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

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