It takes more than speaking Spanish to sell to Hispanics

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NEW YORK (AP) — Companies that want to sell products and services to Hispanic people need to understand this fast-growing population. Here are some recommendations on how to succeed:

SPEAKING SPANISH ISN'T ENOUGH

Owners contemplating the Hispanic market need to do more than hire Spanish-speaking employees, says Francisco Valle, a consultant in San Diego who helps companies build business with Hispanic customers. And it's not enough to just include Hispanic actors in commercials or advertisements.

"To go after the Hispanic market, you really need to develop a relationship with them first," Valle says. He recalls working with a hospital that didn't have bilingual staffers at the reception desk. Spanish-speaking visitors were directed to a phone where they could reach someone who spoke Spanish. Hispanic visitors didn't feel welcome, Valle says.

START YOUR AD CAMPAIGN FROM SCRATCH

Advertising campaigns must be created with Hispanics in mind. An English ad translated into Spanish not only may fail to resonate with Hispanics, the translation could be incorrect, Valle says. Marketers also need to understand the nuances in a different language. When Pepsi Cola began using the slogan "Yo sumo" in 2010, intending for it to mean "I count" or "I matter." Some people read it as saying "I add up," or "I know how to count."

EDUCATE YOURSELF

Businesses must recognize there is no single Hispanic culture. Hispanics come to the U.S. from across the Americas, Spain and Spanish-speaking countries in Africa and the Pacific. When new clients walk into the financial advisory firm Cerda Munoz Advisors, co-owner Gilbert Cerda starts a conversation to try to determine where they are from. To assume that someone is from Mexico rather than Cuba, for example, could be offensive, says Cerda, whose firm is in Downey, California.

"Some people don't like being called Hispanic, some like being called Latino. Some where I come from prefer to be called Mexican," Cerda says.

But there are similarities across the Hispanic culture, he says. It's difficult for many Hispanic customers to trust people in the financial services industry, especially after some companies stopped working with investors whose account balances didn't reach a minimum level. It can take time for Cerda to get clients to open up with him.

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