Data from the U.S. Census show that 55 million Americans—that’s 17% of the U.S. population —are Hispanic or Latino. This same data shows an astronomic growth of Spanish speakers in the U.S. In fact, forty million U.S. residents age five and older spoke Spanish at home in 2015. This number is up 131.2 percent since 1990.

Some consider the Hispanic market to be one of the last significant growth opportunities for the consumer goods and service industries in the U.S. This prospect should have businesses working to address this growing customer segment. However, according to the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI), only 26 percent of businesses say they are equipped with salespeople who can communicate effectively with Hispanics.

So where’s the disconnect? According to an interview with Juan Tornoe, chief marketing officer at Cultural Strategies, one reason companies fall short is that many think they have to advertise in Spanish, which is perhaps intimidating for them. Tornoe insists that connecting with this audience doesn’t require Spanish-language advertising.

Market Research
Learning about your target market will allow you to reach them more effectively. For businesses it’s important to learn the nationality and lifestyles of the Latino population in your area. While the Census data shows us that 64 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. have origins in Mexico, you need to do more research before you operate with that information alone. For example, ASI suggests that your strategy for engaging U.S. born Latino millennials who primarily speak English will probably look different from your strategy for engaging Latino baby boomers who were potentially born and raised in Mexico and mostly speak Spanish.

Once you’ve identified the general makeup of the Latino market in your area you can delve deeper into how to relate to them. Learn the holidays and customs that are important to them. Advertiser MP Mueller with The New York Times offers this example “In Austin, Tex. there is a big Honduran population. They celebrate their country’s independence on Sept. 15. If you do business in a Honduran neighborhood, recognize that day with a Honduran flag and a special discount or menu feature.”

Talent
Another key approach to reaching this audience is to focus on your business’s talent pool. Everyone on your marketing team should understand the importance of the Hispanic market. This doesn’t mean they all need to speak Spanish or be Hispanic, but they should have an interest in learning about this growing demographic.

If you don’t have any Spanish speakers on your team, it may be time to invest in either training existing staff members to learn some of the language or bring in a new hire who can. Depending on your market it’s likely worthwhile that you as the business owner have a basic understanding as well so you can speak un poquito.

Relationships
Not unlike reaching other audiences, another strategy for interacting with the Hispanic market is to build relationships. While it’s still important to note the priorities of the specific cultures and nuances in your area, Mueller notes that taking time to get to know your customer and to show respect can go a long way in gaining his or her trust and potentially their business as well. Being more relationship-oriented and less transactional can help in securing long-term customers.

How has your business made strides to cater to the growing Hispanic population? What successes or challenges can you share?