Thursday, December 17, 2009

MerchantCircle in Forbes

MerchantCircle's Merchant Confidence Index (MCI) survey was recently mentioned in Forbes India on a larger story of business confidence around the globe. It seems the international small business community remains fairly optimistic during this recession.

55.70 points in October 2009, the highest it has reached since April 2008.

Whether or not the businessmen of USA have confidence in themselves, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has confidence in them. Ahead of his arrival on a state visit in November, Singh told CNN that "the U.S. economy has shown a remarkable capacity to bounce back.” He may not be far wrong, but it is not sunshine just yet. The results of a Merchant Confidence Index conducted by MerchantCircle, the nation’s largest social network of local business owners, shows that only 23% of merchants believe that the worst of the recession is behind us, yet only 5.7% expect their businesses to fail.

You can read the entire article here.

Community Relations

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Benefits of Letting Your Customers Know About MerchantCircle Neighbors

Over the summer, we launched MerchantCircle Neighbors, essentially a social network for consumers to follow their favorite MerchantCircle members. Everyone who has a Neighbor profile can follow their favorite local merchants and get real-time updates when those businesses add new coupons, deals, or promotions. Also, as a business owner, it's a much easier way for you to directly contact your favorite, loyal customers.

Clip Coupons

Ask your best or most loyal customers to create a Neighbors Profile (here) so they can follow your deals in real time. It'll also help you create a lasting relationship with your customers.

Community Relations

Monday, December 7, 2009

Our Newest MerchantCircle Moderators

I just wanted to take some time to introduce our newest moderators! These are the wonderful people and business owners who take the time to help all of us out in the Forums, (including me!). Here and here are some of our current moderators, who have all done such an amazing job.

- Marion DiPippo, of Passion Parties by Marion in Mahopac, NY

Marion DiPippo 1

- Nancy Olson, of Nancy Olson with It Works! Marketing in Evansville, MN

Nancy Olson

- Steve Presley, of Be Debt Free Now! in Fort Lauderdale, FL

Steve Presley

- Daniel Godfrey, of Branded Solution in Pittsburgh, PA

Daniel Godfrey - Branded Solutions

If you'd like to become a moderator, let's see you get active on our network now! There's a ton of benefits to becoming a moderator, in fact, you can read the forum link here. Participate in the conversation if you're interested.

Community Relations and Programs

Thursday, December 3, 2009

MerchantCircle in USA Today

MerchantCircle's Darren Waddell was quoted yesterday in USA Today in an article titled: "More Shoppers Search for Coupons Online".
The confluence of trends raises the possibility that shoppers will continue to depend on coupons after the economy recovers.

"It's like those who lived through the Depression and always saved after that," says Darren Waddell, vice president of marketing at MerchantCircle, a social network for more than 1 million local business owners in the U.S. "People will be counting their pennies for a long time."

You can read the entire article here... or you can start creating coupons on your MerchantCircle dashboard here right now!

Director of Community Relations and Programs

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Using MerchantCircle Widgets on the Web

Over the weekend, I had several Google alerts (which is something you should use for your business, along with MerchantCircle's Web Reputation Manager) for several MerchantCircle member's stand-alone blogs that had MerchantCircle widgets on them. We've had widgets for over two years, but it's nice to see that they are being used to prominently link back to their MerchantCircle listings.

Widgets Blog

Top Merchant Widget

Check out their blogs above, but be sure to click on the widgets to check out their MerchantCircle listings! You can put your reviews, blogs, coupons, and much more on your other websites and blogs - and you should to get some link love.

Community Relations

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Black Friday Deals

Black Friday Promo
Alright, there's a reason the Friday after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year and that's because it's the best time to FIND a deal. Consumers know to expect some whopping price breaks this Friday, so make sure you keep up with the Big Box retailers by creating your own MerchantCircle sale here, promotions here, and coupons here, which can all be found on your listing and through the search engines.

The best thing about it all? It's all free to do! Now that's what I call a deal ;).

Happy Holidays and Happy Thanksgiving!

Community Relations

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Goldman Sachs Sacking Up?

As Goldman Sachs has alloted more than $16.7 billion in bonuses to be paid to their employees this year, it seems their executives are starting to cave under the mounting pressure applied by the government and every day Americans. Goldman Sachs has announced a $500 million plan to join forces with Warren Buffett to provide assistance to 10,000 U.S. small businesses.

The plan will help small businesses in the form of counseling and obtaining funding. $200 million will go to local community colleges and other universities to provide small business owners and entrepreneurs with practical business education and $300 million will go towards community development institutions. It's a good first step for Goldman, which has also had the foresight to apologize for their role in the financial crisis.

"We participated in things that were clearly wrong and we have reason to regret and we apologize for them," said Goldman Sach's Chairman and CEO, Lloyd Blankfein.

Still, $16.7 billion in compensation bonuses accounts for $527,192 for each Goldman employee. Right or wrong, at least Goldman is taking some much needed first steps in helping out our small business owners which provide 2/3 of all NEW jobs in the United States.

You can read more about the plan here.

Community Relations

Monday, November 16, 2009

Merchant Confidence Index (MCI) Survey Results - Q4 2009

Below are the results for our first Merchant Confidence Index (MCI) survey - designed to track trends in small business sentiment and habits over time. This survey was fielded online between October 29 - November 4 using MerchantCircle's member base. 12,190 total responses came in during this period and there were no incentives offered to complete the 16 question survey.

Read the press release here.


If you'd like a downloadable PDF version of the above slides - click here. We can also get you regional breakdowns on specific states and/or categories. Requests can be emailed at

Community Relations

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

President Obama, Congress, and Small Business Help

President Obama has recently been pushing for banks to lend more to small businesses - especially the banks that were bailed out by taxpayer dollars.

