How El Clasificado brought hundreds of Hispanic-owned micro-businesses online to connect with their audience of 20M+ readers
Case Study

How El Clasificado brought hundreds of Hispanic-owned micro-businesses online to connect with their audience of 20M+ readers

Martha de la Torre is the CEO of El Clasificado, the flagship brand of the parent company EC Hispanic Media. Founded originally as a weekly Spanish-language classified publication with her husband, Joe Badame, ElClasificado.com is now the largest Spanish language classified marketplace in the United States.

Martha de la Torre built a thriving publication, El Clasificado, whose classified ads catered to the Hispanic market. In 2017, after seeing declines in their print business, El Clasificado successfully pivoted to focusing on digital products to suit the needs of their niche audience: micro-businesses serving Spanish-speaking audiences in the U.S. “By early 2020 we were stronger than ever,” Martha says, “focused on digital and poised to have our biggest year of growth in digital product sales.”

Then the pandemic hit. In the space of several months, she recalls, “we lost more than half of our customers and had to furlough most of our employees.”

Stepping up to support the Hispanic business community

Having navigated business challenges in the past, Martha and her team got to work. The first step to survival was to take a $2 million PPP loan, which they used to bring everyone on their payroll back to work. And as consumers shifted online, they were able to sustain income by earning ad revenue from their digital products. “But to ensure the survival of El Clasificado in the long term,” Martha shares, “we needed to ensure the survival of our customers.” Most of the small businesses El Clasificado works with couldn’t qualify for government assistance. “These were some of the hardest hit businesses during the crisis,” she explains. “And even worse, most didn’t have an online presence. Until the pandemic, many didn’t even think they needed to be found online.”

<p><em>The El Clasificado website.</em></p>

The El Clasificado website.

So the El Clasificado team got creative and leaned on their ad revenue to support new projects. “We think of our ad revenue from Ad Manager as our ‘Angel Investor,’” she says; “it’s money that helps us do things we normally wouldn’t be able to do, like training our employees and creating our El Clasificado (EC) Stimulus Opportunity.” The EC Simulus Opportunity became a key initiative to help El Clasificado and their community of merchants get through the pandemic. “Rather than trying to convince our customers to invest in digital advertising,” Martha says, “we launched our own Stimulus Opportunity: a free 90-day digital marketing package with websites to help small businesses with no online presence get found.”

To qualify for a free digital marketing package, businesses had to have fewer than ten employees and serve the Hispanic community. The goal was to help 1,000 businesses through the pandemic, and the project was a huge success. “Over 1000 businesses applied, 700 qualified and more than 600 websites with digital campaigns were launched,” Martha highlights. “Over 100 of those free campaigns converted to paid customers when their 90-day free trial expired.”

We think of our ad revenue from Ad Manager as our ‘Angel Investor,’ it’s money that helps us do things we normally wouldn’t be able to do, like training our employees and creating our El Clasificado (EC) Stimulus Opportunity.

Martha de la Torre, CEO, El Clasificado

Investing beyond digital and across America

With things starting to look up, the El Clasificado team continues to invest in their site, and their community. “We’re able to make our site more helpful by using the data we get from AdSense for Search,” Martha explains. “We can tell what people are looking for and what areas they’re clicking, which helps us understand new categories we should create. We just added acrylic nails, for example, after seeing that it was a popular search.”

<p><em>El Clasificado Small Business Expo.</em></p>

El Clasificado Small Business Expo.

It’s improvements like this that have helped El Clasificado grow into a community of 20M+ Spanish speakers and help serve as a gateway to Hispanic-owned businesses. “Our reach goes beyond LA, especially in the virtual space,” she says, “and we’ve invested a lot in Texas as well. We had a job fair that over 200 people attended virtually and we have a 89% retention rate at our company because we’re able to really invest in our employees and help them grow. It’s been a tremendous source of pride for me and everyone at El Clasificado to help Hispanic-owned businesses survive throughout the pandemic and thrive beyond.”

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