Sarah Marske is founder and CEO of Saramar Group, a consulting firm specializing in creating meaningful connection between brands and U.S. Hispanic audiences. Saramar Group positions mid-market to fortune 500 companies to authentically reach and engage U.S. Hispanic audiences through strategies that drive business growth while creating larger social impact.
Sarah founded Saramar Group with a vision to positively impact the world by doing business with a higher purpose, creating social impact along with profit. She is passionate about partnering with people, brands and organizations to bring their purpose-driven visions to life and create real impact for their business, customers and communities.
Before starting Saramar Group, Sarah led award-winning Hispanic marketing campaigns and social impact initiatives in her role on the multicultural marketing team at The Coca-Cola Company. She created, led and collaborated on innovative strategies and campaigns that tap into Hispanic passion points and values, earning the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Multicultural Marketing Excellence Award, Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Silver Anvil Award for Best PR Campaign, and the Billboard Music Award.
Sarah’s passion for driving business results through social impact initiatives manifested in her role at Coca-Cola. She directed and expanded Coca-Cola’s global 5by20 women empowerment initiative across the U.S. for multicultural women through The Adelante Movement, Self Made and In the Black platforms, working in partnership with key stakeholders including media entrepreneur and NY Times best-selling author, Nely Galan and Linda Spradley Dunn, CEO of Odyssey Media. She also led the national Coca-Cola #ForTheDream Hispanic education campaign in partnership with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, as well the Club Balón Rojo soccer program, a Coca-Cola active healthy living initiative in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of America. Putting her love of soccer into action, she also executed national and grassroots soccer initiatives including the FIFA World Cup, Mexican National Soccer Team and Copa Coca-Cola, working with influencers like Latin superstar Carlos Vives, sports commentator Fernando Fiore, and soccer legends Marcelo Balboa, Jorge Campos and Luis Garcia.
She delivered one-in-a-lifetime brand experiences for Hispanic consumers through programs like the Coca-Cola Hispanic Holiday campaign, Hispanic Heritage Month campaigns, Univision’s Premios Juventud, and People en Español’s Festival and 25 Most Influential Women platforms.
On the shopper side, Sarah activated programs across the U.S. with customers including Walmart, Regal Cinema, Family Dollar, Wendy’s, Albertsons Safeway, La Michoacana, Sedanos and more, driving revenue, sales and brand love.
Before joining Coke, Sarah served as Communications & Public Relations Manager at the Latin American Association where she led strategic communications, branding, media relations and marketing efforts for the nonprofit that serves more than 50,000 Latinos annually in Metro Atlanta. She’s also held roles at Univision 34 Atlanta, Piedmont Park Conservancy and the Metro Atlanta YMCA.
Passionate about youth empowerment, Sarah founded the Copa United corporate charity soccer tournament, and has served as community chair on The Coca-Cola Company’s Hispanic Leadership Business Resource Group, a member of the Boy Scouts Atlanta Area Council Marketing Advisory Board, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Atlanta Advisory Council, the Latin American Association’s Latina Empowerment Steering Committee and the YMCA of Metro Atlanta’s teen international service trips to Costa Rica.
Sarah graduated with distinction from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with bachelor’s degrees in International Studies and Spanish where she was awarded the Sterling Stoudemire Medal for Outstanding Achievements in Spanish. She achieved her master’s degree in communication and a certificate in Spanish translation from Georgia State University.
Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode
- Why engaging with Hispanic audiences is key to your brand growth.
- How to engage with Hispanic audiences.
- How to avoid mistakes when engaging with Hispanic audiences
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for GWBC Radio’s Open for Business. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:18] Lee Kantor here. Another episode of GWBC Open for Business, and this is going to be a good one. Today, we have with us Sarah Marske with Saramar Group. Welcome, Sarah.
Sarah Marske: [00:00:28] Hey, Lee. How are you today?
Lee Kantor: [00:00:29] I am doing well. I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us about Saramar. How are you serving folks?
