MerchantCircle:FUD marketing (and these guys get $10 mil?)

MerchantCircle has been criticized in the past for its agressive and fear driven marketing to get small businesses to sign up to its services (see John Batelle, Matt McGee & Greg Sterling). They claim that 250,000 small businesses signed up for their service. According to Peter Krasilovsky at Kelsey Group:

the claim of 250,000 registered businesses, while impressive, should be sliced and diced for exactly what it is. The vast majority may have been duped into registering by an aggressive telemarketing campaign that strongly implied these businesses had a negative review, so they should go online and check it out. To see their “review,” they first had to register.

The obvious question is, how many of these violated businesses become loyal customers of MerchantCircle and are ready to be upsold into the SEM and promotion packages, etc.? No one will tell me. I imagine it is a very low number. Maybe it isn’t.

Well it appears that they are now attempting to motivate those that did signup previously to engage more with their service with similarly deceptive (although subtler) tactics.

I had signed up with MerchantCircle last year to see if they could help me manage my listing at multiple Local Search Engines including Yahoo and Google with a single central listing. I did everything they asked but they were unable to locate any of my records with Google (they have since stopped claiming to update Google), Yahoo or the Yellowpages so I stopped trying.

Today I received this email piece from them:

****

Customer Activity Report
Dear Mike Blumenthal,

We’re happy to send you your monthly activity summary report for Blumenthals.com on MerchantCircle.

Your business listing profile is 71% complete. Visit the address below to add more information about your business to get better search result placement in Google and Yahoo!

This table shows activity for your business listing for December 2007

Activity Tracker
Nearby Members: 4
Total Ratings: 2
Google: 1
Visitors: 1
Talk To Me: 1
Forum Posts: 0
Yahoo: 0
Connections: 0
Deal Requests: 0
Total Reviews: 0
Active Coupons: 0

****

I was particularly curious about the 2 new ratings as I am in a very small market (15,000 residents). It seemed surprising to me to have that many in one month so I logged in and was unable to find my new ratings but I did find this:

****

Web Reputation Score merchantcirclerep.gif

Your MerchantCircle Web Reputation Score is important and so is keeping track of new information related to it on the web. The higher your Web Reputation Score the easier it is for customers to find your business online. Your score is pulled together from all the listings that are associated with your business on the Internet. We take into account the accuracy of your contact information, the number and quality of reviews given to your business, and the great content you create here on MerchantCircle to tell customers about your business. Good reviews, correct contact information, and creating ads, blogs, newsletters, and coupons all help raise your score.

Service Data Ratings Accuracy My Business?
insider logo Listing Not Found No Match local.yahoo.com
insider logo Listing Not Found No Match yellowpages.com
insider logo Listing Not Found No Match Yahoo Yellow Pages

****

Given that they could not even find my listing with Yahoo or YellowPages, it wasn’t surprising that they couldn’t find any quality reviews (there arn’t any). What is surprising is that my business still received a “reputation score” of 67%. I guess if I just created a few coupons, blogs and newsletters at MerchantCircle my rating would go up. Nice to know.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
MerchantCircle:FUD marketing (and these guys get $10 mil?) by

15 thoughts on “MerchantCircle:FUD marketing (and these guys get $10 mil?)”

  1. What it looks like to me…

    They use scare tactics on the phone to get small businesses to sign up for an account, then stick out their chests about how many sign-ups they have. But sign-up numbers are only half the story. They need “active users” in order to make themselves more attractive to investors and buyers, and an “active user” is measured by when you last logged in. So they send you this email to get you to login and … bam! … you’re an active user.

    And they call themselves the small business owner’s friend?

    Good post, Mike. Thx for the link, too.

  2. Hi Matt-

    I may be an active user but a disappointed one…I have never had a 67% in my life (well maybe once or twice :)).

    If they did what they claim to do well, I could put up with some annoying marketing.

    Mike

  3. It amazes to no end that small businesses will continue to spend money on services that don’t provide measurable ROI. We in the community need to spread the word that it’s about generating customers– which may or many have anything to do how many inbound links you have, your toolbar PR, or whether your profile is 67% complete. The folks that can continue to charge small businesses for directory listings or SEO work with limited accountability make the rest of us in the industry look bad.

    Dennis

  4. Since I signed up in December of ’08, I maintain my MC site myself and have been able to secure a good hold on local businesses needing a website. I have even been approached by some outside of my immediate area.

    Personally, I like having an account on there, because it has helped me out more than not.

  5. Merchant Circle does a great job of reputation management for the small business owner. Their spammy self-marketing is difficult to get away from though.

  6. I am also amazed that so many business owners actually pay for these services. If these companies spent an hour on google learning how to this stuff, they would be amazed at how much they are being ripped off.

  7. Merchant Circle have control of Goggle,Bing, Yahoo and write whatever they want even use your copyright name without permission. Kay’s A Gift of a Heart was able to put 30 advertisements with same headings and different words. I have on my website specified instructions for copyright laws with reserved rights on all pages and it was just ignored. When you report it to copyright violations you do not get a reply because they are all working together. Merchant Circle is the biggest spam around. When I threatened her about an email I was going to reveal to everyone she did remove all ads with her store. It is not the search engines picking it up. It is the people who actually put it in.

    Kay’s A Gift of Heart removed all advertisements with my copyrighted name never read my copyright laws on all my webpages to see that she broke the copyright laws all rights reserved by U.S.Laws .She has proven guilty and lied about me on my network for an email mistake. Network should have network’s email for everything even though there is another signature. I was banned from her friends network because she is a liar and vindictive. They defended a liar. I was on their networks and Elegantthings put my work on the search engines himself and I was featured on Team Circle. She just wanted my life to turn around and take away my reputation. Lies kill your reputation. Lies get a person in trouble.Your friends were defending a liar. Now they are the fools for believing in Sandra Whitlocker at her store Kay’s A Gift of A Heart.

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