Friday, January 30, 2009

About MerchantCircle - Our Story

Check out the new feature we added to your MerchantCircle listing. It's affectionately titled, "Our Story." You can tell us about yourself, how you got started and even introduce your family, co-workers, or employees. We hope you enjoy it!

Check out "Our Story" here, or you can look below:

New Our Story Page

The Team

Get started with introducing us to you and your team today, click here to get through to your dashboard.

Community Relations

Thursday, January 29, 2009

New Features on MerchantCircle - January 29, 2009

Every month, the MerchantCircle team is hard at work on a number of refinements, improvements, and new features. If you're not already, come to the MerchantCircle blog or the Product Suggestions section in the Forums on a regular basis. We roll out the changes on the last Thursday of every month.

Here's just a few of the features we unveiled today for month:

1. Getting Leads Through MerchantCircle - We'll track calls on your MerchantCircle listing and send leads your way when customers in your area are searching for a particular service.

2. Social Newsletter - You can use content: reviews, Topix news, coupons, and blogs - from one of your connections for your newsletter.

3. Get a Customized Email for Your Business - Through your Instant Website domain, we can create an email address for you ending with your domain name.

4. New 'About Us' Section for Merchants - You can now tell your potential customers how you got started and who you're about.

5. Send Newsletters to Connections - You can now send newsletters to merchant members in your network.

6. 'Contact Us' Page - We added a 1-900 number for emergency calls. Also, we've made the page easier to navigate with a drop-down menu of the most frequently asked questions. This will help our 16 employees focus on new features and making the network the best it can be.

For any other inquiries or questions, feel free to leave a comment. Or join the discussion in our Forums.

Community Relations

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How Important is Blogging for Local Business?

There was an article today in the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel as well as on their website,, titled: "Blogs can draw customers deeper into bsuinesses." Here is an excerpt of that article:

Even so, many metro Milwaukee companies have jumped on the blogging bandwagon. MerchantCircle, a free Internet marketing site, lists 183 business owners in Milwaukee as having blogs, joining a universe of 112 million blogs tracked by Internet search engine Technorati.

One business that has used blogging to build customer relationships and its brand is Stone Creek Coffee, a downtown coffee roaster and retailer of specialty coffees. Founded in 1993, Stone Creek has 100 employees and operates eight stores in the Milwaukee area. Its blog was launched in 2005.

Among the most challenging aspects of a blog is writing it consistently and keeping ideas fresh and authentic. Stone Creek solved this challenge by making its employees responsible for maintaining its blog.

It's a really good article with some tips that just might work for you and your business. Click here to read the rest on the JSOnline website.

On that blogging note, we have some really fascinating stats from 2008 through this year on blogging and local businesses. Stay tuned!

Community Relations

Friday, January 23, 2009

Introducing Your MerchantCircle Moderators!

I wanted to take a moment to introduce you to your new MerchantCircle Forum Moderators who are joining our original moderator, Lindy Asimus of Design Business Engineering. You can also find them in our January Newsletter here. They have been and will be instrumental in helping to facilitate conversations between our merchants. Thank you!

Rick Cook
- Rick Cook of Treasure Islands of Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, CA

Ken Mapel Theb Glass Guy 004
- Ken Mapel of The Glass Guy in Saint Paul, MN

Monica Ross-Williams
- Monica Ross-Williams of ServiceMaster Building Services in Canton, MI

- Kathleen of A Tile Nation in Denver, CO

Community Relations

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Giving Your Web Pictures Some Color Commentary!

MerchantCircle recently added a more robust picture gallery for your MerchantCircle listing. You can now put descriptions and tags on your pictures. This will allow you to describe the food dishes, artwork, photography, ceramics, construction, or any number of pictures you upload for your busines.

You can even put a price in the description if you like. Don't forget to tag the pictures so that they may show up in search engine results! Log onto your MerchantCircle listing and manage your pictures here. Want to see some real merchant examples? Look below, or you can check out A Tile Nation's picture gallery by clicking here.

home page

Picture Descriptions

Outdoor Kitchen

Community Relations

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama Stalls Web Economy - Bailout Demanded

As Barack Obama was sworn in this morning as the 44th President of the United States, his effect on web traffic was substantial. During the hours of 8am to 9am PST, as President Obama was giving his inaugural address, MerchantCircle traffic took a huge dip! We'll admit, we were busy watching as well, but c'mon Mr. Prez - how about a bailout for the web economy!?!?


