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Small Business Strategies: Hispanic market is an opportunity

By Rhonda Abrams, USA TODAY

We're in the middle of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, and I've got a confession to make: Although my books have been translated into more than 30 languages worldwide, I've never had them translated into Spanish for the American Hispanic market.

That may make some readers of my column glad.

"Let 'em learn English," I can imagine you shouting.

The truth is, as a businessperson, I owe it to myself to take a realistic look at the opportunities in the large, vibrant American Hispanic market.

No matter how you feel about the hot-button issue of immigration, as a small-business owner you should not ignore the fact that Hispanics in the United States represent a huge marketing opportunity.

Like me, you need to consider reaching that market. And, like me, you don't necessarily need to learn Spanish or translate your marketing materials into Spanish.

About 83% of young Hispanics and 56% of Hispanics older than 18 speak only English or English very well at home, according to Pew Hispanic Center tabulations of Census Bureau statistics. That means you can reach large numbers of Hispanics in English — if you try.

Serving Hispanics can be a great business move.

A businessman I know had a struggling used-car dealership. Then, 25 years ago he targeted Hispanics in his community, including migrant farm workers, when no one else would. He learned Spanish, hired Spanish-speaking salespeople, and extended credit to customers when others wouldn't.

He became a millionaire.

This car dealer learned what many entrepreneurs have realized: Hispanics in this country have a lot of money to spend. The average median Hispanic household income in 2009 was $38,039. While that is less than the $51,861 for white households, it still means Hispanic consumers have money to buy your products or services. (While white is a race for U.S. Census purposes, Hispanic is an ethnicity and Hispanics can be of any race.)

More than 50 million people across the country are Hispanic, according to 2010 Census data. That's more than 16% of all Americans.

It's dumb to write off 1 in 6 people without even thinking about it. And that number is growing and will keep growing regardless of the immigration policies we adopt. By 2050, it is projected that Hispanics will be 30% of America's population.

Generally, Hispanic consumers are young: Hispanics' median age is 27, compared to a median age of 41 for non-Hispanic whites. These younger Hispanic consumers have families and homes, thus they need groceries, clothing and hardware. They also consume a lot of entertainment and gadgets.

If your company's customers are businesses, rather than people, Hispanic-owned businesses represent a huge business opportunity. In 2007, the United States had about 2.3 million Hispanic-owned businesses. And they generated a lot of money, $345.2 billion in gross revenues.

Those figures have almost certainly declined since the onset of the Great Recession in 2008. But Hispanic-owned businesses still have a lot of money to spend on business services, supplies, and equipment. They have to buy from someone.

Hispanics are a large market, but realistically, it's a challenge for a small company to figure out how to serve that market. The best way to get a piece of the Hispanic market is to go about it the same way you approach any other target market: Sit down and devise a marketing plan.

1. Assess your products and services. Is there any reason they are not appropriate for the Hispanic market?

2. Assess your competition. Who is selling your products or services to the Hispanic market now? Can you position yourself better?

3. Look for networking groups. You can join your local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce even if you're not Hispanic.

4. Advertise in local media reaching the Hispanic market. If you don't speak Spanish, advertise in English. Many English-speaking Hispanics read Spanish language publications.

5. Try translating some of your marketing materials or a website page into Spanish. You can hire translating services, hire Spanish-speaking employees or consultants, even hire a Spanish speaking student from a local college.

If you want to be stubbornly anti-immigrant, you can write off this critical market.

And, of course, you can build a successful business without Hispanics. But if you're a smart entrepreneur, you'll at least consider the American Hispanic market as you develop your growth strategy.

Now, can someone find me a good translator for my books?

Copyright Rhonda Abrams 2011.


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