By Jeff Milchen
Published in 2012. Updated October 2017.
Approximately 50% of Hispanic adults in the U.S.* and Canada are foreign–born Most of these immigrants are bilingual (and some speak English as their first language) so communicating in Spanish is rarely required. So why do it?
First, it’s a sign of respect and caring. We naturally appreciate when others make a special effort to consider our preferences. And for most people, our native language will remain our language of choice and carry the greatest emotional appeal. Simply put, thanking native Spanish-speakers in Spanish for their choice to “go local” makes good business sense and can help differentiate you from many of your competitors.
This is equally true for business-to-business enterprises. The Harvard Business Review found that, despite comprising just 15% of U.S. residents, immigrants create about 25 percent of all new U.S. businesses. As a whole, hispanic buying power in the U.S. was $1.3 trillion in 2015, and it is projected to rise to more than $1.7 trillion by 2020,
If a significant portion of your potential customers are immigrants, it’s well worth learning relevant cultural differences as well. Various reports by Synovate, including Using Acculturation to Measure Hispanic Media Behavior (pdf), are among the useful entry points to start learning about specific considerations in communicating with Latino audiences.** Be aware that cultural differences between Mexican and Cuban Americans, as just one example, may be substantial.
In addition to the window decal shown, AMIBA also now offers Spanish translations of our popular bag-stuffers and statement–stuffers (free template here). Also, we’ve released a Spanish transcreation of our popular primer, Building Buy Local Campaigns that Shift Culture and Spending, that is free upon request in pdf format (we also offer printed, bound copies here). If you wish to translate AMIBA materials into other languages, we gladly will provide you with templates.
Finally, don’t assume that a person who appears to be of Latino heritage speaks Spanish — even as a second language. Addressing someone in Spanish based solely on their appearance indicates carelessness, not respect.
* See summary of the latest Census Bureau data from Pew Research Center.
** The largest Hispanic origin groups in the U.S. are, in order: Mexicans (2/3 of all Hispanics in U.S.), Puerto Ricans (U.S. citizens), Salvadorans, Cubans and Dominicans (see the Pew report for full data). Mexican people outnumber all others combined. Consider going beyond merely translating to transcreating your materials, taking into account your local population. This involves evaluating the overall impact and considering whether a different tone, images, or even concept is warranted for your marketing efforts in another language.
Jeff Milchen (@JMilchen) is a co-founder of the American Independent Business Alliance.
Recommended Reading and Resources
Overview of “From the Ballot Box to the Grocery Store” (2016 Nielsen)
10 Ways to Connect Main Street and Hispanic Communities. A slideshare from the National Main Street Center
This 2015 report from Pew rResearchCenter provides exhaustive data on population trends in the U.S.
How to Market to People Not Like You is a book that touches on these themes
Fuerza Local does Spanish outreach promoting independent business in Arizona
See Spanish window decals and other materials available for purchase.