Why to embrace—not ignore—Hispanic customers.
My first job was at Seigle’s Lumber in Elgin, Illinois. I was 15 years old and was stationed in the yard. My job consisted of helping customers scour for three perfect 2×4’s out of 294, or load innumerable railroad ties onto a flatbed.
One hot, summer afternoon I noticed my co-workers standing around, watching a customer load his own materials on a truck.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“We can’t help him. He’s…Mexican.”
“So what?” I asked.
“Well, he speaks Spanish. We speak english. We can’t help him.”
Armed with Spanish skills from my freshman year of high school, I sauntered up to the customer and promptly butchered the language. The customer smiled.
“Don’t worry, bro. My Spanish ain’t so good either. I appreciate you trying though.”
That lesson stuck with me. Through my company, Red Angle, we help construction suppliers and manufacturers sell more to their Hispanic customers. From Sherwin-Williams to lumber suppliers, Red Angle ensures language and cultural barriers do not become revenue and profitability barriers.
Strategically, the leaders at your company must allocate resources—capital, talent and time—to plan for el futuro. Below are six tips to help further the conversación with them.
Know the Numbers
There are 55 million Hispanics in the U.S., 18% of the total population. More than 80% are here legally. 65% are Mexican. Another 10% are Puerto Rican. Birth rate is driving the Hispanic population boom (not our 1,933-mile border). Case in point: one in four babies born in the U.S. today is Hispanic. This trend continues until the year 2050.
Make Your Impression Memorable
First off, smile. Acknowledging the existence of a customer is the bare minimum in retail, but it’s often lacking in the presence of language barriers. Second, display your Spanish-language marketing. Make it immediately noticeable upon entering the store. A bilingual banner, floor mat, a point-of-purchase counter mat, un video en Español, a Chivas de Guadalajara pennant—something, anything, to let the customer know you are making an effort.
Plan for El Patrón
According to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity (KIEA), construction is the most entrepreneurial industry in the country. And Hispanics are the most entrepreneurial demographic in construction. While entrepreneurship among Whites has dropped in the past decade, Hispanic new business ownership has risen to more than 22% of all new businesses.