"These are the very taxpayers who stood by America's banks in a crisis, and now it's time for our banks to stand by creditworthy small businesses and make the loans they need to open their doors, grow their operations and create new jobs," Obama said. "It's time for those banks to fulfill their responsibility to help ensure a wider recovery, a more secure system and more broadly shared prosperity."

While President Obama has been publicly pushing the banks to lend more, there has been no word on whether the banks have acknowledged his statements or will do anything about them.

So far, $5 billion in tax breaks has been made available to small businesses from this year's $787 billion economic stimulus package. Congress has also been pushing for immediate relief. Senator Mark Warner has made a proposal:

Warner wants to create a $50 billion loan fund for small businesses by taking $40 billion of the remaining Troubled Asset Relief Program money and adding $10 billion that would be raised from banks of all sizes. The president's plan would increase the top limits on Small Business Administration loans and provide lower-cost capital to community banks, credit unions and community development financial institutions. He's asked the Treasury Department and SBA to confer with Congress members, lenders and small-business leaders to determine additional steps to help businesses.

(Source: USA Today)

You can read the entire article here. You can also find out more about programs available to you at or get answers from other business owners here.

Community Relations

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

MerchantCircle Member Janet Rothstein Featured in LA Times!

Janet Rothstein, owner of Rothstein Jewelers in Beverly Hills and recently appointed MerchantCircle moderator, was featured in the Los Angeles Times this week! As part of becoming a moderator, in return, we give our moderators any press interviews and opportunities that may arise - meaning free exposure for your business and ours.

Janet was quoted as saying:

Janet Rothstein, who runs a jewelry shop in Beverly Hills, used a company called MerchantCircle as her gateway to the online world, and she has since obtained a Facebook vanity URL for her page, where she has 63 fans. Having an online presence in so many places increases the odds that when someone searches on Google, they will find her.

Great job, Janet! We are still looking to increase the number of moderators in our forums - so please, first become a Top Merchant (click here for requirements), and then start actively contributing in the Forums.

Here are some of the news articles that feature some of our members - also, don't forget to check out our corporate press page.

Community Relations

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Merchants Create Content + Consumers Create Profiles = Everybody Wins!

The amount of deals and coupons that MerchantCircle members create every single day far exceeds any other network, with more than 930,000 members dispersed in every state and almost every county in the U.S., consumers stand to benefit the most. Currently, more than 20 million consumers a month visit MerchantCircle listings. Those that create Neighbors Profiles get the benefit of following their favorite merchants and seeing all the latest LOCAL deals in real time, you'll also see any good LOCAL deals you've missed in a weekly newsletter!

Below is a sample of what you'd get in your inbox.

Neighborhood Times Top

Sales and Promotions
For merchants, this is added incentive to keep your deals fresh by creating new coupons and/or sales and promotions each week. You can create coupons here or start a sale here or create a promotion here. Consumers will also get the latest business reviews and uploaded pictures - so, don't forget to keep your listing up-to-date!

As a consumer, be sure to join the neighborhood and create a Neighbors profile today here!

Community Relations

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Survey: Small Business and Social Networks

An online survey, recently conducted by Internet2Go, through MerchantCircle's most engaged merchants (having created blogs, uploaded pictures, built coupons, newsletters, etc.) - using a sample size of less than 5% - showed some very interesting results on how quickly small businesses are adapting social media.

Granted, the merchants surveyed are already predisposed to our network, we believe the survey shows that merchants are rapidly beginning to understand and embrace social media like MerchantCircle, Facebook, and Twitter.

"We believe the behavior exhibited by these small business owners is a pre-cursor of things to come – that small business owners will increasingly forgo expensive advertising options and embrace publishing their unique content across various social media outlets," said Darren Waddell vice president and MerchantCircle. "While MerchantCircle typically focuses on helping businesses get online for the first time, we are excited to be an important part of the social media strategies employed by this new segment of merchants."

Other survey findings include the following:

- 79% of respondents report annual marketing budgets of less than $5,000 per year with the 44% spending "less than $1,000" annually on advertising and marketing

- 80% of respondents have four or fewer employees

- Asked about their "biggest complaint" regarding online marketing the top two were "too costly" (26%) and "there's not enough time to do it well and still run a business" (15.9%)

- 75% said they monitor online reviews of their business. The most common method was by visiting specific review websites (47%) and by searching on their business name (44%)

- Despite its enormous popularity social media showed the biggest gap between SMB adoption and perceived effectiveness as a marketing platform.

You can read the entire press release here.

Community Relations

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Attaining 'Top Merchant' Status is Kind of a Big Deal!

Stemulite Fitness Formula
Stemulite Fitness Formula in Florence, OR, recently put out a press release after attaining 'Top Merchant' status on MerchantCircle. Achieving 'Top Merchant' status has proven to boost traffic to your MerchantCircle listing - for some, by over 300%!

From the release:

Matthew Wagner, Chief Executive stated, "We are very proud of this promotion from Although we have used their services a very short time we have already networked with hundreds of businesses and we have our eye on thousands more. I like to think of MerchantCircle as FaceBook for business."

Becoming a 'Top Merchant' isn't that difficult and the results are proven. You can log into your dashboard and get to the requirements here - or look below.

The Top Merchant badge requires the following qualifications:

- Complete your profile and list your categories
- Invite at least one merchant to your network (outside of MerchantCircle)
- Create at least one blog posting
- Upload at least 3 pictures and/or videos showcasing your business
- Create at least 1 coupon featuring special offers for your customers
- Have received at least 2 reviews (from customers or other merchants

Take the first step to gaining more customers for your business.

