From the May 2010 issue of Entrepreneur

Nine percent of small businesses use Twitter to market their businesses, according to a recent BIA/Kelsey survey. In addition, 32 percent plan to expand their marketing efforts into the social media realm, branching out to sites such as Facebook and MySpace. Here's the problem: Just because your business isn't already on Twitter or Facebook doesn't mean customers aren't talking about you on the web. Thanks to the rise of local user review and search sites such as Yelp and Citysearch, consumers are ranting and raving about your services across the digital landscape, and while they can be effusive in their praise, they can be merciless in their criticisms.

That's why local search and performance advertising firm Marchex introduced Reputation Management, an online marketing tool that lets small businesses track their virtual reputations and presences and leverage that customer insight to more effectively operate their businesses.

"There are a lot of places where people are talking about businesses and where they're going to decide what products and services they're going to use," says Marchex senior product manager Ryan Fritzky. "But while consumers have their hands on all this great information, it's not easy for a small business to bring it all together. We're giving them information on what customers like about their products and services, and how they can use that information to improve their online footprint."

An extension of the Marchex Connect platform, which supports hundreds of thousands of marketing campaigns for local advertisers, Reputation Management is built on proprietary technology from Marchex's Open List local search network. The solution spans more than 8,000 sources and more than 250 million pieces of metadata encompassing businesses across the U.S., monitoring and reporting on each company's virtual profile, including user reviews and news as well as blog and social media comments.

Marchex Reputation Management also helps to improve the accuracy of information in online business listings contained in global and local search engines and directories, making sure names, addresses and phone numbers are consistent and recommending where to add listings for improved coverage. In addition, the service includes analyses of competitors' reputations and marketing efforts. "We make it easy to gain competitive intelligence--now SMBs can compare and contrast their services with rival businesses'," Fritzky says.

Marchex Reputation Management is offered via select reseller partners with large installed bases of SMB clients. Pricing will be subscription-based, vary with each reseller partner and will depend on bundling with other Marchex and reseller services. "We knew this solution had to be simple, and it had to save businesses time," Fritzky says.

And, yes, Marchex understands that if customers aren't satisfied, they're going to rush to the web and let everyone know all about it.