How companies are targeting Hispanics to boost sales

Cerda Munoz Advisors, owned by Aaron Munoz (left) and Gilbert Cerda, offers financial advice with a focus on the Hispanic population.

When NxStage Medical realized Spanish-speaking people made up 15 per- cent of the market for its home kidney dialysis equipment, the company created a website and brochures printed in Spanish.

NxStage has also increased its staff of Spanish-speaking customer service agents.

“If we’re doing our job in the community, 15 to 20 percent of our growth would come from the Hispanic population,” says Jeff Burbank, CEO of the Lawrence, Mass.-based company.

There are about 55 million Hispanics in the U.S., says the Census Bureau, which reported Hispanics accounted for more than half the U.S. population growth from 2000-10. By 2060, it’s expected there will be 119 million Hispanics, for nearly 29 percent of the population.

Hispanics also have enormous buying power: $1.4 trillion, according to an estimate by market researchers Nielsen. Large companies have taken notice, and so have smaller firms.

Companies are hiring celebrities, such as Sofia Vergara and Eva Longoria, to endorse their products. Some are offering products and services aimed at Hispanics and are creating Facebook and Twitter accounts to reach Hispanic customers.

Smart companies go beyond ad campaigns; they’re hiring Hispanic employees, says Cid Wilson, president of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, aimed at increasing Hispanic employment in U.S. companies.

“Companies that don’t embrace Hispanic inclusion run the risk of being labeled a company that does not embrace diversity, and they might make a mistake in how they market to our community,” Wilson says.

But some companies haven’t yet gotten the memo that marketing to ethnic groups, including Hispanics, is smart business. In a survey of 150 marketing executives, 55 percent said they didn’t have the support of their CEOs for multicultural marketing programs, and 60 percent said they didn’t have the support of their boards of directors. That has left few marketing dollars for multicultural mar- keting. The survey was released by the CMO Council, an association of marketing executives, and Geoscape consultants.

“Hispanics are becoming a force by themselves,” says Jose Torres, a franchising consultant in Florida. “It would be foolish for any company to ignore that segment of the market.”

Opportunity: When Antonio Swad opened Pizza Pizza in a Hispanic section of Dallas in 1986, he hired Spanish-speaking employees and began serving pizzas with ingredients like chorizo that his customers liked. His business, renamed Pizza Patron, grew as word got around. “We were friendly, spoke Spanish and treated you with respect ... it was an untapped market,” Swad says.

Underserved market: When Gilbert Cerda and Aaron Munoz launched their L.A. financial advisory firm, Cerda Munoz Advisors, in 2013, they focused on Hispanics who weren’t being served. Many financial advisers cater to the wealthy and didn’t want to work with Hispanics who didn’t have a minimum net worth, Cerda says.

Hispanics are starting to accumulate sizable nest eggs, Cerda says. “Who better to provide the service than someone who speaks the language?” he says.

Recruiting franchisees: Many companies recruit franchisees to serve Hispanic customers. Liberty Tax, which operates tax preparation franchises, has gone further, creating SiempreTax, whose target market for services including tax and immigration help is the Hispanic population.

Stronger relationships: Budding Co. is creating pages in Spanish on its website as the number of Hispanic customers for its building products grows. That customer base has grown through word-of-mouth.