Sarah Marske: [00:00:35] Yes. Thank you for that. So, Saramar Group is a consulting firm specializing in creating meaningful connection between brands and U.S. Hispanic audiences through purpose driven brand engagement strategies. So, we actually drive revenue, new revenue growth opportunities for mid-market, the Fortune 500 companies, by positioning them to authentically reach and engage U.S. Hispanic audiences.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:01] So, how did you get into this line of work?
Sarah Marske: [00:01:04] Well, that story is a long story, Lee. You know, I grew up in North Carolina. I am not Latina, but had the incredible opportunity in my school system to learn Spanish since I was literally in preschool. So, had Spanish preschool, kindergarten, middle school, high school. My whole life, I always loved the language. I always loved and was fascinated with the cultures of Latin America and was just passionate about it. So, in college, I double majored in international studies in Spanish and had the opportunity to live in Costa Rica, live in Spain, and really always cultivated the Spanish language and connecting with Latino cultures as part of my career.
Sarah Marske: [00:01:46] So, prior to starting the business, I worked for one of the prominent nonprofits here in Georgia, which is the Latin American Association. Then, I moved over to the multicultural marketing team at the Coca-Cola Company. And then, transitioned out of there to start Saramar Group to help other brands really create that connection with our Hispanic community across the U.S. So, it’s always been a passion of mine, and that’s how I am really focused on helping brands support and connect with our Hispanic audience.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:18] Now, what are some of the mistakes you find that brands make when it comes to connecting with the Hispanic audience?
Sarah Marske: [00:02:25] Well, you know, there’s several things. I would say, one of the first ones is actually even overlooking the opportunity to connect with Hispanic audiences. A lot of folks might not be aware of the growth trajectory of the community. There are over 62 million Hispanics in the U.S., meaning that’s around almost 20 percent of the total U.S. population. Hispanics are projected to drive 80 percent of U.S. population growth over the next 20 years.
Sarah Marske: [00:02:56] And then, another one to wrap your brain around, Lee, is that, if you look at the U.S. population under the age of 18, 25 percent is Hispanic. So, 25 percent, one quarter of your market under the age of 18 is Hispanic. So, it’s incredibly important for brands and organizations to really pay attention to the Hispanic market and to really make an authentic effort to engage and to outreach. Because if you’re not, it’s a missed opportunity. It’s a missed opportunity from a growth perspective and from a revenue perspective for your organization. So, I would say that’s one of the first missteps.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:35] Now, you mentioned authenticity, why is that so important to that group? I mean, every group aspires to be authentic, but is that group kind of more picky when it comes to that or has a radar up a little higher?
Sarah Marske: [00:03:54] Well, I would say, you know, we’re all human beings, and we all want to see ourselves reflected, and we all want to see ourselves when a brand is attempting to communicate with us, that we want to see that they understand who we are. And our Hispanic community is such a rich and culturally vibrant community. And it’s important for brands to understand that. It’s important for brands to understand how multidimensional the community is.
Sarah Marske: [00:04:22] Talking about missteps earlier, sometimes folks think there’s kind of a one size fits all approach to our Hispanic market. But it’s really not true. It’s a community that’s very multidimensional, representing 20 different countries of origin, representing different language uses, representing different times living in the U.S., different generations in the U.S., different socioeconomic incomes. So, it’s a very rich, very vibrant, very multidimensional community. And it’s important that brands see that and it’s important that brands reflect that in their communications with the market. So, yeah, it is very important to really be authentic when you’re reaching this community, for sure.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:06] And then, when you’re working with some of your clients, I would imagine these are the larger firms, so they are sensitive to the fact that Hispanic doesn’t mean one thing in America. Like you said, these folks are coming from 20 different countries. So then, there has to be kind of subtle changes in the language and in the way it’s presented, the information is presented, in order to really kind of resonate with that specific group, right? So, this isn’t just kind of translated into Spanish and I’m done kind of activity in order to really serve this community. You really have to go layers deep and hire a specialist that really understands that, right?
