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Have you ever been confused about which app to use for your small business? With so many options available, you have probably tried to find a good review site to distinguish between top companies and bottom feeders. After all, the reputation of your own business is on the line, depending on who you decide to go with.

When considering who to use for payment processing, you have probably found that most software review sites have a lot of questionable practices – untrustworthiness, “pay-to-play” marketing, and biased (and even fake) reviews.

We decided to interview the founder of one of the most transparent and trustworthy review sites – Merchant Maverick.

Merchant Maverick

Check out our full interview with Amad on PocketSuite’s Professional On The Go Podcast.

POTG Amad Ebrahimi

Merchant Maverick is one of the leading app review websites because of its commitment to raising the bar for business apps and supporting developers who want to improve.

The website was started by none other than Amad Ebahimi of Santa Monica, CA.

Amad was turned off by all of the “pay-to-play” tactics used by other online business app review sites. They do just about anything to promote apps that advertise with them.

The big question that Amad was trying to answer when he started Merchant Maverick was:

“How can we improve transparency and integrity in the online review industry for small businesses?”

Amad Ebrahimi Interview

A fan of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and video games, Amad explains his reasoning for founding Merchant Maverick: 

Amad: I was inspired to create Merchant Maverick because I had had some bad personal experiences with finding a reputable credit card processor. There was a general lack of transparency in regards to pricing and contract terms. The processors themselves lacked transparency to me and the review sites back then in 2009 seemed pretty shady, and they seemed to be handing out high-ratings to processors that would pay them the most. I used that pain point as an opportunity. In the immediate years prior to starting Merchant Maverick, I was working as an internet marketing manager for an online tour company and a network hardware company.

This sounded like a great reason to start a review site. There was clearly a pain point in the industry that needed to be solved for small business owners.

Merchant Maverick In Depth Reviews

Next we dove into what Merchant Maverick offers and who their clients are:

Amad: We offer in-depth reviews focused on business software, apps, and services. For example, point-of-sale software, booking and scheduling apps, or credit card processing services. We also write informative content pertaining to the small business industry as a whole. Ultimately, we 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.

Our “clients” can be classified in two-ways: 1) our review site readers or users who are small business owners looking for advice and direction, and 2) our vendors or partners that we have commercial relationships with. We serve as kind of a broker between those two “clients.”

As Amad mentioned, this type of “flywheel” business relies on two types of clients – businesses offering services and consumers looking for them.

However, Merchant Maverick has separated themselves from the pack by using a transparent ‘Consumer Reports’ strategy as opposed to the classic ‘Yelp’ online review model.

We were curious as to what the differences are between the Consumer Reports business model and Yelp’s online review model.

How did Amad decide which model to use at Merchant Maverick?

Amad: The difference is that Consumer Reports is focused on expert-based editorial reviews and Yelp is an aggregator of actual customer-reviews. The Consumer Reports model requires them to really understand the product that they’re reviewing, spending hours testing products against each other to determine the best of breed. Yelp, on the other hand, relies on gathering as much customer reviews as possible to calculate an average score based on all of those individual reviews. Merchant Maverick is a bit of a hybrid of both models but we place most of our focus on our own expert-based editorial reviews. We do, however, still allow customers to leave their own experiences, but our ratings are based on our editorial team, not an aggregate of customer-ratings. We spend dozens of hours researching and testing each company or product to develop our own assessment. I chose this model, long-form reviews backed by research, because I felt that it was best suited for my goal to educate small business owners as much as possible. 

We were also curious about the difference between 5 Star Business Apps and those that aren’t? Are those business apps just better products or is there more to it?

Amad: I think it largely depends upon the review site. To speak for our own process, we use several different review guidelines to measure business apps against each other, including ease-of-use, pricing, feature set, transparency of sales and advertising, customer support. We clearly outline how we determine our ratings so that our readers can engage in that research themselves and see if they draw the same conclusion. I’m sure there are some other review sites that might be accepting money for high ratings, but I’m not particularly aware of who that might be. 

On that same note, what is Amad’s take on the “pay to play” tactics that happen in this industry? How can small businesses best spot and avoid online review sites that do this?

Amad: It depends on what you mean by “pay to play.” If by that phrase you mean review websites that accept money to manipulate star ratings, then the only way to spot a review site that is “pay to play” would be to only trust the sites that clearly outline how and why they determined their rating. In other words, using those sites that provide full transparency and breakdown of the review and all of the details that went into the research.

Given this, what is Amad’s vision for bringing “journalistic transparency” and integrity back to the Online Review world?

Amad: Honestly, I think that we are already doing it, at least in the categories that we operate in. When Merchant Maverick first started, most of the review sites that existed around credit card processing all had the same two or three credit card processors listed as their top three. Once we launched and the market was able to see the level of research that we put into our reviews, and the fact that we did not rate those aforementioned top three as the highest rated, those same review sites begin using our top three as their own. They were essentially forced to rearrange their so-called top credit card processors because of our in-depth reporting on the market. So, again, the only way to bring journalistic transparency to the online review world is to review business apps with the level of detail that an investigative journalist would. Conduct your research and lay out all of the facts so your readers can trust your process.

Authority Magazine

Amad is a guest writer for Entrepreneur.com – check out his bio and articles!

Merchant Maverick also recently celebrated their 10th birthday – as a special celebratory gesture, Amad posted this on their Instagram:

10 Years Merchant Maverick

This company is truly coming to the rescue of small business owners, as evidenced by the photograph above.

It’s a weight off our shoulders to know that there are still review sites out there that truly care about providing transparent information to small business owners.

If it’s helpful to SMBs and solo businesses, we’re all about it!

Check out our full interview with Amad on PocketSuite’s Professional On The Go Podcast.

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