Google yourself

Chamber advises businesses to engage in online ratings

The online world has changed how customers find out about your business. Visitors to Dolores and Cortez search Internet reviews on their phones before going out to lunch, booking a hotel or scheduling recreational activities.

Newcomers research the Internet for real-estate deals. And searches for trade services - from motorcycle repair to window washing - are all done online nowadays.

Is your business ready?

Rocky Moss, educator and tech-savvy director of the Dolores Chamber, is on a mission to make sure you are.

"Don't get nervous about it, embrace it. The key is keeping in touch with your customers and building those relationships," Moss said during a recent chamber meeting.

Yelp, Google Plus, Trip Advisor and Angie's List are more popular sites that post reviews online. Monitoring and responding to reviews is crucial for a business' reputation, Moss said.

"Google yourself to see the ratings and reviews of your business," she said. "People have become empowered, and they are making decisions based on website reviews."

Make contact, even it is a bad review, Moss said.

"Studies show that 84 percent of people who wrote a bad review are willing to forgive if the business acknowledges the complaint," she said. "Say you're sorry, correct the situation, and they will come back. It lets customers know you're listening."

On the flip side, studies also show businesses that boost their Yelp score by one star can see an additional 5 to 9 percent in revenue.

Moss congratulated The Pony Expresso for using social media sites for marketing. Also the coffee shop utilizes a QR code that customers can scan with their phone to read reviews and find out menu information.

"They have brought in a lot of high school customers by tapping into their social media world," Moss said.

In Cortez, the Let it Grow restaurant and garden shop has reached the No. 1 ranking on Trip Advisor. Mexican restaurant La Casita earned a No. 2 ranking with 118 reviews, and Stone Fish gets consistent good ratings.

Moss says that business in smaller towns like Rico, Dolores, and Mancos cooperate to market themselves collectively.

Cortez's "Restaurant Row" took this approach with great success. Stone Fish, Pepperheads, Sol Pizzeria, and San Juan Coffee know the power of online group marketing translates to more customers.

"Working together they created an mini-economic culture that is spreading throughout downtown," Moss said. "The same can happen anywhere. Run some campaigns together to get people to engage with your business."

Participating in online rating systems is not just for tourism-based businesses.

"All business serve somebody, so everyone should get involved," Moss said. "It is a way of using customers to promote you. Using the Internet for marketing is like word-of-mouth on steroids."

Workshops on using the Internet for business development will be offered this fall by the Cortez and Dolores chambers.