Fortunately, web traffic quickly caught up to its normal pace as people realized they had to un-glue themselves from the television. We wish the President the best, but please, next time keep the speech to a minimum.... or give MerchantCircle a plug! We'll send a t-shirt.

Community Relations

Monday, January 19, 2009

What Should I Do with My Yellow Pages Book?

At no other time in our lives have we asked ourselves this question with more frequency: "What am I supposed to do with the Yellow Pages?" Years of habit tells us that we should put it on top of our refrigerator or underneath the telephone. But if you're like me and a growing number of Americans each year, you no longer have a land line, because your cell phone is with you at all times. Even those who still have a land line, use their computer to search and research options for their consumer needs.

MerchantCircle recently launched a campaign for local business owners to stop advertising in the Yellow Pages, save money, and move their marketing efforts online. We even offer to buy their next YP ad if it doesn't work. We've also launched a national radio ad campaign and will soon move into television. Below, you can see one of our radio ads put to images of the crazy things people have done with the Yellow Pages:

While many of the uses above were on a large scale, here's a link to some creative uses for the Yellow Pages on a small scale. People are getting so angry about having the Yellow Pages dropped at their doorstep, that they're taking their anger to the web.

One thing is for sure, those Yellow Pages ads that you're paying a risky amount of money for, are being seen by less and less people.

Community Relations

Thursday, January 15, 2009

New MerchantCircle Promotion Helps Small Business Owners Disappointed With Print Yellow Pages

As Yellow Page companies like RHDonnelley and Idearc have lost millions of dollars of valuation this last year, their infrastructure and value to merchants will continue to take a hit. Investors, consumers, and merchants know that less and less people turn to the Yellow Pages with the influx of multi-media that is available at our fingertips. Our own MerchantCircle members have taken on the question of whether Yellow Pages actually work. To be fair, they still have value for many merchants. Check out the discussion by clicking here.

To alleviate fears for merchants and to help them during this difficult economic environment, we wanted to introduce an online advertising promotion that would help them cut-out the high cost of print Yellow Page advertising and replace it with online advertising. In order to ensure that merchants have nothing to fear, we will buy your next Yellow Page ad if you're not 100% satisfied.

Here's an excerpt of the release:

“With the economy being what it is, it’s important that local businesses try more cost-effective advertising channels, like online advertising,” says Darren Waddell, MerchantCircle VP of Marketing. “While the majority of our members tell us the yellow pages no longer work for their businesses, many are hesitant to completely stop advertising in the yellow book. We believe this promotion will help local businesses take the leap into online advertising and feel safe doing it.”

"Many small businesses know their traditional media buys are not as effective as once were, but they're afraid to adopt new platforms and strategies," said Greg Sterling, founder Sterling Market Intelligence/analyst Opus Research. "This program addresses that hesitation by attempting to remove some of the perceived risk of online marketing."

Read the entire release by clicking here.

As always, we wish you all, business success.

Community Relations

Monday, January 12, 2009

2008 Year in Local IYP: Bloggers that Mattered, Numbers that Defined

While it was a tumultuous year to say the least, 2009 has shown there's still much work to be done in the local business space. With Yodle recently closing a $10 million dollar round, it's obvious that the local online advertising/IYP space is far from being an open-and-shut case. While we are a little biased, we believe the three "local" companies that are poised to be the biggest movers and shakers of 2009 will be Yelp ($31mm), Yodle ($25mm), and MerchantCircle ($14mm).

All three companies are financially healthy and all three have taken different approaches to gaining the traction of local advertising dollars. Yelp has gained a loyal audience base of consumers and reviews, using that base to appeal to business owners to advertise on Yelp for premium placement on the site and the ability to communicate with their reviewers. Yodle has taken the approach of selling consumer leads via the web and phone calls, with an up-front cost to the business owner. MerchantCircle has become a social network for local business owners whose "profile pages" show up on organic search results under relevant business terms. The company offers online advertising products with a scaleable model which requires no sales force.

While Yelp has not released any sales figures, Yodle claims 5,000 advertisers, and MerchantCircle has over 10,000 advertisers. Because of the different models for engaging local business owners, the employee count for each company is also decidedly different: Yelp - 200 employees; Yodle - 250 employees; MerchantCircle - 17 employees. Cheers to all companies who engage and reinvent when the rest of the old media companies stay stagnant. Although their loss, is our gain.

