You say you haven't heard of TelexFREE? Then you probably aren't one of the more than 1 million Portuguese-speaking residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Before TelexFREE, Portuguese speakers calling home to Brazil or Portugal were paying high international rates or suffering the frustration of trying to teach elderly parents how to use Skype...after they taught them how to get online.
In large part due to those frustrations and expenses, Brazilian and Hispanic expatriate communities are embracing the simplicity and economy of TelexFREE.
Large Portuguese communities have lived in Massachusetts since the early 1800s when Portuguese fishermen were lured to the seacoast towns by the whaling industry. As whaling declined, Portuguese immigrants stayed to work in the textile mills. Many never saw or spoke to their families in Portugal and Brazil again. The invention of the telephone made communication possible, but the expense often made it improbable: international calling was too expensive for a mill worker, and for decades it was considered a luxury used on holidays and other special occasions.
But that was before TelexFREE.
In February alone, more than 4 million minutes were Brazilian calls. Close behind is the Hispanic community: 788,007 minutes were Columbian; 467,842 Peruvian; and nearly 400,000 minutes were to and from Mexico. The calling logs of TelexFREE record calls to and from locations all over the world, more than 60 countries and provinces.
When asked about the success of the company, President and co-founder Jim Merrill replies, "We have been in VOIP telecommunications for more than a decade; but it wasn't until about two years ago that we found a niche community that expressed such overwhelming need for our product. Combined with a distribution method that takes our services to them economically, our growth has been exponential."
February 2014 more than doubled the number of TelexFREE customers in February 2013, and up until that point February 2013 was the biggest month in the company's history.
TelexFREE had been marketing largely through mass media to Spanish and Portuguese speakers. But mass marketing was expensive—companies can spend as much as $200 for every retail customer acquired. "We knew that some of our best customers were those who had heard about us from friends and families, not those who had seen us in the media," Jim says. "And that was key in bringing down the cost-per-customer acquisition and exploding our business. When we migrated our advertising to a direct selling model and began paying independent agents to spread the word to people they know...well, the numbers speak for themselves."
TelexFREE is a private company headquartered in Marlborough, Mass., with offices in a number of regions around the world.