and easily adaptable.
· Beginoffering deals to get customers in the door (Buy one get one free, 20% off one item, etc.) – something you can do in real-time online and impossible in the print yellow pages.
· Network, network, network – networking with your local community to build strong relationship costs nothing, and the rewards in terms of attracting new customers and building new relationships are invaluable.

Ben T. Smith, IV
Co-Founder and Chairman, MerchantCircle

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Obama, McCain, Taxes, Small Business, and You

While we didn't hear much around the words "Main Street" this go around, there was plenty to do with taxes during the second of three debates between Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain. There seems to be more blame and misleading statements this election season than any in recent memory. To get a complete rundown of all the "mangled facts" between both candidates, check out this link from Here's an excerpt below:
  • Obama said his health care plan would lower insurance premiums by up to $2,500 a year. Experts we’ve consulted see little evidence such savings would materialize.
  • McCain misstated his own health care plan, saying he’d give a $5,000 tax credit to “every American” His plan actually would provide only $2,500 per individual, or $5,000 for couples and families. He also misstated Obama’s health care plan, claiming it would levy fines on “small businesses” that fail to provide health insurance. Actually, Obama’s plan exempts “small businesses.”
Both candidates had to spend the majority of their alloted time refuting what the other was saying about them, rather than answer the questions. Here a link to a KCBS5 story about each candidate's tax policies and what they mean to small business owners. Below is an excerpt:

First, on taxes: Experts say at least three out of four small businesses pay taxes through the owner's personal income tax. Under a Barack Obama administration, couples who make less than $250,000 will either see taxes stay the same - or drop. For those making more, taxes will go up. Under McCain, there would be no changes to the current tax structure. For the small remaining group of businesses that file corporate taxes, Obama proposes leaving the corporate tax rate at 35 percent. McCain would drop it to 25 percent.
With the results from our recently released 'Presidential Survey' and updates from the MerchantCircle blog, we want to make sure you can make informed decisions this election season and beyond.

Community Relations

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Presidential Election Survey Results: Small Business Owners Support McCain over Obama by a Large Margin

Total Even as new polls suggest Barack Obama is widening his lead over John McCain amongst likely voters, 53% to 45% supporting Obama according to the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation, small business owners surveyed in a MerchantCircle study overwhelmingly support McCain. The survey was conducted from September 25 to October 6 to over 4,300 small business owners in all 50 states. MerchantCircle is the largest online network of local business owners in the nation with 625,000 members.

The surveys were conducted voluntarily from business owners via email. Over 96% of the responders intend to vote in November, although 10% are still unsure which candidate will help small businesses the most.

10 questions were asked, shown below:

Q 1 - 2

Q 3 - 4

Q 5

Q 6

Q 7 - 8

Q 9

Q 10

Here are some interesting stats from breaking down the results:

  • Of those (1602 surveyed) who rated that the current administration has represented the interests of local business as “not well at all”, 75.3% indicate they will vote for Obama, 8.7% McCain, 11% don’t know; and 4.9% other.
  • 55% have seen a “Severe” or “Moderate” decline in sales and revenue over the past year; 49.4% of McCain supporters versus 40% for Obama supporters.
  • McCain had the largest margin of support from businesses with 21+ employees – 64.7% to Obama’s 27.8%. Businesses that identified themselves as having one employee had the closest margin of difference – 47.9% indicated they would vote for McCain to 42% who would vote for Obama.

For individual state break downs, or special requests for specific data, please email Jennifer Roberts at

Community Relations

Friday, October 3, 2008

Despite $700 Billion Bailout - 80% of Small Business Owners Still Not Convinced It Will Help

As we prepare Tuesday's official release of our Presidential Election Survey results, we're coming across a lot of discrepancies between the Government's message and what Main Street America believes. We also have an overwhelming response as to who Small Business Owners plan on voting for come November election time. Here's an excerpt of the release below:


Despite White House and Congressional Efforts to Persuade Main Street America the Bailout is Needed, Nearly 80% of Small Business Owners Remain Unconvinced

Los Altos, CA October 3, 2008 – Only 20.1% of local business owners surveyed around the nation believe the U.S. Government’s proposed $700 billion bailout of the financial industry will help them, according to new survey results set to be released next Tuesday. The study was conducted from September 25 to October 1 by MerchantCircle, the largest social network of local business owners in the nation. The survey results came from over 4,200 responders in all 50 states. MerchantCircle has 625,000 members across the nation.