Sarah Marske: [00:05:44] That’s absolutely right, Lee. And the good news is for brands or organizations, like Saramar Group, like my business, out there to really help you navigate through the complexities of the Hispanic market and help you really do so in a way that does justice to the different cultures, the different opportunities, and promise of the Hispanic market too.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:08] Now, is it something that when you’re working with clients, is this the first time that they kind of dig this deep into this? Maybe they’ve done more superficial kind of marketing to this group and thought, “Okay. I checked that box, I’m done.” And now, they’re saying, “Hey, there’s a real opportunity here if we kind of go layers deep.”
Sarah Marske: [00:06:27] Yes. That’s right, Lee. So, we really help you understand where you are along your journey to connecting with the Hispanic market. If you are at the beginning of this journey, we can help you. So, really, our approach is looking at where are you at today? What have you done to date? And understand what you’re tracking, what you’re measuring as an organization, where you are. So then, we can create a plan for you. And so, some of the areas we support are really bringing in those Hispanic insights, and cultural insights, and consumer research to make sure you really gain an understanding of the market.
Sarah Marske: [00:07:06] Because we talked about that earlier, it’s really important to know the market before you start really engaging with the market. So, we bring those cultural insights, the data, the information, the values, behaviors, the attitudes. We hope you understand that, so then you can create more effective strategies. And then, we help you create that strategy from a comprehensive perspective. So, looking really both internally and externally about what you need to do to engage the Hispanic market.
Sarah Marske: [00:07:35] So, from an internal perspective, we want to make sure that you’re ready to do business with the Hispanic market. So, what does that cultural capability that needs to be built in the organization? What immersive experiences or capacity needs to be built out? How do we integrate this into your overall business growth strategy? How do we make sure that the workforce reflects the community that you’re serving? So, what do we need to do and put in place internally in infrastructure to make sure we’re ready to do business with the Hispanic market?
Sarah Marske: [00:08:05] And then, we help you look at what are we doing externally? What integrated marketing communication plans do we need to put in place? What corporate social responsibility or community partnerships or events, sponsorships, strategic alliances, et cetera? So, we really look holistically at that strategy to help you create that winning plan and successful plan when it comes to engaging with the Hispanic audiences.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:30] Now, is there a place for the small to mid-sized player to kind of tap into this underserved market? Or is this something that only the big brands can do because they have the resources in order to kind of pull this off at that level?
Sarah Marske: [00:08:45] I think there definitely is a space for smaller brands to do this work, for sure. And I think it’s really important. You know, we talked a little bit earlier about the growth of the market, the fact that it’s about 20 percent to, getting younger, 25 percent of your market share. So, as you’re looking to scale your company and grow your company, it is important to take a look at the Hispanic market and see how, at least, you can start. Maybe it’s one market, maybe it’s one vertical, but at least start building that relationship. Because when you invest in the Hispanic community, we know based on data that the Hispanic community invests back into your brand. And that you’re going to see that return on investment and you’re going to see that growth opportunity.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:31] Now, do you spend most of your time in B2C environment or B2B or both?
Sarah Marske: [00:09:38] It can be both. You know, obviously, B2C is huge from a consumer standpoint. Hispanics are leading shopping and consumption across many categories. So, that’s huge. But then, even looking from a B2B perspective, that’s a growth market that a lot of companies that have B2B solutions aren’t really paying attention to. And they should be. You know, Hispanics are opening businesses at faster rates than any other group. Over the past ten years, the growth of Hispanic owned businesses has been two to three times that of other businesses and other cohorts. And, you know, Latinas are even driving a business growth at a really high rate as well.
Sarah Marske: [00:10:24] So, if you’re looking at how do you sell your business solutions, whether it’s small business banking solutions, perhaps some cyber security, or H.R., or hiring solutions, the Hispanic business ownership community is definitely a community to look at when it comes to creating that connection, and relationship, and growth for your business.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:47] Now, when you’re working with a client, is the point of entry usually a project or this is something that they’re ready to bite off kind of a real commitment into serving the Hispanic community?
