Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Case for Using Stimulus Dollars to Help Out Small Business Owners

We've just completed research here at MerchantCircle in partnership with Professor Samuel D. Bornstein of Kean University School of Business and Jung I. Song, CPA of Bornstein & Song, CPAs & Consultants. The survey had some startling results that we hope to use to influence legislation that will immediately help small business owners in and around California.

Our study shows that a 2nd Wave of Foreclosures in California will dwarf the subprime crisis and threatens more that 2.1 million jobs from business owners who refinanced their homes to pay for business expenses. You can read our study results and summary here. Our survey and answers from small business owners are below.

As first steps towards getting coverage on the ongoing crisis to help out small business owners, BusinessWeek (click here to read) and KXTV News 10 in Sacramento (click here to see the story) have already used our findings in their stories.

It’s a particularly troubling issue for small business owners that will further extend the economic difficulties in California. We hope to influence California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and Assembly Member Manuel Perez, who will lead a new Assembly task force charged with maximizing the impact of federal economic stimulus dollars: (SERJ) Stimulus, Economic Recovery, and Jobs Task Force.

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Community Relations

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Introducing MerchantCircle Moderator Joe Williams and Airbrush Gypsy!

Virginia - Airbrush Gypsy Entertainment - Joe Williams

In Columbia, VA, Joe Williams started Airbrush Gypsy as a side venture from his full-time job as a truck driver. His hope in 2005 was to someday give up driving trucks for a living to run his new business full-time. Of course, no business becomes successful without a few mistakes along the way.

“When I first started the business, I paid $185 per year to get my company listed on a site called Party Pop,” says Joe. “My Party Pop listing was showing up lower on search engine results than my free MerchantCircle ad, so I canceled my Party Pop account and now I only use MerchantCircle with better search engine results. I have become much more involved in the MerchantCircle community which has also helped my search engine rankings. More people find me on Google now and I get about 25% more customers calling than I had been receiving.”

When Joe first started, Airbrush Gypsy was just a temporary airbrush tattoo business with one family employee. It has since evolved to Airbrush Gypsy Entertainment with more than just airbrush tattoos. Other services now being offered also include airbrush face painting, balloon animals and tie-dye t-shirt classes, with 5 airbrush artists that travel all over the state of Virginia. On many weekends, Airbrush Gypsy Entertainment books up to four events at one time.

“MerchantCircle has really helped in the growth of my business,” says Joe. “Being able to send out invites to my business neighbors has led to real leads and repeat customers. I’m still a little bit away from giving up my full-time job, but a lot closer than I was before MerchantCircle.”

You can also find Joe in the MerchantCircle Forums, where he is one of a handful of merchant moderators. To learn more about how you can find new customers – click here. Visit Airbrush Gypsy Entertainment – Click here.

Thanks Joe! See you in the forums!

Community Relations

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How Do You Use MerchantCircle?

If you haven't checked recently, one of the newlyly created MerchantCircle Forum threads is "How-To-MerchantCircle." It's an excellent forum for trading ideas on the best way to utilize all the features of your MerchantCircle listing. You can also find how-to guides here, which includes adding a photo, publishing a coupon, creating a blog, creating an ad, amongst others.

MerchantCircle Moderator Monica Ross-Williams of ServiceMaster Building Services in Wayne County recently posted about one of our newest features in a thread titled, "How to Use the New Cool 'Create a Sale Feature' on M.C."

Create a Sale

Here's an excerpt:

I have to say that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the new Create A Sale feature of Merchant Circle. If you have not used it yet, you are missing quite a treat. Here is a How-To-Guide on what to do

First-go to your Merchant Dashboard
Then-Promote my Business
-Start a Sale
-Click on the "Start a Sale" icon box

You are on the Build Your Announcement Page

From there
You can choose your sales template
Redstripe-This logo has a cool red, green, blue and yellow sale bags that state SALE in the various colors
Redtag-This logo is rightly name for the Red Sale Tag Logo in the upper right hand corner
Savings-This logo has a cute guy, counting his quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies for extra savings
Sidewalk Sale-This Logo uses the famous "Market Advisor" picture and replace the words with "Sidewalk Sale" instead....

Thanks for the great advice, Monica!

Read the whole thread and discussion here. Creating a Sale is perfect when highlighting a 1/2 off sale, or a red tag special, or even a weekend special.

There's many, many other gems to be found in the forums. For a list of next month's new features, be sure to periodically check into the MerchantCircle Forum thread "MerchantCircle Product Suggestions."

Community Relations

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

How Do I Create Good Content for the Search Engines?

As the Yellow Page and print industries collapse, more and more people turn to the internet to search for their goods and services. Dan Briody writes an excellent article for MSN's new Business on Main section about creating good content for the search engines to pick up:

Search engines look for dynamic, active sites. They want content that changes frequently and builds on itself. They want blogs, commentary, feeds, polls and user-generated content. A blog is the easiest way to start generating relevant content. Be sure to blog about things your customers care about. For example, if you run a real-estate firm, blog about mortgage rates and refinancing options. If you run a restaurant, blog about food. Offer advice, link to interesting articles, record a podcast, film a video.

........ Kathleen Armenta at A Tile Nation uses a free small-business marketing and networking tool called MerchantCircle. More than 700,000 small-business owners use MerchantCircle to host dynamic Web pages, where they blog, network with other small-business owners or offer coupons for products or services. This type of service provides your business with a template that can accommodate all kinds of content. The interface is simple and allows you to populate the content as you see fit. These pages can dramatically increase searchability, particularly for local businesses. “It’s been a great tool for our company,” says Armenta. “It draws people to our Web site, generates a lot of work — and we don’t even pay for it.”

I highly recommend reading the entire MSN article for some important information that every business owner should know. Click here to read "Feeling Lost in Cyberspace? How to Attract the Attention of a Search Engine".

If you're not already creating the content Dan recommends, log into your MerchantCircle account and head to your dashboard to get started. If you have any questions, you can find them in our forums.

Community Relations

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Business Status Messages: What's on Your Mind?

If you haven't already noticed, one of the new features we rolled out was a "Status Box" for your merchant activity. It comes in handy when letting your customers and followers know what you're working on. For instance, if you're anticipating a sale this weekend or possibly hiring new employees - you may get an early jump on referrals and feedback. Your updated status is fed to your business network and they can comment on your status through your dashboard.

Look below for a few examples:

Glass Guy Status

Design Business Status

When logging onto your MerchantCircle account, the Status Box is located at the top. Stay connected with your contacts and customers and build a loyal following by constantly updating your status.

Dashboard Status

Community Relations