TL; DR: Founded in 2009 as a source of unbiased reviews for credit card processing, Merchant Maverick has grown into a robust comparison site that provides SMBs education on a wide spectrum of merchant-related software and services. Now offering free beginners’ guides to get online merchants up and running, the company has emerged as an authoritative and trusted voice in the eCommerce space. We recently sat down with Liz Hull, Lead eCommerce Writer at Merchant Maverick, to discuss how the company’s wide range of resources, unique customer service, and flexible office culture have contributed to its success.
The uncertainty inherent in entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart; in fact, the process is often synonymous with risk-taking. But, as the savviest small-business owners know, startup success requires not a leap of faith, but a calculated set of maneuvers around a long list of risks.
Today, as eCommerce continues to stake its claim on retail sales — with a predicted 17% of transactions to take place online by 2022 — entrepreneurs must add merchant account selection to that list. Without a merchant account, which permits the necessary interactions between vendors, customers, credit card networks, and payment processors, entrepreneurs cannot accept card payments. While the eCommerce industry has enjoyed a rapid growth spurt over the past decade, it has also earned an unfortunate reputation for fraud and scams. As a result, small business owners must do their due diligence in this area if they are to be successful.
Merchant Maverick, a comparison site for merchant-related software and services, was born out of Founder Amad Ebrahimi’s own frustration with eCommerce in 2009.
“It was a shady industry that needed some unbiased reviews,” said Liz Hull, Lead eCommerce Writer at Merchant Maverick.
Amad, who started his career as an eBay seller and website consultant, focused initially on credit card processing before expanding the site to include reviews and ratings of point-of-sale software, shopping carts, and mobile payments services.
In addition to these evaluations, Merchant Maverick now offers educational tools and even personalized advice for small businesses. Ultimately, the company’s goal is to take on the burden of in-depth research so entrepreneurs don’t have to, freeing up time for them to focus on running their businesses.
Service Provider Comparisons Built to Save Time and Money
As head of Merchant Maverick’s eCommerce reviews, Liz considers the vertical her baby.
“I look into each company, read everything they have on their site, read every review they have online, and try out their products,” Liz said. “From there, I synthesize my own review.”
Her overall goal is to identify the best software providers for small business owners. Liz told us that, since most small businesses don’t have extensively staffed IT teams at their disposal, business owners are seeking solutions that are simple to get running and are budget friendly.
With that in mind, affordable, feature-rich, and easy-to-use platforms complete with excellent customer service are typically given higher scores.
“We still give good scores for excellent, robust software that’s more expensive; we’ll just put in qualifiers if it’s not ideal for small business owners,” Liz said.
And, if Merchant Maverick promotes a company, you can be sure it’s one that its reviewers genuinely believe in.
“If it’s a good review, we might reach out to a company and say ‘Hey, we’ve got a really great review of you online, would you like to be an affiliate partner with us?’ But that is totally outside of my job,” Liz said. “As a reviewer and a writer, I am completely removed from the affiliate partnerships. That’s how we keep it unbiased.”
Serving Up Exceptional Customer Service with Personalized Advice
Liz said her work isn’t complete after a review is posted — she’s always prepared to provide hands-on help to readers who contact her through comments, emails, and even direct messages on Twitter.
“That’s always fun; they give me a couple things they’re looking for, I’ll respond with a smattering of questions, and we can kind of work our way toward a couple of options that might work for them,” Liz said.
It’s rare a site can offer customers that level of engagement, and Liz takes the duty seriously.
“I feel responsible for their business choices and try to make it as accurate as I can,” she said.
At the end of the day, Liz recommends readers combine reviews with real-world product testing to find their best fit. She told us readers should start with Merchant Maverick’s top reviews on the site’s comparison page. From there, users can choose the products in which they’re interested and sign up for a free trial.
“You may find that, while one company is great for a lot of merchants, it’s missing the five most important features for you,” Liz said. “You won’t know unless you try it.”
Free eCommerce Beginners’ Guides to Get Merchants Up and Running
Last year, Merchant Maverick began launching a collection of guides that beginning merchants can download for free in a convenient digital format. The crash courses offer no-nonsense advice broken into easily digestible segments.
“We have three available right now — ‘The Beginners’ Guide to Payment Processing,’ ‘The Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Store,’ and our brand-new ‘Beginners’ Guide to Small Business Loans,’” Liz said.
The Beginners’ Guide to Payment Processing is perfect for new online sellers grappling with questions about credit card processing and merchant accounts. Topics cover the gamut and include how to effectively negotiate a contract, understand how rates are determined, identify the add-on services you really need, understand risk and security, and evaluate hardware options.
Small business owners looking for advice on selling products online will find “The Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Store” particularly helpful, complete with step-by-step instructions for setting up an online storefront, choosing an eCommerce software solution, and formulating a business approach.
Entrepreneurs who depend on small business loans to fund their endeavors can turn to “The Beginners’ Guide to Small Business Loans” for practical guidance on finding loans, navigating the application process, and interpreting and comparing loan offers.
In addition to the guides, the site features a small business term loan calculator, short-term business loan calculator, merchant cash advance calculator, and a series on how to set up a QuickBooks account. Liz said readers should keep an eye out for additional resources coming down the pike in the near future.
“We’re hitting the eBooks pretty hard these days,” she said.
The Secret to Success: A Strong Culture and Flexible Work-Life Balance
Merchant Maverick’s seemingly endless resources and superior customer service offerings are backed by a strong culture with a flexible workforce that’s 100% remote.
The company’s team consists of approximately 20 people nationwide who collaborate via Slack and video conferences.
“Largely, I know them as pictures of their faces and the funny things they say,” Liz said. “That’s how we do our meetings. Most of the time we interact in text, and that’s been really fun!”
By embracing a remote workforce, Merchant Maverick has had the opportunity to hire the best talent regardless of location, as well as provide tremendous rewards to its staff.
“There’s incredible flexibility,” Liz said. “A lot of my team members’ lives don’t work without a job that lets them pick up their kids from school at 4:30 every day or go to the doctor when needed. It’s very flexible.”
Before the company’s first meetup in Palm Springs last November, most staff members had never met face to face. Liz told us the gathering was the perfect opportunity for team-building and exchanging work stories and best practices. By the end of the retreat, team members found they shared many similarities, among them a gratitude for telecommuting.
“Our work lives will be different because of the experience; richer, more satisfying and more efficient,” Merchant Maverick Writer and Managing Editor Julie Titterington wrote in a blog commemorating the meetup. “We were so lucky to be able to take what we learned there home again with a new appreciation for our flexible work-life balance.”