“I think what we’re seeing here is Washington not conveying their message to Main Street America,” says MerchantCircle Founder, Ben T. Smith, IV. “Nearly 45% say the bailout will not help them out, and 35% aren’t sure. To me, that means they view this bailout as only helping out Wall Street, with little effect on the economy around them. The focus should be on how Main Street America sees this bailout – and that’s not coming across.”

To read the complete release, click here.

Community Relations

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Early Election Survey Results and Why You Should Vote

With election day just over a month away, our Presidential Election Survey is starting to yield some VERY interesting results. Amongst some of the questions to our merchant base: Will the Bailout help out small business owners? Does race or age play a factor in the way you vote? What are the most important issues to you? And of course, who do you plan on voting for? The early results, I think you'll find, are very interesting.

In particular, we have individual results in the battleground states of Ohio, Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Virginia, and New Hampshire.

In the meantime, it's important that we all get out and vote - no matter your age, race, gender or economic background. Our nation is facing a historic election that will need the support of all it's citizens. You can register up until October 20th.

Go out and be heard.

Community Relations

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Understanding the Bailout: How Politics is Underpromoting Main Street in Favor of Wall Street

Part 1:

As part of the largest and fastest growing network of local business owners in the nation, it's important that myself and the MerchantCircle team spend as much time as possible talking to the local business owners that make up who we are. In this defining moment of our economic history, almost all news stories have been focused around collapsing stock prices, epic bank failures, and $700 billion dollars worth of government bailout. Lost in the mix of financial terms and rhetoric, is what the $700 billion would've meant for the working man and woman, local business owners, and the next generation. Not one story has been written about what may happen to the employees of Washington Mutual, which was the largest U.S. bank failure in history, before being bought by JPMorgan Chase & Co. Regardless, many of the business owners I’ve spoken to still understand the consequences of inaction and the trickledown effect of a sputtering economy.

While in my home state of Alabama, I've spent the last few days meeting and learning what concerns business owners and their employees. I think Washington saw the rude awakening that was in store when they failed to properly gauge the viewpoints of everyday business owners. Some congressional leaders were bombarded with calls from their constituents at a clip of nearly 200 to 1 - against the $700 billion dollar bailout. The vote was 13 votes short of passing, with a final of 228 to 205. While it's still up for debate on whether the failed resolution will cause a complete collapse of the U.S. economy, the Dow Jones industrial average did sink 777 points because nothing was done. That’s about a $1.2 trillion drop in value of all the companies publicly traded on the Stock Exchange – hurting many with a pension or 401K plan.

In theory, the $700 billion dollar bailout would've kept banks open to small business owners in the form of mortgage loans, business loans and other consumer borrowing. In recent weeks, banks and firms had stopped loaning to each other as depreciating home values and foreclosures wiped out the possible pool of money available to loan to small businesses. The bailout would have allowed the government to purchase troubled assets from these financial institutions, which, in theory, would allow banks to regain confidence in lending.

It doesn't help financial institutions when customers withdraw money in droves. For every one dollar that comes out of a bank, that's essentially 12 less dollars in the U.S. money supply. Which is essentially the reason behind the collapse of Washington Mutual. This may also have an adverse affect all across the board, which is why the government feels it needs to step in immediately. If the banks stop lending money, then everyone will be broke and stop buying things. If people stop buying things, every company will lose revenue, which could then lead to job cuts and a deeper recession.

