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 â€œreview,â€ 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 isnâ€™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
Nearby Members: 4
Total Ratings: 2
Talk To Me: 1
Forum Posts: 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
|Listing Not Found||local.yahoo.com|
|Listing Not Found||yellowpages.com|
|Listing Not Found||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.