Friday, May 9, 2008

50 Merchants / 50 States - What Our Members are Saying

For the past month I've been working on a new campaign highlighting merchants in all 50 states who have used MerchantCircle to grow their business. Here's a sampling of my conversations:

"MerchantCircle has by far, been the most effective, cost-efficient way for me to market my business. It's hands-down, the best bang for my buck. My (ROI) return on investment sky-rocketed. In my first month, spending $30, I made by $1000 in trackable business. I've tried almost everything - Email Campaigns, banner ads - they were a waste of money," said Tuan Hoang, owner of Sky Printing and Graphic Design Services in San Diego, CA.

"Too many people want to sit back and wait for money to roll in - it doesn't work that way. I tell people that MerchantCircle is a combination of the Yellow Pages, Better Business Bureau and Myspace rolled into one. Using MerchantCircle has helped me pay the bills and grow my business," says Tina Elmore-Wright, owner of Scents of Peace in Archer, FL.

Border Express - AR"It's important to stick with ways that work, while not missing out on the next opportunity and MerchantCircle has helped us come up at the top of Google search results. MerchantCircle and our website is the only thing we're doing that we consider 21st century," says Tish Whillhite, manager of Border Express Co. in Fort Smith, AR.

"I didn't have the money to build a website, and MerchantCircle was free and easy-to-use. I was able to post my business information, pictures, send out newsletters and coupons to my customers, and the best thing was I was getting about 3,000 hits to my listing a month," says Michael Weaver, owner of Carriage House Cafe in Livermore, ME.

Thanks for the great conversations!
MerchantCircle Community Relations

Monday, May 5, 2008

Why Won't the Yellow Pages Wakeup?

We recently got back from a Yellow Page Association Conference, and as much I'm pulling for the industry - they are still far behind in terms of innovation and ability to move quickly. With the stock price of industry heavyweights such as Yell, Idearc, and R.H. Donnelley dropping by as much as 80% from their 52 week highs, you would figure there would be a complete strategy overhaul. Or maybe even a bigger portion of revenues going towards research and developments for new products. As it is, the Yellow Page industry is still firmly planted in a 'print' world; when everyone else is moving online and complimenting those efforts, the Yellow Page industry refuses to believe print will ever be out-placed by the internet .

Neg Norton, President of the Yellow Pages Association, used a large portion of his speech to tout the virtues of Yellow Pages and how 'healthy' the industry is, amidst a sea of criticism and doubt. A defense-laden speech is never one to remember. A keynote should offer innovation, optimism and direction. Undoubtedly, print Yellow Pages still have a wealth of value and many people still use them - but if anyone believes they will stand the test of time - they are kidding themselves.

Here's a portion of Norton's speech:

Print usage is stable, not declining, both here in the U.S. and in
Canada. Domestically there were 13.4 billion print references in 2007, the same
as in 2006. That's roughly 60 times per adult, per year. In Canada, usage of
print Yellow Pages also remains stable. Seven out of ten Canadians have used a
print directory over the past month and two-thirds of business searches still
come from print. These are significant numbers in an environment where many have
decided that "no one uses the Yellow Pages anymore.

Norton goes on to list stats and figures, even using two examples of merchants finding value advertising in the Yellow Pages, as if he had to sell people in his own industry. Out of his entire speech, maybe 1/20 of it was dedicated to any mention of internet and its implications.

Let me ask you: Do you think there is one college kid who's graduated in the last 10 years that didn't have to use the internet in college? Do you think any of those same graduates, who grew up on the internet, and cell phone searches, are ever going to go to the Yellow Pages you and I grew up on?

Out of all the 'old media' industries that have been affected by the internet - music, television, newspaper disrupted by the likes of Napster, iTunes, YouTube, craigslist - Yellow Pages has responded by changing the least. While YP is still largely profitable, the inclination and pressure to change is not as immediate. As publicly traded companies, it may be hard to balance quarterly revenue goals with long-term thinking. On the other hand, one of the most innovative 'old media' companies, Viacom, has rebuilt its brand by focusing on building out almost 300 hundred DIFFERENT sites around its brands!

Norton in his speech also says:

The tone and tenor of the entire advertising industry is anxious--- in fact
just one week ago, TNS Media Intelligence reported that U.S. ad spending was
flat in '07 vs '06 and that the 4th quarter '07 ad spend was slightly negative.
Yellow Pages, as a member of that industry, are fighting similar headwinds as
well as misperceptions because we are among the least understood of all

If in fact the Yellow Page industry is the 'least understood,' much of it would have to do with everyone looking in from the outside and seeing so many missed opportunities from a media juggernaut. For now their Yellow Page Conference, titled New Tools New World, presented almost no new tools for an industry that has a vantage point that could easily transition them to industry leaders in another space: Local Internet.

Community Relations