Sarah Marske: [00:10:56] You know, it varies, Lee. It varies. And, you know, often we want to start small, prove some results, and then scale from there. And then, often we may have the budget to go all out. So, it really does depend.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:13] And then, when you’re kind of maybe doing a pilot, then you’re able to kind of show the ROI to say, “Look, you know, this is a real opportunity here. We started with this. And then, if you kind of put more emphasis on it, you can really make a difference, number one. But, number two, is get real results.”
Sarah Marske: [00:11:31] Exactly. And so, often approach we can take is, you know, starting in one market. So, if we have a national brand that’s focused across the U.S., well, we can start in one market. We can look at how we are going to prioritize markets across the U.S. and say, “Okay. What can we do in one market that can be replicated in other markets? What can we learn in one market where we can show those results, we can show some return? And then, we take it and we scale that across additional markets. And gain learnings and get better and refine, and then really drive that scalability and return.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:06] So, now, when you’re saying one market, are they kind of the usual suspects, like Florida, Texas, California? Or is this something that people don’t realize that across the United States there’s pockets of Hispanic communities everywhere?
Sarah Marske: [00:12:21] You’re so right, Lee. So, yes, there’s kind of what you would think of as our high Hispanic DMAs, which are, you know, Los Angeles, Texas, Dallas, Houston, Florida, we have Miami, Chicago, New York, you know, all of those those big markets. But there are markets where we have high growth Hispanic population that you might not be aware of or even think of. To name a few, Charlotte, Salt Lake City, Seattle. Atlanta, actually, where Saramar Group is based is one of them. So, there’s definitely pockets of Hispanic communities and populations growing in areas where you might not think. And it’s definitely something to pay attention to when you’re looking at connecting in your local market.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:08] Now, just from an altruistic standpoint, it’s good to communicate with everybody and serve everybody. But this is a real opportunity for people with an ROI that’s real. That this isn’t just being a nice person and doing this just for the sake of being a good corporate citizen, right? This is something that this is a missed opportunity for a lot of folks that aren’t leaning into this, because, like you said, it’s a significant amount of people.
Sarah Marske: [00:13:34] That’s right. And, you know, Saramar Group, we are very purpose driven and we do believe in leading with purpose when we are connecting with the Hispanic market. But you’re right, it’s not altruistic. Yes, we want to create impact, but we want to not only create impact and drive profit for it, but we also want to drive profit for our businesses as well. So, we are very much focused on how do we drive business growth, how do we drive profitability for our clients. But while we’re also creating a larger social impact as well.
Sarah Marske: [00:14:08] And the reason why purpose is so important is that, we know when we do well for our communities, when we do good in our communities, it’s good for business. We know based on stats that high growth companies over the past decade have been really focused on purpose and lead with purpose in their business model.
Sarah Marske: [00:14:27] And when it comes to the Hispanic community, it is a community that is very focused on community. It’s very focused on family values. It’s very focused on upward mobility in terms of educational attainment, in terms of job growth, in terms of small business ownership, and economic mobility. And so, really tapping into those values and those passions from a purpose driven mindset is going to help you create a deeper connection with our Hispanic community. It’s really going to show that you are there for the community. You are concerned about the community’s wellbeing, and you want to see the community lift it up.
Sarah Marske: [00:15:11] And so, it’s both, right? We’re creating a business opportunity. We’re creating revenue opportunities for our business. But we’re also creating relevance in the lives of our consumers. And we’re creating impact and positive impact in the lives of our consumers. And when you do those two things together, you’re on a really strong pathway to winning and to growth.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:32] Now, what’s the most rewarding part of the job for you?
Sarah Marske: [00:15:37] I believe it is that impact. It is that impact. It’s seeing that economic growth, both from with the clients that we serve, seeing them grow by connecting with the Hispanic opportunity, and seeing how we can really create that impact in our Hispanic consumers lives.
