I do have extensive experience acquiring small merchants. Specifically, trendy, mid-range to upscale merchants that have the funds to spend on marketing and mostly don't need it because they have cachet. Tough crowd. Getting their attention is a challenging endeavor. Why? Because they get pitched daily by vendors who waste their and their staff's time. A brief insight into what they want and don't want...
They don't want:
- To learn about yet another app or website
- To offer discounts or deals - sorry man, you're going to have to come up with something better and "data" is not compelling enough to them... they've heard that one before too
- To waste their time listening to yet another pitch
What they want:
- More customers
- Know that it works (user cases from businesses they know, that you have many users in their market, that your users are active and engaged)
- Know that if it doesn't work for them, they won't have invested a lot of time and money on it (keep in mind that they're quite jaded from their recent experience with Groupon (pitched as free yet ended up costing them an arm and a leg) and Facebook (pitched as "build your community for free" only to find out it was a bait-and-switch and now that they've invested so much time building a following, they have to pay))
You may be inclined to think that using the national merchant brands you have on board to market to small businesses is a good idea. I don't recommend it. Big businesses are the competition. They are predatory and play unfairly in their eyes. They don't want to be seen on the same platform as them so you have to choose your market. They also know that one size fits all doesn't work so if you work for big biz, in their logic, it won't for work for them.
These are generalities of course but they are real and most tech companies in this space don't take the time to truly understand what it is they want and how to approach them. They just make a lot of assumptions (as I did initially) like yours until they fail. This is going to be a long and challenging road so I hope you're up for it. This is my sixth startup and it's one of the toughest gigs I've done. The upside? If you get traction, they'll swarm to you (think Groupon in the early days). Small business owners are connected with other small business owners through chambers of commerce and they'll be your best advocates if what you do works.
Good luck. Hope this helps.