Community Relations

Monday, October 12, 2009

MerchantCircle's New Forum Moderators

As you know, we have some wonderful MerchantCircle Moderators currently perusing and helping out in the forums. What you may not know is that our moderators have also been an integral part in many of our new products, ideas, and growth in their local communities and on the web. Today, we're announcing 3 new moderators to join our original 6 - bringing the total number to 9.

Here they are!

- Janet Rothstein, Owner of Rothstein Jewelers in Beverly Hills, CA.

Janet Rothstein

- Deb Robinson, Owner of The Teeny Tiny Farms in Smithfield, VA.

Deb Robinson

- Jason Stevens, Owner of Fan Man Lighting in Burnsville, MN.

Jason Stevens

Thanks a lot! We look forward to your continued contributions in making MerchantCircle the best site for local businesses and consumers on the web.

If you would like to be a forum moderator, please start contributing in our Forums and your peers will pick you out before long. You'll get a number of perks including free MerchantCircle Verified, free Local Plus, as well as links from our forum, blogs, and newsletters, amongst others.

Community Relations

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Social Media to Help Your Life as Merchants and Consumers

Josh Catone from Mashable, "the social media guide" website, wrote a nice piece today titled: "Smarter Food: How Social Media is Making Our Cities Tastier".

The article highlights how merchants use social mediums to market and how consumers are using the technology available to them to access this information.

Promotion, of course, is one of the main reasons food merchants are using social media. In addition to helping restaurants connect with current customers in new and more personal ways, social media also allows restaurants to better connect with new customers. By making their establishments more easily discovered, food vendors can use the web to grow their business. Local guides like, Judy’s Book, and even Google Maps make restaurants easier to find and allow business owners to advertise directly to their most likely customers: hungry people searching the web for food.

From directories, to social networks, to phone apps, you can find a lot of good information in the article. Here at MerchantCircle, we have products that will get you onto all of the networks. Click here to find out more.

Get listed on all the sites below!


Community Relations

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 Adds MerchantCircle to Network
I met one of the founders of recently at the Gnomedex Conference in Seattle. is a website that allows you to update your status or micro-blogs across dozens of websites. A few weeks after my conversations with the founder, I was pleased to find out they had put MerchantCircle on their network.

You can now update your status on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, MerchantCircle, and any number of top sites, and do it just once! We know how valuable your time is and we appreciate adding us to their network. While MerchantCircle is the best for your business needs, we know many of you use the other networks for leisure, fun, or professional interests, and use the same status message for all. This will help save you time.

Check out's MerchantCircle listing here or their website here.

Community Relations

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thoughts from Kelsey Directional Media Strategies 2009

Since MerchantCircle's launch in June of 2006, we have been a regular at Kelsey Group events. Our attendance has led to business meetings, partnerships, and interesting insights. The recent Kelsey Conference: Directional Media Strategies was held in Orlando and was attended by our CEO, VP of Business Development, and Director of Business Development.

Here are some of the random notes they sent me on their learnings and observations.

- MerchantCircle is positioned to take advantage in a fundamental shift in the Yellow Pages business model. Examples include, CitySearch and others where they want their customers to get exposure on our platform.

- Yellow Pages are moving towards a paid model where their sales teams establish direct relationships with customers and push product from a number of various sources – all based on what the advertisers demand – but with a bias towards performance based products.

- Here’s a quote from the CEO of Local Insight Media that one of the presenters said embraces the way all YPs are beginning to think about this stuff.

"My goal is to own the customer and provide a platform-agnostic solution set and track the results." - Scott Pomeroy, President and CEO, Local Insight Media

- Kelsey says "their own research suggests that small businesses want to do this (advertising) as self serve."

Yellow Pages guys like Dean Hodges of American Directory Systems: "I don’t have a comment on the internet. I don’t understand it, If you want to talk about print, I will talk about it all day."

Like we've said many time before, here at MerchantCircle, the print Yellow Pages are a complete waste of money for the majority of businesses out there. The sheer number of sales people ensures that there is a premium markup on advertising products to turn a profit for everyone involved, except the business owner.

Because MerchantCircle has no salesforce, and we're built for scale, we don't pass any costs off to the merchants. They can choose and execute online advertising campaigns with the simple click of a button at the lowest prices on the web.

Here are some notes on a panel discussion between Steve Espinosa, Andrew Shotland, Todd Renard, and Sean Morrow from the Kelsey Blog.

As always, we appreciate all the interesting perspectives and viewpoints discussed at Kelsey events. We look forward to the next one.

Community Relations

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

MerchantCircle Amongst ComScore's Fastest Growing

comScore recently released their Top 50 U.S. Web Properties for August 2009, and MerchantCircle got a special mention:

Getting Down to Business
Business-to-Business was another fast-gaining category in August, growing 17 percent to 38 million
visitors. led the category rankings with 6.9 million visitors.

While I wouldn't classify us as a business-to-business website, we're flattered to get the mention. Many of you members know MerchantCircle as a number of things, including a social network, a forum, a web site for your business, an online business directory, internet yellow pages, a leads driver, and recently, a place for consumers to find deals, ask questions, and a portal for two-way communication on the web between merchants and customers.

The growth in traffic is a reassuring sign that we're putting more LOCAL customers into more LOCAL shops. Recently in June, quantcast had us as the 5th largest online directory. And in January of this year, comScore had us as 8th fastest growing website from the two previous months. The growth and mentions are humbling, but an important part of what we do to ensure more local customers can connect with the nation's largest online network of local businesses.