Throughout the course of the year in 2008, we would also like to give thanks to another form of new media that is replacing the old. Citizen journalism, in the form of bloggers, have helped to keep us informed and innovative, while also holding the company to a higher standard. Here are some of the "local" bloggers that helped us become better and the link to their best posts of 2008:

- Andrew Shotland: Local SEO Guide
- Greg Sterling: Screenwerk
- Peter Krasilovsky: Local Onliner
- Mike Blumenthal: Understanding Google Maps
- Matt McGee: Small Business SEM

Below are some of the top stories in "local" from our vantage point (feel free to send a link and we'll add it):

I've also begged permission (I think it's a great message) to release an edited version of a note from our Chairman and Co-Founder, Ben T. Smith, IV, that highlights the year that was, where MerchantCircle has been, and where we'll go:

It has been quite a year…

• This has been the worst tech IPO market in 25 years
• Some of the most important media and yellow page companies lost 95% of their multibillion dollar market caps
• We saw interesting competitors disappear
• We probably saw our personal stock portfolio’s drop more than any time in our lives


• MerchantCircle went from 350K merchants to 650K merchants and now grows 20K merchants a month for free
• Starting as an idea, there are now 700 MerchantCircle Advisors/Members around the nation 'pitching' MC advertising products
• Our traffic went from 5MM page views to 25MM page views and from 2MM unique to over 10MM uniques
• We went from just 500 paying members to over 10,000
• Most importantly, we have gone from a large number of merchants to a community/network of merchants who are sustaining and growing the network on their own

So while we will miss our 1M merchants for 08, we have come a long way. You should all be proud of your contribution for 08 and also for most of you what you put in place in 07 that allowed 08 to happen.

2009 is going to be a tough year for the macro environment, but may well be one of the most exciting years for creating an capturing opportunities.

• We should finish up our paid product in January with the email and cost per lead call products: XXXXX XXX X XXX XX XXXXXX XXXX XXX XXXXXXXXX XXXX XXXX XXX XXXXXXX XXX XXXXX XXXXX.
• We will have improved natural growth in merchants onto an ever-improving community platform through the early 09 focus on building consumer and community tools around our merchants. XXXXXX XXXXX XXX XX XX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXXXX XXXX XXX XX XXXXXX XXXXXX XXX XX X XXXXXX XXXXXXX.
• Our traffic has a chance of moving us up to be one of the top 5 local traffic players with the smallest team in the space (17 great employees)
• And our crazy experiments like dynamic radio XXX XXXXXX, domain XXXX-XXXX, XXX XX YP ad, higher merchant touch, etc---something big will happen as always.
• We will do all this with our small tight focused team and hopefully still have a good time doing it.


I don't know about you, but I'm excited to go to work this year. I agree with Ben that this economic environment will lead to more opportunity for those that are innovative and strong enough to capture it.

Thanks for a great year!

Community Relations

Thursday, January 8, 2009

MerchantCircle on WWAY TV3 in Wilmington, NC

The ABC affiliate in Wilmington, North Carolina recently did a piece on the 30-and-over crowd engaging in social networking. One of our merchants, John Burchetta of Burchetta Glassblowing Studio & Gallery, was featured in the news story talking about how he uses social networks, including MerchantCircle, to help promote his business.

"It's such an integral part of our business now that if it was just removed, it would feel like I lost an appendage," says John.


You can see the video of the story by clicking here and read the story by clicking here.

In a previous MerchantCircle blog post, we spoke about our Rapleaf study, that showed we were introducing the concept of "social networking" to almost 2/3 of our merchants. At the time, 86% of our 650,000 merchants were over the age of 26, while 54% were over the age of 36. Social networking, is most definitely, not just for the high school and college crowds anymore.

Community Relations

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What Obama's Stimulus Plan Means for Business Owners

President-Elect Barack Obama has already outlined broad tax cuts and refunds that he would like to sign into law by early February. The proposed stimulus package would allow companies posting losses last year to get refunds on taxes paid as far back as five years ago. The plan would also award companies for hiring new workers by giving the company a one-year tax credit.

Individuals and couples would get tax cuts of about $500 for most workers and $1,000 for couples.

The total cost of the package could cost $800 billion or more. To find our more about the stimulus package, read the full article from the Associated Press here.

MerchantCircle Community Relations