Sarah Marske: [00:15:57] You know, prior to starting this business, too, I worked for the Coca-Cola Company on our multicultural marketing team. And a lot of the work I led was social impact driven. And we did a huge partnership with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. And, you know, I remember for a month every week, I got a letter from a student who we had impacted with scholarship dollars, and that was just awesome. That was awesome to see how we were able to create that real impact and the lives. But also create that brand love around Coca-Cola and what we were doing in the community. So, that, to me, was just phenomenal. And I love doing that for clients as well. Like, how do we, you know, create that impact in the lives but create that brand love as well for the clients we serve?
Lee Kantor: [00:16:41] Right. And like you mentioned, this group is kind of brand loyal. And this is a group that can really move the needle in your business. And if you serve them authentically, there’s really a long term benefit for doing that kind of work.
Sarah Marske: [00:16:57] Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, the numbers don’t lie, Lee. The numbers don’t lie. You know, it’s a community that owns $1.5 trillion in buying power. If you look at the GDP or the economic contributions of the Hispanic market, that would equate to 2.6 million in GDP contributions, making it really the eighth largest economy in the world. And so, yes, it’s important to do business with the eighth largest economy in the world. That’s right here in the U.S.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:29] Right. And do it in an authentic way, not just translate your English marketing to Spanish and call it a day. You got to do more if you really want to penetrate and serve that market.
Sarah Marske: [00:17:41] Yes. Absolutely. It’s really important to do so in a way that really values the cultural contributions. It really values the cultural heritage of the community. This community has such a deep pride in its heritage, such a deep pride in its family and its community, and the contributions it’s making in the United States. And is so important to really connect with those passions, to reflect those passions and values, and to really celebrate those in your marketing efforts.
Sarah Marske: [00:18:17] And, again, that understanding of the different nuances of the community, the different language uses, the different countries that you may be from. It’s so incredibly important to really go about it from a place of understanding and deep appreciation so that you can really forge a lasting relationship between your brand and the community.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:41] Now, let’s talk a little bit about GWBC. What compelled you to become a member there and how has it impacted your business?
Sarah Marske: [00:18:50] Well, we are women-owned, and so when I started the business about two-and-a-half years ago, I was familiar with the opportunities that being a women-owned business can bring to you. So, through GWBC, I was able to get our women-owned business certification, you know, in their partnership with WBENC. And it’s been incredible, to be honest, Lee, being involved in that community. And it really has opened doors. They are really passionate about building connection between small business owners and larger companies, you know, really helping you tap into supplier diversity initiatives with companies, helping you make inroads into different brands and companies. And they build opportunities for you to connect with other business owners as well. So, they’re always doing events.
Sarah Marske: [00:19:53] And, you know, the past year with COVID, it’s been really interesting too. Prior to COVID, we were able to be in the same room. We were able to be together. They did lots of tables of eight. We did, you know, conferences where we showed up. We were all together. You know, companies had booths. But then, you know, they did a great job during COVID and during the pandemic to pivot, to be digital, to offer us opportunities where we could still connect through Zoom in a digital way. So, it’s just been awesome. It’s been awesome. And it’s definitely been a huge part of the growth of my business.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:28] Now, any advice for women out there that aren’t familiar with it or haven’t decided yet to pull the trigger and get involved with the group? Some things that you, maybe, didn’t see coming where you saw a benefit or a compelling reason to take action now and join?
Sarah Marske: [00:20:45] Well, I’ll give you one compelling reason. Well, first of all, you know, getting your women-owned business certification, getting your minority-owned certification is a significant pathway to driving business growth for your company. Because it just opened so many opportunities for you and opened so many doors because there are larger companies that have a strategic initiative to do business with women-owned businesses. So, that’s important, one. And then, two, just really taking advantage of all the opportunities that GWBC and WBENC have to offer.
Sarah Marske: [00:21:22] I’ll give you one example. You know, I was always a little bit intimidated by this idea of pitch competitions, and that’s something that WBENC and GWBC offer often. The opportunity to do a two minute pitch of your business to a variety of different brands and companies to win some dollars to help grow your business. And, you know, I was always intimidated by that. And I got the emails and I always thought, “Oh, this pitch competition isn’t for me.” And then, there was a specific pitch competition where I thought, “Oh, I’m not going to do it.”