Community Relations

Monday, September 14, 2009

MerchantCircle Radio Ads

With the launch of MerchantCircle Neighbors and Answers last week, we also unveiled a radio ad campaign across 4 major cities across the U.S. (LA, SF, Chicago, Atlanta) and online throughout the country. We need your support to make sure we grow our network to benefit both LOCAL consumers and LOCAL merchants. With over 915,000 merchant members and 20 million consumers visiting MerchantCircle business listings each month, Neighbors will allow consumers to create a profile to track quality deals and coupons from their local merchants in real time. Answers allows consumers to ask local merchants any number of questions to help solve their predicaments.

You can read more about these two launches here.

Take a moment to listen to our two radio ads below and offer your feedback. We are always striving to get the right message out in an effective manner and we value your opinion.



Community Relations

Thursday, September 10, 2009

MerchantCircle Press Coverage

As part of our launch around MerchantCircle Neighbors and Answers, we unveiled a radio ad campaign across four major metropolitan areas: LA, San Francisco, Chicago, and Atlanta, as well as a national online radio campaign.

Please tell us what you think, if you hear it.

Also, thank you to everyone who covered yesterday's launch of Neighbors and Answers, as well as mentioned us in some other way and form. You can read the press release here.

- TechCrunch - Hyperlocal Business Directory MerchantCircle Launches Consumer-Facing Features

"MerhcantCircle’s “Neighbors” creates a mini-social network around the site where consumers can “follow” local businesses for information on promotions, coupons and announcements. In order to access this feed, consumers need to create a profile."

- VentureBeat - MerchantCircle Answers lets small businesses show off their expertise

"MerchantCircle Neighbors, meanwhile, is a way for consumers to create an account and “follow” a businesses, similar to what you’d do on microblogging service Twitter. Then businesses can send out coupons and promotions to those customers. It’s a way for businesses to promote to consumers directly and again, keeps them active on the MerchantCircle site."

- Screenwerk - MerchantCircle Joins the Q&A Club

"Beyond the fact that this type of service is valuable as a general matter MerchantCircle sees it as a tool to “re-engage” merchants via its site. The community can vote for the best answer (as with other systems) and the merchants who participate can gain points to establish themselves as experts.

Consumers categorize their questions and can limit the geographic scope of the response to their area."

- Kelsey Group, Local Onliner - MerchantCircle Tries to Get Stickier with 'Neighbors' and 'Answers'

"Answers is a consumer advice service, similar to ones we’ve seen with Yahoo Answers and vertical sites such as (lawyers) and Trulia (real estate). Merchant Circle’s idea is that small businesses will become more bonded to the service if they regularly communicate with potential customers. It says it has already had excellent response rate in a month of trials."

- BizReport - Merchant Circle adds consumer connection to network

"First, the "Answers" platform. This gives consumers the ability to ask 'experts' - members of MerchantCircle's 910,000 local businesses - a question and receive a solid answer. From the best brand of oil for a Ford truck to questions about invisible fencing for the backyard, merchants are available to answer consumers' questions."

- ClickZ - Get Started in Local Search Without a Web Site

"Many local platforms, including local search powerhouses Google Maps, Bing Local, MerchantCircle, Citysearch, Superpages, and Yahoo Local, allow you to create a local business profile on a page on their sites. Many of the best ones are free, while others charge a monthly fee."

- Dow Jones VentureWire - MerchantCircle, Now Profitable, Goes After Consumers

"Having built out a network of small businesses using its service, newly profitable MerchantCircle Inc. is now going after consumers.

MerchantCircle originally built out a network for small businesses to advertise, promote deals and blog. The company signed up more than 900,000 merchants nationwide and has more than 2% of total merchants in 49 states, and charges a minimum fee of $30 per month for services like placement of search engine advertising to drive traffic. The company, which says it now has more than 20 million monthly unique visitors, uses a self-service system to sign up businesses and has grown without the benefit of a sales force."

Thanks for all your help and support.

Community Relations

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Completing the Circle: Merchants and Consumers Unite!

No, this isn't a battle cry for X-Men, but more a completion of a dream 3 years in the making. With over 910,000 members, on its way to 1 million by the end of year, MerchantCircle has launched MerchantCircle "Neighbors" and MerchantCircle "Answers."

After cracking 20 million unique consumer visitors each month to MerchantCircle listings, we knew consumers were routinely coming to MerchantCircle to find deals and their local business owners. They needed ways to follow deals and coupons in real time, and clip certain coupons for rainy days. Therefore, we created Neighbors.

Clip Coupons

Neighbors allows consumers to save deals from their favorite merchants, keep track of their reviews and ask questions from the nation's best local experts through MerchantCircle Answers.


From questions about your cracked windshield, to questions about the best diapers to buy, MerchantCircle has local experts in every category. What's the best computer program to use to do my own taxes? Can I patch my flat tire up? Do I need to hire a lawyer to sue someone? Where can I find an honest auto mechanic? No question is too difficult amongst a group of almost a million members!

We're ecstatic about this next phase of MerchantCircle that truly connects local consumers with local business owners. No where else on the web can you find such an engaging, easy-to-use experience that allows you to communicate seamlessly with your local business owners and experts. Finding and giving deals was never so easy!

And remember, merchants are consumers too, so start your Neighbors profile today and start saving money. To read more on the release, click here.

Community Relations

Monday, August 31, 2009

What Businesses Have the Most Risk of Failure?

