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Posted July 08, 2004 by publisher in Cuban American Business

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By Elizabeth Lloyd | Contributor | [url=http://www.imediaconnection.com]http://www.imediaconnection.com[/url]

Ford and AOL spark trend of teaming to reach Spanish-speaking small business owners in U.S.

On April 29, Ford Motor Company and America Online launched the first-ever Spanish language community hub for entrepreneurs. This hub, called Mi Negocio—which means “my business”—is designed to be a one-stop shop for Hispanic small business owners, featuring live chats, in-person forums and informative articles from Fortune Small Business and Business 2.0. Mi Negocio is powered by AOL Latino, one of the largest Internet service providers for the U.S. Hispanic population.

Does this collaboration of Ford and AOL Latino signify an increase in Hispanic small business owners who are going online? With more than 13 million Hispanics online and an estimated 2 million Hispanic business owners in the United States already generating $300 billion in annual sales, the answer is a resounding “Si!”

Marketers who fail to see the connection between Hispanic small business owners and Internet use are missing the boat. Hector Barreto, administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, says, “We believe that 15 percent of all businesses in the United States are minority-owned, which includes African-American, Asian and Hispanic-owned businesses. But arguably, the fastest growing segment right now is the Hispanic-owned business market. And more importantly, these trends are expected to continue to significantly grow over the next five to 10 years.”

Peter Blacker, vice president of International and Multicultural AOL Media Networks, describes the thinking process behind the creation of Mi Negocio. “The launch of Mi Negocio represents a partnership between AOL Latino and Ford which directly answers the need for more Spanish language content aimed at small business owners and entrepreneurs. The recent AOL Roper Starch Hispanic Cyberstudy highlights the fact that 84 percent of online Hispanics use the Internet for research. Additionally 70 percent of Spanish-dominant online Hispanics wish there were more Web sites in Spanish. It is a natural extension of both AOL’s and Ford’s commitment to offering products and services that aims to help the U.S. Hispanic Community to grow.”

For Ford, getting involved was an easy decision—the company leads the industry in vehicle sales to U.S. Hispanics.

“Mi Negocio deepens our historic relationship and ongoing dialog with Hispanic entrepreneurs. Of great interest to Ford was data from the America Online and Roper ASW study that showed a definite link between the Hispanic community, the Internet and automotive sales. An amazing 12 percent of Hispanics who participated in the survey bought a car online. Clearly, an online connection between Ford and the Hispanic community is important to our future,” says Nick Scheele, president of Ford Motor Company.

Apparently, Mi Negocio is a well needed resource to Hispanic small business owners. According to Blacker, within hours of a kick-off luncheon in New York City, the Mi Negocio community areas of AOL Latino chat rooms and forums were filled with comments and positive participation. AOL Latino and Ford are hosting three more Mi Negocio community events across the country to physically bring the concept to life.

“The primary goal of the AOL and Ford partnership is to empower Hispanic Entrepreneurs and Small Business Managers with the Spanish language business content, advice and connections they need to succeed,” says AOL’s Blacker. “Additionally, by offering online community elements like Spanish-language business chats, forums and interactive advice areas we hope to connect Hispanic entrepreneurs with the contacts they need to get ahead.”

In a vertical that is dominated by Yahoo! En Espanol, MSN Latino and Univision, how does the launch of Mi Negocio position AOL Latino with regards to Hispanic small business owners?

According to Blacker, “This project showcases AOL’s unique ability to create customized solutions for clients by combining its strength of content from the Time Warner family as well as its reach as the No. 1 ISP for the Hispanic Market. With the power of such content giants as Fortune Magazine, Fortune Small Business and Business 2.0 adding support to this project, AOL Latino proves it is an ideal resource for Hispanic business owners.”

Will lead to more partnerships between Hispanic portals and major marketers? Blacker says, “We have already been approached by several leading marketers who would like to do similar projects with AOL Latino. Our unique heritage as part of the Time Warner family allows us to tap into exclusive content such as news, sports and entertainment. At the recent AHAA Conference (Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies) Nick Montes, VP multicultural marketing of Verizon Wireless presented a case study highlighting his success in working with AOL Latino, People en Espanol magazine and the rest of the Time Warner Hispanic Group.”

To maintain a leadership role in the online Hispanic market, Spanish-language portals must partner with top offline entities. Another prime example is the recent Yahoo! En Espanol and Fox Pan American partnership which I will highlight in my next article.

Elizabeth M. Lloyd is director of corporate marketing for a start- up online marketing company in Silicon Valley. Previously, Elizabeth was the director of marketing for opt-in email provider NetCreations, Inc. in New York City. Prior to NetCreations, Elizabeth was responsible for the public relations department of ValueClick, Inc.

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