Much of what the government overlooked was how the rest of the nation would see this resolution. The way that it was reported, made the bailout seem like this would rescue big institutions, when for years, many small business owners have been struggling with no intervention from the government. The bailout would have done little around directly helping out those whose are in danger of losing their homes and facing foreclosures. To put the $700 billion in context, there’s about 25 million estimated small business owners in the nation according the U.S. Census. If the government were to distribute that bailout money amongst the nation’s business owners, that’s about $28,000 for every merchant to try and grow their business and the economy. Distributed equally between the nation’s 300 million people? That equates to about $2,300 a person.

While speaking to businesses such as Pink Pony in Gulf Shores, AL, Paradise Marine, Sportsman's Marine in Fairhope, AL; Bay Breeze, The Charter Boat MAR-T on Dauphin Island, and Julwin’s Restaurant in Fairhope, AL amongst others the last few days, I learned that many of them have cut their work force in half over the last few years. With a loss in sales, these business owners saw the bailout as necessary to stave off further economic disaster from future bank failures. It’s the masses who shop on Main Street who see the bailout as using tax payer dollars to help out the upper crust of Wall Street. There is no way the bailout will not cause outrage from everyday citizens, especially when so little is advertised for those who are struggling. If a new resolution hopes to pass, it would be better served if the White House and Congress spoke directly to Main Street consumers about how this resolution is helping them out directly and not just bailing out the “greed” in Wall Street. Many in local communities spend little time checking the Dow Jones industrial average, as they worry about problems that are closer to home and economic conditions that have forced them to lay off their employees and find new methods towards acquiring new customers.

This bailout is critical to local business owners, but the positioning towards Main Street America is wrong. Small business owners I’ve spoken to have expressed to me that the nation needs a working bank system for running their business and consumers need to have credit. This bailout cannot ONLY be seen as bailing out Wall Street. The consequences must be seen on a more ‘local’ level. Often times, the most vocal constituents are the ones who disagree with something. Many of the business owners and employees I spoke to did not know how to go about reaching their local representatives or even if they would listen. Well, with the failed bailout, it’s obvious, many representatives listened to their constituents. It’s time YOU voiced your opinion as well – for a list of contact information you can click here to find a link. When the next bailout proposal hits, let your congressman know how you feel.

Ben T. Smith
Co-Founder and Chairman, MerchantCircle

In next week's Part 2: read about what you should do as a business owner and how you can protect yourself.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

MerchantCircle Partners with infoUSA: Powering Your Business Information Everywhere

infoUSA logoIn a mobile world, we're becoming less land-locked than ever before. Everything we do is wireless. From wireless remote controls in the 80s, to phones, to video games, and now the internet. People are searching for businesses through cell phones, GPS, and car navigation systems. For us, it's important we make your business found through your MerchantCircle listing. That's why we've partnered with infoUSA to power your listing from the web and beyond across all networks.

Another added benefit, hundreds of our business owners change something on their business listing each day. For almost all of them, there's too many networks and directories to try and manually update one at a time. Our new partnership, not only updates public business information automatically, it makes sure that everyone is aware of your new address, phone number, etc. and that you're found on major search engines and directories across the web.

infoUSA will be able to obtain this constantly updated information, and distribute it across all major search engines, mobile devices and navigation systems.

It's just one more way for us to save you time, so that you can spend it offline taking care of your customers.

Community Relations

P.S. Check out our Press Release on the partnership here.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Presidential Debate: Obama vs. McCain

mccain_obamaWith tonight's highly anticipated debate just minutes away from starting - the first of 3 - the nation will eagerly dissect who looks and sounds more presidential: Senators Barack Obama or John McCain? Chances are, the answers will be less than groundbreaking, therefore, demeanor, likability, and eloquence may sway some of the estimated 18% of voters who are undecided.

Be sure to check your email inbox for our Presidential Survey, that will help us fight for the causes that are important to you as local business owners. In the survey, we ask questions, including whether the proposed 700 billion dollar bailout will help you out.

As the nation's largest online network of local business owners, we'll work hard to make sure your voice is heard, not only in your local communities, but also in the hallways of the nation's capital.