Coming from a family of local business-owner/entrepreneurs (of varying success levels), I have first-hand experience of the difficulties of trying to start your own business. When I was young, my father started a restaurant in Huntsville, TX, which was successful enough, that he had to work 12 hour days, 7 days a week. I know this because I spent my single-digit years running around that restaurant! He sold the restaurant a few years later to finally get some rest and started another restaurant venture in Conroe, TX, which failed. Eventually, he owned a super market in Santa Cruz and a burger joint in Boulder Creek, CA, which I spent my teen years working EVERY single weekend. I am not bitter. What teenager doesn't want to work every single weekend while everyone else is out enjoying beautiful California weather?

My aunts and uncles have also had varying degrees of success starting and running their own businesses. I've even had my own thoughts of starting a business, but which ventures have the most risk of failure? I came across this interesting article on Yahoo!, titled: The 7 Most Overrated Businesses. No surprise here - 'restaurants' shows up on the list.

Here's an excerpt:

...about 60% of restaurants close in the first three years, according to a 2003 study at Ohio State University. That's quite a bit higher than the roughly half of all start-ups that close in the first five years.

The reason: Restaurants typically have low profit margins and need strong managers who can run an ultra-tight ship through seasonal fluctuations and other struggles. Most people don't have that kind of intense managerial ability to pull it off.

Well, I guess I should think twice about opening up my Houston Rockets-themed restaurant in California. In the meantime, no matter what business you start or have, MerchantCircle is the ONLY free network that allows you to blog, build coupons and newsletters, and email them to customers.

Join the free network here today or communicate with other local business owners in our forums here.

Community Relations

Monday, August 24, 2009

YellowPages versus MerchantCircle

salesmanYP_upsidedown (4)
We're always flattered when local business owners blog about their success using MerchantCircle. It's even better when they blog about their lack of success using the YellowPages, which we've always felt is a waste of time and money. Well, don't take our word for it, read A+ Affordable Upholstery & More's blog here. Below is an excerpt:

Honestly, I've received more calls (and jobs), with Merchantcircle than any other paid or free advertising...craigslist, facebook, boys and girls club, name a few.

For the record, A+ Affordable Upholstery in Norfolk, VA, is a free member! One of the keys to their success on MerchantCircle is the frequency of their blog posts. Keep up the good work!

Community Relations

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What the Deal Means to You

MerchantCircle and today announced a partnership that will grow your network of local businesses by more than 100,000 members. With more than 20 million local unique consumers visiting MerchantCircle each month, we're excited to have an even stronger network or members creating more coupons, blogs, and newsletters, than ever before. Today, we have over 900,000 members and are on pace to hit 1 million before the end of the year! will power many of our high end services like custom web design for individual businesses, analytics and tracking, and marketing. All of our services can be found here by logging into your MerchantCircle account.

Read the press release here.

Here are some of the write-ups and mentions of the new expanded partnership. Thank you all for covering:

Local SEO Guide - Where is the Facebook Platform for Small Businesses?

Screenwerk - MerchantCircle Expands Ties with

Local Onliner -, MerchantCircle to Market Each Other's SMB Services

BIA Kelsey Group -, MerchantCircle to Market Each Other's SMB Services

adotas - Industry News on Hirings, Partnerships and New Offerings

DMNews - and Team Up

FOX Business - and MerchantCircle Expand Partnership to Improve Online Visibility for Local Businesses

CNN Money - and MerchantCircle Expand Partnership to Improve Online Visibility for Local Businesses

Community Relations

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Best Place For the Local Consumer Search Experience

From day one, we've been committed to providing you with the best tools and products to attract and engage local consumers. Whether it's tools to blog, build coupons, send e-Newsletters, or advertise on search engines like Google and Yahoo, you've been able to do everything easily and effectively. Our network of 800,000 local merchants, now sees more than 20 million unique consumer visitors a month!

With our new partnership with Demand Media, (read the press release here or here), you can now add dynamic, unique business content on your local listings. Say you're a consumer searching for a local auto mechanic, once you get to a MerchantCircle member's listing, not only will there be your created content (blogs, newsletters, pictures, coupons, etc.), you can also have content like the articles shown below on automotive issues and news. This will give your potential customers a truly one-stop shop for all their business-specific needs and interests.

Pluck Content

Find out more about adding Rich Content through your MerchantCircle dashboard here. eNom, a Demand Media company, will also be powering our Instant Website and unique email offering.

Community Relations

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Finding Coupons on Twitter in Chicago, Phoenix, and Beyond!

FOX Chicago recently ran a story featuring two of our merchants from Chicago who actively use MerchantCircle to promote their business. MerchantCircle recently began feeding Merchant-built coupons instantly onto city-specific Twitter pages. In this case, coupons in Chicago can be found @MCircleChicago where we have more than

Go in and say hi to Mario Alonso at Bella Bronze Tan or Wilbur Sutphin at Deadwax Record Store in Chicago. Tell them Kevin says hi. Don't forget to check out their local media debut on FOX Chicago below.

Build your coupons now on MerchantCircle! We'll do all the work to promote you locally.

Community Relations

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The American 'Shop Local' Campaign and the Effects of Wal-Mart on Local

Downtown areas across America are starting to see a disturbing trend. Signs like the ones below litter storefronts from major cities to middle America, from farming communities to oil towns, from the less affluent to the most affluent, few areas have been spared. These pictures were taken below in Los Altos, CA, located in the southern end of the San Francisco Peninsula. Los Altos has a median household income of $158,745 - which puts it third in the nation for affluent neighborhoods.

