In a clever twist, MerchantCircle is seeking to turn its thousands of SMB “members” (it now claims 630K) into a sales channel that will sell its services to other small businesses. According to the press release out this morning:
The program gives merchants the opportunity to become an advisor for local zip codes and help local merchants find more customers online. In addition, Marketing Advisors will be paid commissions when merchants sign up for MerchantCircle or purchase online advertising packages.
Marketing Advisors sign up online and can choose up to 5 zip codes for their local territory. They get access to online training and marketing materials, and they get to offer a great message to local merchants – “cancel that Yellow Pages ad and start finding customers online with MerchantCircle.” The program launched in August, and already over 700 Marketing Advisors have signed up and provided help for local merchants in over 2,000 zip codes.
I’ve argued that MerchantCircle’s value to the market and third parties (potential acquirers) is that they’d aggregated a massive pool of small businesses and could thus become a valuable and effective sales channel for others.
Discussion and questions:
- In a bad economy this hypothetically could be attractive to people to gain some additional income
- But will working small business owners have the time to do this?
- Is the commission sufficient to attract large numbers of SMBs to the program?
- Is there adequate training and support to make this program a success?
It’s a great idea “on paper.” The question in my mind is will it work on a national scale and be sustainable over time? The fact that the company has signed up 700 SMBs already suggests a high level of interest.