Sarah Marske: [00:21:53] And then, finally, the last day I said, “You know what? I’m going to go for it. I submitted it. I made it to round one. I pitched my business. I didn’t win the pitch competition, but I did win a client off of it and a fantastic seven month contract came out of it. So, just really taking advantage of those opportunities, like the pitch competitions that they offer, could really help you grow your business and lead to opportunities for you.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:18] Well, that sounds like a victory. It sounds like you won, you know.
Sarah Marske: [00:22:21] It was a victory.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:23] The reason you do it is to win business. So, however, that sounds like a win.
Sarah Marske: [00:22:27] Exactly. That’s exactly right. And the contract, actually, was more valuable than the prize.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:31] Than the prize. Right. Exactly.
Sarah Marske: [00:22:33] So, it worked, for sure. So, I definitely highly recommend other women business owners to get engaged. And then, I’d say the final thing, too, is, especially if you are starting the business and you’re starting it yourself, it can be a very isolating journey. It can be lonely. So, it’s really awesome to be surrounded by a community of like-minded women who are on a similar path of entrepreneurship who understand what you’re going through. And that you can really kind of connect with them and just share ideas, share experiences, and really celebrate each other’s successes, and help each other propel forward.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:09] Now, in your business, what is the pain that a client is having right before they hire you? Is this something that they are frustrated with their existing Hispanic marketing? And they’re like, “Hey, we’ve got to shake things up. Let’s try a new kind of agency.” Or is it something that, “We’ve never done this before, at least, to the level that we’d like.” What’s that kind of initial point of engagement that you kind of insert yourself?
Sarah Marske: [00:23:34] So far, I think the main pain point has been we don’t want to mess up. And we recognize this opportunity. But we just don’t have the capability internally or the know how to really do this in a way that is going to be, like we talked about earlier, authentic, relevant, and reflecting a knowledge and a know how of the community. So, we really want to connect with our Hispanic audience but we don’t necessarily know how to get there, and we need a partner in doing that. And so, that’s kind of where we can come in and kind of bring our knowledge of the market, our experience in working with the market, our understanding of the community. And really help that brand kind of go from point A to point Z when it comes to engaging with the Hispanic market.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:31] Now, is an event like a World Cup, is that something that trigger more opportunity because it’s all of a sudden on the radar of people?
Sarah Marske: [00:24:39] Yes, Lee. And as I was saying, the passion for soccer runs deep among our Hispanic community. And the World Cup is a phenomenal way to connect with that passion. And many brands do that. You know, at Coca-Cola, we did a lot of activations around just the momentum leading up to the World Cup. All the traditions that go into celebrating your team, whether it’s a Mexican national team, the Costa Rican team, the Colombian team. All the excitement leading up to it and the passion that you have for your country. I mean, it is an awesome way to connect.
Sarah Marske: [00:25:18] And not only World Cup, but there’s all sorts of other ways to connect around the passion for soccer with our Hispanic Community, Liga MX, now MLS teams in the U.S., and even kind of local youth leagues, a lot of Hispanic soccer leagues across the country. So, yeah, soccer is one of the key passion points of our Hispanic community and a great way to engage, for sure.
Lee Kantor: [00:25:44] Now, if somebody wanted to learn more, have a more substantive conversation with you or somebody on the team, what’s the website?
Sarah Marske: [00:25:50] Our website is www.saramargroup.com. That’s S-A-R-A-M-A-R-group.com. Or you can reach out on LinkedIn. You can find me there at Sarah Marske on LinkedIn.
Lee Kantor: [00:26:05] Well, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing such important work and we appreciate you.
Sarah Marske: [00:26:11] Well, I appreciate this opportunity to chat with you, Lee.
Lee Kantor: [00:26:13] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We will see you all next time on GWBC Open for Business.
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