Downtown Los Altos 008
Downtown Los Altos 001
Downtown Los Altos 004
Downtown Los Altos 002
There has also been an onslaught of "Sale" signs in store windows to draw in that prospective customer. Many of the deals range from '20% to 50%', 'Buy One, Get One Free', 'Lunch Specials', and 'Reward Cards'. It's a buyer's market and business owners are doing all they can to reel customers in. MerchantCircle has always offered an instant coupon building tool for merchants that can be easily printed out and redeemed from a merchant's listing, as well as city pages that allows you to track ALL the coupons in a local area.

Downtown Los Altos 006
Downtown Los Altos 007
While Los Altos still has a number of strong, thriving businesses, and obvious prosperity, the number of merchants who are conserving their money has grown. That's why it's more important than ever to not only create coupons and email them to your most valuable merchants, but also to have ongoing sales and promotions (that can be created here) on your listing - whether it's a full weekend sale or a Happy Hour special.

Downtown Los Altos 009
The Los Altos Chamber of Commerce has started a 'Shop Local, Shop Los Altos' campaign to try and keep the dollars being spent in Los Altos. In a recent MSN Money article, Ventura, CA was considering approving a Wal-Mart SuperCenter being built (it will be voted on in November). The article lists a number of pros and cons from different authorities, with the pros being a windfall of about $350,000 to $500,000 in added sales tax revenue that first year, and an extra 150 to 450 jobs, not to mention the savings of up to $2,500 a year per family in reduced shopping costs. The cons listed as, local jobs lost of 1.4 to each job added, with reduced salary and benefits ($12.76 average to $10.83), also the ripple-effect loss of an estimated 77 U.S. manufacturing jobs from each Wal-Mart, which equates to more than 33,000 manufacturing jobs a year.

As we have more options to save money, whether through the web or by going to big box retailers, the question you should ask yourself is whether it is worth it to ourselves and the broader implications on the economy as a whole.

Here at MerchantCircle, we support 'local' and we support better local conditions. Small business owners created half of all new American jobs in the last decade. When you stifle entrepreneurship with only big box options, you've undercutted the foundation of what American dreams are made of.

Shop Local.

Community Relations

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My FOX Chicago's Cool Website of the Week

Fox Chicago LogoMerchantCircle was named FOX Chicago's Cool Website of the Week (7/22/09) by Emmy Award-Winning journalist Nancy Loo.

Nancy touts us as a "social network for communities & small businesses." Thanks for the shout out!

Community Relations

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What Social Media Should I Join As a Business Owner?

The website, American Drycleaner, recently released a survey of social media usage among drycleaners. They found that 52% of their respondents used social media, while 48% did not. Of those who responded:

Social Media Use

- 76.9% used Facebook on behalf of their businesses
- 46.2% used LinkedIn
- 46.2% used Twitter
- 7.7% used MerchantCircle

There are also some other interesting stats in the article, but the Editor of American Drycleaner writes: the "survey presents a snapshot of readers' viewpoints at a particular moment, it should not be considered scientific."

Still, the results show there is a lot of growth for social media usage amongst our nation's local drycleaners and the local business owners that they represent. Click here to see the study results.

Community Relations

Friday, July 17, 2009

How To Turn More Visitors Into Buyers

Guest Blogger Series Part 5: Gail Gardner has been involved in the computer industry since the late 1970s, originally servicing hardware, and as a Project Manager for data processing centers, banks, and retailers.

Since 2003, she has worked exclusively in online marketing, specializing in optimizing blogs and ecommerce sites, pay per click advertising, and Local Search listings. You can find her at

By Gail Gardner

When you know how to evaluate what you offer your potential buyers through your efforts online, you can greatly increase your sales and profitability. These concepts apply to your activities here at Merchant Circle and in other communities and Social Networks, your blog, and your store.

You must have a very clear idea what you hope your visitors will do and then make it obvious to them too!

You know what your business does, but can those who visit you immediately tell? If they can't they will simply click away! The layout and design of your business site either increases your sales or reduces them. Make how to use your site obvious and focus on answering your visitors' questions and your sales will go up.

Here is an easy way to test. Print out your home page, hand it to random people, and ask them what the business on that page does. If they can't tell you by a quick look at the header of your site you have some work to do. The sooner you complete it the faster your sales will start improving.

First, develop a slogan that lets others know what your site is all about and what makes your business unique. This is often called a USP and belongs near your business name in your header on every page of your store, blog or Web site. With this short phrase you let potential buyers know why they have landed on your site and why they should stay.

To make a really strong first impression, seriously consider having a professionally designed logo developed. As we have all heard forever, you only get one chance to make a good first impression. Logos are the best way to make your site memorable. Use a matching Avatar in your Social Networking profiles and on any sites that provide room for a photo. Think of these as reminders for your visitors to return.

Besides your logo, business name, and slogan, there are specific items that belong at the top of your Web site including links to important pages (about, contact, faqs, shipping info). Your checkout or shopping cart should be in the top right corner. This is where major sites such as Amazon position it and where your buyers will expect it to be.

Provide a search box near the top right of each page. If you have a store with many products, upgrading your search function is critical. If visitors can not find what they want they won't be able to buy it. Test yours by searching for very specific items by brand, name, and color. Only improved search functions handle this type of search well.

Now that your visitors know why they should buy from you and can easily find the products they are interested in, to increase your conversions – and conversions are far more important than more traffic – buyers must feel:

  1. They can trust you

  2. The product is exactly what they are seeking and worth the money

  3. All of their questions have been answered

Do everything you can to help them feel comfortable buying from you. Put a photo of your business on your about page. (Conversions go up when people visit that page just before checking out!)

Make sure you can be contacted. Provide phone numbers and an address on your site. Consider using services such as BuySafe, OnlineBBB, TrustGuard, ShopperScanned, SiteSafe, Authorize Net, or McAfee Secure.

