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MerchantCircle has apparently changed its tact for getting small businesses to sign up. In the past, there have been numerous reports that it autodialed SMBs and notified them they had to check out the company’s Web site to see their “bad review.” Now, the message is much more positive.

An acquaintance in New York City transcribed a message his business received last Sunday at 4 p.m. Here is the text of the message:

“Hello, we are calling to let you know that after searching Google a satisfied customer found your website on and gave you a positive rating for being a good local business. To see your rating go to and enter your business telephone number into the blue box. Again, that’s”

The problem, of course, is that there were no reviews.

It is difficult to tell how widespread the new campaign is. VP of Business Development Doug Kilponen, speaking at ILM:07 a couple of weeks ago, indicated that such efforts did not account for the majority of the company’s 300,000 registrations. Nor did they come from auto spam efforts that hit all the businesses in the proximity of a registrant –something else we have heard about. Instead, Kilponen said, the vast majority come from more viral efforts. Many businesses recommend the service to their neighbors.

Kilponen also said that with companies such as IAC coming on board to cross-promote MerchantCircle and brands such as Citysearch and ServiceMagic, it projects that 1 million SMBs will be signed up by the end of 2008. IAC was part of a $10 million round for MerchantCircle that was recently announced.

At ILM:07, Kilponen indirectly acknowledged the telemarketing and spam issues. He said the company has been entrepreneurial and has launched 100 ideas. “Four or five” of them have been bad ideas, he said, seemingly putting them in the past tense.

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