5 Things Small Businesses Can Do to Stand Out

I emigrated from Mexico when I was just eight years old and didn’t even speak English. Now, over 3 decades later, I myself am a successful entrepreneur and active member of my community. My journey has given small businesses and their owners a special place in my heart. Currently, I’m on the Board of Directors on the Minority Supplier Development Council and am active in the Hispanic 100, an organization that promotes Latinas in the areas of employment, procurement and social issues. I’m also involved with the Irving Chamber of Commerce and am a member of the 2019 class of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses. I always recommend that small business owners look to their local chambers and other organizations for growth opportunities.

Consumers are constantly inundated with information from major tech, consumer products, food and beverage, and financial corporations every day. Small businesses often offer just as good (if not better) services and products, but it can be so hard to break through the noise on our smartphones and TVs. However, all hope is not lost! There are still many ways that small businesses can be successful in communicating with potential customers.



First, small businesses need to identify their target market. Understanding who fits into the target market will serve as a foundation for all other marketing decisions. There are many factors to consider:

Location Where is your business located? Is it near any heavily trafficked areas like a school, hospital or shopping center?

Age/Gender/Race/Ethnicity Consider the age of your customers. Do you cater to teens and college students or is your clientele made up of parents and older adults? Having an understanding of your basic customer demographics can help businesses utilize national demographic trends in business decisions.

Income Businesses should generally know how much money their customers make. Does your pricing reflect the income of your target market?

Behavior Think about the behaviors of your customers. Are they likely to be stopping by your business in the morning after dropping the kids off at school? Are students likely to stop in for a late-night study break? Are you open at 4 AM to catch people leaving the graveyard shift? Knowing this information can help businesses offer more effective hours and products.

Familial Status Does your establishment attract singles or married couples, families, or children? Knowing the familial status of your target market can help businesses determine how family-friendly (or not) their space needs to be.

Barriers Lastly, consider who is excluded from your products or services. Is it too expensive for some people or not accessible to a certain location? Barriers are okay – it’s up to the business owner to determine whether or not to remove those barriers or maintain a niche audience.



Now that businesses have determined WHO their customers are, it’s time to thoughtfully define WHAT they want. The best ways to do this are a blend of direct customer interaction and general market research. Talk to your customers The easiest way to find out what customers want and need is to ask them. Business owners can socialize with customers and read reviews. It doesn’t hurt to come up with creative ways for customers to leave feedback, like written review cards or fun polls.

Talk to your industry peers/competition Your industry peers may have insights that you don’t about your customer base. For this reason, it’s important to have a good working relationship with competing business owners.

Mystery shopping (in person and online) There are many online services that will send “secret shoppers” who will visit your business and provide detailed feedback! Pricing will vary based on type of service required and size of business, but you can request a quote here: https://www.secretshopper.com/.

Stay up to date on the latest research This one is pretty easy! Find meaningful, engaging industry publications and devote a few minutes per day to perusing them. Feel free to share with your industry peers. This is a great way to build relationships with fellow business owners!



Now that you’ve figured out what your customers want, its time to put that information to use. Take their feedback and improve the customer experience by integrating customer wants and needs into your operations. There are a few really easy steps small businesses can take!

The Digital Experience Are your website and Google contact pages up to date? Additionally, any reservation system or contact mechanism needs to work flawlessly. Otherwise, customers will grow bored, distracted, or frustrated. Addressing small details like these will make the customer journey to your business seamless and easy.

Social Media Many small business owners make the mistake of spreading themselves too thin to adequately maintain their social media accounts. However, for social media to be an effective marketing tool, business owners need to approach it with a thoughtful strategy. Each post should serve a goal of engaging a customer towards a goal. Goals can include sales, brand awareness, follower growth, or event attendance.

Third-Party Services Consider engaging third-party services to save time and improve efficiency. If your operation is too large to manage alone, or you have a small team, there are countless reservation tools, social media management tools, staffing management tools, accounting software programs, and more to explore. If it fits into your budget, leveraging technology to improve operations never hurts!

COVID-19 Many customers have grown accustomed to changes implemented due to the pandemic. People expect higher levels of sanitation, more space, no-contact options, digital options, and more. This isn’t a bad thing! Businesses should view this as an opportunity to provide the best customer service possible. Maybe this means your company keeps no-contact delivery, or trades in a few tables for more space per customer.



Data is the key to developing and maintaining successful marketing strategies. It’s simple – business owners should know how, where, and when they are engaging with their customers.

Point Of Sale System (POS) A modernized POS can drastically increase the amount of data available to business owners! Consider investing in a nice one that will track product sales, time of sales, repeat customers, and more. Some of them will even connect to a dashboard that aggregates additional data into user-friendly reports.

Social Media & Google After you’ve revamped your social media strategy, you should start seeing results. Pay close attention to which posts are performing better and which posts convert to a sale! Get familiar with Facebook and Instagram Admanager. Understanding metrics in those platforms will help you better budget funds to spend on social media advertising. Additionally, use Google Analytics to see which search terms lead customers to your page. This information can help you optimize your website to show in more search results!

Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) Depending on the size, scale, and mission of your operation, a CRM may be a great investment. CRMs can consolidate social media data, POS data, and web traffic into useful reports. Some will even generate suggestions for business owners! They can also generate leads for direct sales contact, send emails and other communications to customers, and auto-update linked platforms.



Each business is unique, and there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution to successful marketing. In order to stand out, small businesses owners need to use the tools mentioned above to engage their customers in a special and memorable way. This can mean featuring customers on social media, promotions, contests, unique decor, merch and swag, loyalty programs, collaborations with other businesses, and partnerships with local charities. Get creative and have fun!

Should marketers use the term LatinX? It depends.

In my line of work, I often am the expert when it comes to outreach to Hispanic audiences. Because of the variety of labels that can apply to Hispanic folks, I’m often asked which one to use and for who. The short answer is that it depends on the audience and context. Take a look below for my data-driven take on Hispanic terminology.

Should Marketers Use the Term “LatinX”?

It depends. As a Latina business owner who works with hispanic-focused clients, I’m often asked my opinion about the term “LatinX”. While I agree that including all genders when speaking of entire demographics is important, I always point my clients to the data. Data on the subject indicates that most hispanic/latino/latina folks don’t identify with the term or use it themselves. According to the Pew Research Center in 2020, only 4% of Hispanics prefer to use the term to identify themselves. In fact, 76% of Hispanic adults haven’t even heard of the term. Most Hispanics prefer to use the term “Hispanic” followed by “Latina/Latino”, their country of origin, American, and then LatinX or other. We’ve validated this fact in several research projects we’ve led this year for national clients focusing on Hispanic adults 25+ and LGBTQ+ Hispanic folks. That is not to say that there aren’t appropriate uses for the term “LatinX”. In academic or LGBTQ+ circles, the term is much more popular because of its gender inclusive nature. LatinX indicates not only the inclusion of men and women, but also people with nonbinary gender identities. Additionally, of the folks who do use the term, most of them identify as women and are people under 30. If you’re producing an official academic communication, marketing to LGBTQ+ individuals, or Gen Z, you may gain more traction with the term. However, when attempting to reach Hispanics in general, our recommendation based on the data is to use the term “Hispanic”. Not only do people of all ages identify with it, it is also gender inclusive! If your organization is looking to most effectively and meaningfully communicate with the Hispanic community, please don’t hesitate to contact the Strategar team.

Crafting Effective Response Communication

Guatama Buddha once said, “Do not learn how to react. Learn how to respond.”

I’ve carried these words with me throughout my career, and they’ve served me well. Specifically, this sentiment is the foundation for the strategy I developed for brands and organizations to respond to what I call “national signal events”.  A national signal event is an event that negatively impacts a  group of people and captures the news cycle. In most cases it involves an underserved group.

Some initial questions to consider:

  1. Is your organization geographically located in the affected community?
  2. Does responding to the affected community demographic align with your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion mission? Depending on your answer, if you engage, your response should serve a community you are already connecting with.
  3. Brands and organizations are not newscasters, what can your organization do or say to bring value and a helping hand addressing a national signal event?  (Addressing what your organization can do within its subject matter expertise is everything.)

How is this accomplished? 

A response to a major event needs to be backed up by some subject matter expertise. IBM set an excellent example of this in their response to how they are addressing racial inequities in tech. Already a known issue that facial recognition disproportionally mis-categorized Blacks, IBM announced that it would no longer offer or develop facial recognition technology on June 9, 2020. Rather than offer empty words of support, they uplifted the Black community and used their position to truly make a statement – and draw a line in the sand.

Lastly, if you talk the talk, walk the walk. Brands need to offer tangible resources in their responses to major events. People are surrounded by conversations about the pandemic, race relations, the environment, and more. A recent study from Blendoor as featured in the MIT Sloan article is already showing how tech companies are falling flat on their DEI pledges. This is the last thing any company wants to face. Backing up your pledge with a strategic resource plan is key to engaging an audience. It’s tough to grab anyone’s attention without something to offer. Organizations should look within to determine what they can do to uplift a community. Examples of these resources may include educational and financial support, supplies, and free professional expertise support if applicable.

Closing Thoughts

A memorable response from an organization must contain the three elements discussed above to be successful. Community engagement, subject matter expertise, and resources are the three keys to a meaningful public statement. You can have two out of three and still convey a key message, but the goal should be to have a strategy that covers on all three points. Considering how these elements work together will take your communication from a reaction to a response.

If you or your organization is interested in a walkthrough of the model and how this can be applied to your organization, please contact Abbigail Belcher to see our entire presentation.

Abbigail Belcher
Brand Account Coordinator
Cell: 406-897-4900
Email: abbigail@strategar.com

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