Add testimonials to your site and links to reviews of your business and products. Reviews are how the public finds trustworthy businesses. Being an active member of Merchant Circle can increase the number of reviews you receive. A great way to start is by reviewing other businesses here.

Provide all the information you possibly can on each product. Consider using more than one image. Be sure your descriptions contain everything they need to know: size, color, material. The best advice on this I ever heard was from Marsha Collier, author of the eBay for Dummies book. She said to provide written descriptions so strong that you don't need photos and photos so clear that you don't need written descriptions. Although few sites today are that good it is a great target.

Unless you answer every question your visitors have they are not going to buy! Consider installing Live Chat and having someone available as much as possible. Volusion Live Chat offers an excellent free option. Being available to answer quick questions will greatly increase your conversion rate.

Once your site is converting well then you can focus on increasing traffic. Merchant Circle can assist you there too. Creating coupons gets your listing additional exposure. The Merchant Circle Blog function is easy to learn. (If you get stuck just ask us and we'll explain how it works.) Use it to learn to blog or if you already have another blog consider posting in your Merchant Circle blog to let your friends here know about new posts.

The tips above and the links provided to additional information can assist you in increasing your sales and profitability. Visit the GrowMap blog for additional information on the above concepts, for free ways to increase your traffic using Social Networking, blogging and incoming linking, or to ask any questions you may have on growing your business. You can also follow us at Twitter.

This marks the conclusion of our Guest Blogger Series. You can go back and read posts from Andrew Shotland, John Jantsch, Dane Carlson, and Professor Samuel Bornstein. That you to all our contributors!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Using Social Networks to Make Money

It’s always flattering when MerchantCircle members take to blogging about the success of their business using MerchantCircle, but the title of one member’s blog post caught our eye. On his personal blog and his MerchantCircle blog, Greg Clowminzer of IonWays Alkaline Water Ionizers in Carlsbad, CA wrote a blog post titled: How I Made Over $15K With a FREE Merchant Circle Business Profile. Greg not only wrote a blog post, he also posted a video testimonial on Youtube and embedded it in his blog.

“MerchantCircle has put thousands and thousands of dollars into my pocket,” says Greg. “I wanted to learn if there was a way on the Internet to actually create a sustainable business model. That’s when I stumbled upon MerchantCircle........"

Listen to Greg tell it in his own words on his blog, or through his Youtube link below:

Read more about Greg in our July Newsletter - out this week.

Community Relations

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Financial Ratios: The Early Warning Indicator of Business Health

Guest Blogger Series Part 4: For the past 30 years, Professor Bornstein has been a tenured Professor of Accounting and Taxation, and for the past 32 years a CPA and Consultant in public practice for Bornstein & Song, CPAs & Consultants.

The current economic downturn requires a careful understanding of where the business is, where it has been, and where it is going. Cost cutting measures may be required for business survival. There are financial tools that can help.

Just as people monitor their health with blood tests, electrocardiograms, blood pressure readings, and other measurements that provide early warning indicators of illness, businesses must establish financial health measurement mechanisms that monitor their survival, profit, and growth. Such mechanisms can predict and head off small business failure.

Knowledge and understanding of accounting and its analytical tools and techniques, such as financial ratios, can help business owners diagnose, identify, and cure financial weaknesses. Financial ratios transform accounting data into useful data for business decision making, and they can reveal more than just the bottom line. These ratios may tell more about the true health of a company than actual sales and profit figures that appear in financial statements.

Financial ratios can help determine which direction the business is going by measuring the following aspects of the business: (1) Liquidity ratios measure the ability to meet the cash flow needs as they arise; (2) Profitability ratios measure the overall performance and its efficiency in managing its assets, liabilities, and equity; (3) Activity ratios measure the liquidity of specific assets such as accounts receivable and inventory; (4) Leverage ratios measure the ability to meet its debt obligations and avoid bankruptcy. Businesses can compare their financial ratios to the averages in their industry. These comparisons can be vital to evaluating business performance.

Various publications and internet websites provide industry financial ratios: Annual Statement Studies published by Risk Management Association (RMA) provides ratios for over 500 different industries, while Financial Studies of the Small Business published by Financial Research Associates specializes in small to mid-sized businesses.

Financial ratios are extremely valuable analytical tools which can indicate areas of potential strength or weakness, however, their interpretation requires professional attention. The calculation and analysis of these ratios should be an integral part of the services provided by the business’s accountant.

Samuel D. Bornstein is a Professor of Accounting and Taxation, at Kean University School of Business, Union, NJ., and managing partner of Bornstein & Song, CPAs & Consultants in Oakhurst, NJ. Email:

Thanks Professor! Be sure to check back in for Part 5: GrowMap's Gail Gardner!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Using MerchantCircle for City Management and Interaction

City Manager

The Rogers City, MI City Manager, Mark Slown, recently highlighted reviews his city received on their MerchantCircle page. Mr. Slown wrote on his City Manager's Blog:

Marina Gets Great Comments in MerchantCircle

Below are positive comments about Rogers City found in MerchantCircle:

Dear City of Rogers City Boat Harbor,


Great Harbor with Friendly Staff:
I was on my way up to Mackinaw Island with my family and planned on stopping at Presque Isle. Some googling of that area made me realize there was nothing to do in that city. So I.....

Read the rest of the blog post here.

With MerchantCircle's Talk To Me feature and Reviews - both of which allow responses and interactions - merchants, and even city leaders can engage with their community in real time. Deals and Coupons built on MerchantCircle listings can even be used to tout city fairs, festivals, and farmer's markets.

