Growing Companies

To sell to Brazilians, you must know Brazilians. This, Mike Robinson believes.

You must know their language. You must know their culture. You must know their hopes and their fears and their deepest desires. Only then, can you know what they want and work to fill that need.

Of course, for Robinson, the president of LaVerdad (Spanish for "the truth"), you could substitute Mexicans, or Costa Ricans, or Panamanians, or any other culture or people. But it's the same theory -  know the people, really know the people, before going into their market. To get into the heads of people, he says, it's best to know those people as well as they know themselves.

It's a way of life Robinson learned in the Green Berets, battling drug cartels in Colombia and dictators in Panama. It was a talent honed during Robinson's days at Procter & Gamble, which Robinson calls Blue Chip School for Branding and Marketing.

He's now using it at his eight-year-old, nationwide marketing, research and media firm. From its base in Cincinnati, La Verdad branches out to bring ethnic consumer insights and marketing strategies to large and small firms across the country, including several Fortune 1,000 companies.

It's a company that specializes in Hispanic culture and people. Its clients include Cintas and Toyota, where it runs media relations to the Hispanic community.

"Our starting point is always with the customer and the consumer," said Robinson. "It's not easy to cross cultural boundaries. I thought if I could do that, I could give people something no one else could."

In addition to his time in Latin American and at P&G, Robinson has lived in Europe and speaks several languages.

His company has about two dozen employees, and in 2006, broke the $1 million sales figure. He wouldn't give a current number, but said his company has done well in the past years, and he expects double-digit percentage increases in sales this year. It is one of the newest companies added to the Chamber of Commerce Minority Business Accelerator.

As for Brazil, the firm has a major new client that is looking into what Robinson says is one of the biggest untapped markets in the world. And while he doesn't have a specific expertise in the South American country - the fifth largest in the world with more than 200 million people -  he's hiring researchers and experts to help his company learn and use that knowledge.

"I haven't worked in Brazil," he said. "I don't speak Portuguese. But if anyone can figure it out, we can. We've been able to find Brazilians in the United States, who just got here and haven't been Americanized. That's just a start for us."

By Paul A. Long
Source: Mike Robinson, president, LaVerdad
7817 Cooper Road
Cincinnati, OH 45242