Community Relations

P.S. You can also voice your concerns inside our MerchantCircle forums.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Local Business Internet Coupon Deals

According to Scarborough Research, Internet coupons now account for 11 percent of all coupons used in the United States. That's a number that will only continue to grow as businesses and consumers become more web-savvy. We've written many times before about the importance of creating a coupon for your MerchantCircle listing because of the SEO opportunity, not to mention the free cost, compared with print.

In a recent addition of the Columbia Missourian, Greg Wasserman mentions MerchantCircle several times in "Columbia businesses take advantage of Web to offer coupons" writes:

Internet coupons have several advantages compared with traditional coupons. Many online coupon services use templates that business owners can fill out, allowing them to quickly and easily create custom deals. And because the Internet is always open, business owners and consumers always have access.

"It's so much easier when you can fill it out right then and there," Greenway said. "The availability of them being out there 24/7/365, generally for free, is a great form of advertising."

Electronic coupons aren't limited to individual business' Web sites. City governments, chambers of commerce and even Google have jumped into the online coupon game.

Justin Christmas, owner of Carpet Plus, posted his business on MerchantCircle about six months ago. He said he sees one or two people a month using coupons printed from the Internet.

You can see Justin's coupon below and you can visit his MerchantCircle listing here:

Carpet Plus Coupon

Also mentioned in the article:

A Step Janitorial

Greenway Massage Team

Mirra Greenway, of Greenway Massage Team, in the article says, "It seems to be increasing (Internet coupon usage). There's not that much out there yet, but the sooner you get in on something, the more traction you get."

Words well spoken. Don't forget to create your coupon on your MerchantCircle listing using our free tools found here.

Community Relations

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New Small Business Marketing Solutions and Affordable Website Design

Today, MerchantCircle and announced a partnership that will bring business owners even more options when it comes to online marketing and adds a new element, professional website design, that makes MerchantCircle a one-stop shop for all your business needs.

"We are excited to be working with MerchantCircle to offer full-service online marketing and website solutions as a complement to their popular online listing services," stated Jeff Stibel, President of "With nearly half of all Internet users using search engines daily, the importance of having your website found within local searches is vital, as it creates awareness and new business opportunities cost-effectively."

"We are committed to helping local merchants take advantage of the Internet to grow their businesses," said Ben Smith, CEO of MerchantCircle. "We believe that's strong offering will round out the suite of high-value, low-cost online services we provide to our 600,000 members."

MerchantCircle already offers a pain-free Instant Website service, that automatically takes your MerchantCircle content and places it in an 'instant website' under a unique domain name that you choose. Several search engine marketing solutions are also available through unique partnerships with Webvisible, Citysearch, Yahoo! and Google.

We're proud to be able to take care of all your online needs, so that you can focus on your business - offline.

Community Relations

Monday, September 22, 2008

Free Business Social Network and Online Directory

As the nation's largest social network for business owners with more than 600,000 merchants, we are constantly flooded with stories from merchants who have used our network to find more customers, communicate with merchants all over the nation, and show up high on search engines. We're honored and happy you're getting so much out of the network. While out in Chicago recently, we had the opportunity to meet with one of these merchants who had been telling us for months that MerchantCircle was helping him find more customers than he could handle. His MerchantCircle listing was coming up #1 for almost every automotive search term you can think of.

Here's the interview we did with Jeff's Automotive in Lake in the Hills, IL.

Community Relations

P.S. You can check out some of our other videos here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

MerchantCircle Press & News Stories

There's been a lot of press recently for our new partnership that brings every business owner in the nation a free business video. Thanks to all who covered the story and we look forward to helping more local business owners find new customers.

Community Relations

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Follow MerchantCircle's Every Move!

MerchantCircle is now on Twitter - a site that keeps you in touch with all your friends by letting them know what you're doing.

Follow us at Right now, some of our team is in Atlanta for the Kelsey Conference. Atlanta is home to some great MerchantCircle members. Check out the city page here and find deals from the top merchants.

Community Relations