The possibilities are endless. No matter how you're using MerchantCircle or who is using MerchantCircle - you will always have a free tool to engage your community.

Community Relations

P.S. Check out the Rogers City MerchantCircle listing here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Finding Local Coupons in Your City on Twitter

If you haven't already built coupons for your MerchantCircle listing, or haven't done it lately, now is the time! MerchantCircle releases the first-ever local city coupon feed via Twitter. Coupons that you feed will now automatically be fed to a city-specific Twitter page - making it easy for customers in your area to track real-time deals.

Using our tools to build coupons is easy and free. It takes less than a minute to build a coupon - do it now by clicking here. As a consumer, you can currently track your deals in these cities:

Local MerchantCircle coupons are available today at: @MCircleNY, MCircleLA, MCircleChicago, MCirclePhilly, MCircleDallas, MCircleSF, MCircleOakland, MCircleSanJose, MCircleBoston, MCircleAtlanta, MCircleDC, MCircleHouston, MCircleDetroit, MCirclePhoenix, MCircleTampa, MCMinneapolis, MCircleMiami, MCircleDenver, MCircleOrlando, MCSacramento, MCircleStLouis, MCirclePortland, MCCharlotte, MCIndianapolis, amongst other cities.


Clicking on the link from the city Twitter page will take consumers to your coupons listed on MerchantCircle. From there, they can print the coupon or save it to their Neighbors Profile (similar to clipping it and putting it on their refridgerator for later use). Consumers can create their Neighbors Profile here.
Amazing Faces

MerchantCircle members currently create more than 50,000 coupons and deals a month and can easily be found by searching under "#coupon" or "#coupons" on Twitter.

Real-time coupons are here! Start getting new customer today!

Community Relations

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Small Business Branding Online

Guest Blogger Series Part 3: Dane Carlson's Business Opportunities Weblog is the premier blog of ideas and opportunities for small business entrepreneurs and is one of the most widely read business blogs.

by Dane Carlson

As a small businesses, your brand isn't a fancy logo or a special typeface. It's not a special smell, or a radio jingle. It's you.

You, the small business owner are your own brand. How you act and what you say has a direct impact on how others view your business. You are able to humanize your business in a way that corporate brand marketers could only dream about. When your customers call or visit your business they're able to have a real interaction with the real person behind the business. They don't need someone to align their expectations or to create impressions or other big company marketing magic.

As you develop an online presence, don't try to make your business appear larger or more "professional" than it really is. Don't try to create an intangible brand to replace you the owner as your business's image. In your community there are probably a hundred businesses that do basically what you do; but, they don't have you. That's what makes your business special. Highlight that.

Increasingly consumers research their problems online before contacting a local business service. If your website can answer their question or describe how you'd solve their problem, they'll be sold on hiring you before they even call. So, don't build a website full of stock photos of actors dressed like business people. Include photos of you, your employees, and your products and services. Show you and your business in action. Use photos and video to document your business processes. Describe in your own words what you do and why you do it. Don't try to include the popular buzzwords just because. If you can't write, record yourself explaining the business to someone else, and then transcribe that audio. Describe your typical day and answer the common questions that your customers ask.

Thanks, Dane.

MerchantCircle makes it easy to upload pictures and videos to your business listing. Also, you can use your own voice to write a blog through your MerchantCircle listing - click here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

BETA Launch of MerchantCircle 'Neighbors'

Greg Sterling, of Sterling Market Intelligence, recently profiled on his blog, Screenwerk, our "quiet" launch of MerchantCircle 'Neighbors' - which will allow consumers to create consumer profiles and 'follow' their favorite local merchants. This launch, which is still in BETA, gives our merchant base a stronger connection to offer deals directly to their customers.

Sterling writes:
In much the same way that MerchantCircle has sought to create a social network of merchants, it has now begun that same work on the consumer side. But the object here is not so much to link consumers to one another as generate more interaction between consumers and merchants and stimulate demand, further activity and content creation. .....

If MerchantCircle is successful in getting consumers to join, create reviews, clip coupons and follow businesses, it will build considerable additional value for its merchants at no cost to itself.

Read the rest of Sterling's post here or create your Consumer Profile now! Click here to get started.

Consumer profile features:

My Coupon Book: Consumers can clip deals and coupons created by you!
My Reviews: Consumers share their thoughts about the best businesses in town.
My Merchants: Consumers can “follow” local businesses to get updated news and events.

Local Coupon Book

Tell us what you'd like to see or improve in our 'Neighbors' program, here, in our forums.

Community Relations

Friday, June 12, 2009

Using Twitter to Promote Business Deals and Coupons

MerchantCircle member Brad Loveland, owner of Advocare in Round Rock, TX, has been using his Twitter account recently to Tweet sales and promotions from his MerchantCircle page. Posting deals and specials to Twitter is a great way for businesses to gain followers on Twitter.

Twitter Feed

Deals and Offers

You can create promotions here and sales here from your MerchantCircle dashboard and coupons here. It's all free!

Nice work, Brad! You can follow MerchantCircle on Twitter too:

Community Relations

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Where is Bing Advertising?

Well, if you haven't heard, Bing is the highly acclaimed new search engine from Microsoft. Early reviews from users and critics have been good. Besides their TV spot, one online entity they're buying ads on is MerchantCircle. See below on the upper left hand side of our MerchantCircle city pages. This one from San Antonio:

San Antonio - Bing

Microsoft is buying the ads through Google, but a quick click-through takes you to a search of "San Antonio" on Bing.


Could this be a play to gain traction amongst "local" search? I'm not sure, but we like the Bing search results we've seen so far.

Good luck!
Community Relations