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Embrace the Hispanic Market

Before you worry about patenting your invention, investigate potential sales markets.
November 12, 2009
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/203964

When people come up with an idea for a new invention, often the first thing that comes to mind is their patent. And of course, a tremendous amount of effort is expended on the product's design, features, materials and the product's name. Often the last thing considered is sales.

But what I have learned during the past six years is that the difference between success and failure with an invention is almost always sales and rarely the patent. And that is even more the case in today's economy.

The greatest success stories are usually the inventors who get their products placed into major retail chains--with or without a patent. So let's take a look at the process of taking a new product to market successfully.

In my experience, the first thing that comes to mind when we consider how to sell a product is to think of the places we shop. However, given the incredible challenges a new product has of securing retail shelf space as well as the added challenges of the current retail climate, it's necessary to think more broadly. There are actually many markets that could be good opportunities for a new item.

One important factor in identifying these markets is demographics. This can involve race, gender, age, religion, and even geography and economic profile. One market that has been of keen interest to me is the Hispanic market.

If there is any one word that describes the Hispanic market in the U.S. it is "growth."

Of course, the word "Hispanic" does not adequately define the many Spanish-speaking ethnicities in America. A 60-year-old Cuban-American is very different from an 18-year-old Mexican living in the U.S. He, in turn, is very different from second-generation Nicaraguan-American, who is different from a Puerto Rican, and so on. That said, the shared association with Spanish and many aspects of Hispanic culture create enough similarity to enable businesses to serve this market.

Here's why this market presents such incredible opportunity:

According to a special report, "The U.S. Hispanic Economy in Transition" by HispanTelligence , Hispanics are our largest ethnic group, totaling 15.1 percent of the population. There are 45.5 million Hispanics in the United States--many Spanish-speaking countries have fewer people than this. And their growth rate accounts for nearly half our total population growth. Hispanic purchasing power, at approximately $841 billion in 2006, is predicted to reach $1.1 trillion by 2012. The same report estimated that by 2008, there were nearly 3 million Hispanic-owned firms with receipts of $389 billion.

What does this mean in terms of business opportunity for you? Hard to say, but some companies have demonstrated the possibilities successfully.

Take Anna's Linens , a private, 258-store retail chain headquartered in Costa Mesa, Calif. CEO Alan Gladstone, who in 1988 founded and named the company after his mother, has received the Merchant of the Year honor from the home textiles industry. Gladstone asserts that serving the Hispanic market has been key to the success and growth of his business. Carie Doll, senior vice president of marketing and merchandising, explains how that's been accomplished: "First, we offer tremendous value. Second, Hispanic customers are family-oriented, and so are we, and that comes through. Third, we respect them. Our advertising is produced in both English and Spanish, many of our associates are bilingual,and when [Hispanic customers] come to our stores, we want them to feel welcome."

In addition to the growth of the Hispanic market, many Hispanics have money to spend despite the economic downturn. Because many Hispanics immigrated to the U.S. from countries with economic challenges, a large portion of the Hispanic market operates on a cash basis. So when others are squeezed by reductions in credit, interest-rate increases and dropping prices, many Hispanics have cash available.

Numerous consultants and media outlets have the expertise to help you break into this market. Hispanic marketing expert Mayra Donate of Stet Inc . offers these three tips if you are considering this market:

  1. Do some market research to ensure interest before launching to the Hispanic market. Even the name of your product could create a problem. One example is Tropicana's attempt to sell orange juice to Hispanic customers in Miami using the marketing materials and packaging--Jugo de China--it had used in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, "china, " rather than "naranja," is the word for orange. But Miami-based Cubans didn't what to buy what they thought was orange juice from China.
  2. Literal translations of your existing marketing message to Spanish don't necessarily work. So have your marketing and product packaging copy written and the design work specifically oriented to this market.
  3. A little outside advice is essential. Just as there are differences between English speakers from the United States, England and Australia, and even between different geographies within the United States, there are differences in language, culture and traditions among Hispanics from different countries.

It doesn't take that much extra effort. According to HispanTelligence's report, "only 24 percent of U.S. Hispanics have little or no command of the English language." And even those who don't often do have family or friends they rely on for translation when necessary. I simply put a single Spanish sentence on my product's packaging and have received positive feedback from our retailers concerning the effect it's had on our sales to Hispanic customers.

So if you are developing your marketing plan for your new idea, are in the process of going to market or looking to expand the distribution of your new product, appealing to the Hispanic market is something to consider.