Merchants have traditionally viewed electronic payments acceptance as just another necessary business expense, rather than a valuable tool for management and growth. The payments industry wanted to evolve the relationship into one that is focused more on partnership and built on the real value the industry can provide to small community businesses.
On behalf of the electronic payments industry, VOX engaged with small business entrepreneurs across the country and began to ask them about the payment resources and opportunities they would find most valuable.
We then created “Community Merchants USA” (CMUSA) –a free organization for small business owners that aims to deliver resources and information to help small businesses get the most value out of accepting electronic payments.
We launched CommunityMerchantsUSA.com as an online hub for these tools and resources, and to serve as a forum for small business owners to share information with each other.
To recruit members to the new community, we attended local business events throughout the country and conducted targeted online and social advertising.
Offering a platform for small business owners to speak to one another was central to building a community. The site features blogs, personal stories and comments from small business owners about how they derive value from accepting electronic payments. The site also allows small business owners to submit their questions about electronic payments to an expert.
CMUSA engaged through Facebook and Twitter to expand the online community. To ensure that the website was reaching the intended audience, CMUSA started an online advertising effort to drive engagement with the online community that targeted small merchants. In just over six months, CMUSA received 230,210 unique site visitors, registered nearly 2,000 small merchant members, and engaged more than 1,700 Facebook fans and 900 Twitter followers.
Through a targeted grassroots strategy, CMUSA worked to recruit small merchant community members at local Chamber of Commerce and business events. This resulted in 600 registered members recruited in five states, 34 Letters-to-the Editor and op-eds penned, and 83 stories and blog posts about the value of card acceptance shared online.
We also formed partnerships with influential organizations in Washington, D.C. in order to provide educational opportunities alongside membership. We worked with the Small Business Administration (SBA), National Black Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Latino Coalition to create these learning and networking opportunities for our members. CMUSA hosted panels and webinars at several national conferences and hosted live events at local Chambers of Commerce and business organizations.