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E-Marketing to Hispanic-Americans

Countless companies have missed out on opportunities to market to Hispanic-Americans. Either firms did not act decisively enough, or they moved swiftly but made strategic miscalculations because they failed to understand the nuances of Hispanic-American marketing.

Today, all marketers acknowledge the importance of the surging Hispanic-American market. And as with all key market segments, companies are exploring how to use the Web to reach this increasingly affluent group. Yet marketers’ efforts to reach Hispanic-Americans online are being complicated by the unavailability of Hispanic e-mail lists.

More e-mail lists are becoming available each day. But this is not the case with e-mail lists of Spanish-speaking Hispanic-Americans. My office receives dozens of calls each week from marketers seeking such lists, and we work with multiple list owners to make them available. But it is proving extraordinarily difficult to keep up with demand.

In the meantime, it is necessary for companies planning their Hispanic marketing Internet campaigns to recognize the critical success factors for reaching Hispanic-American consumers. In the past 10 years we have gained tremendous insights into the Hispanic-American market. The key issues, all of which have a bearing on effective e-marketing and need to be considered as new lists enter the market, include:

Prevailing modes of buying behavior. You cannot treat the Hispanic-American community as one giant, homogeneous entity. There are differences among Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Central American and South American buyers. Market research has pointed to the many distinctions among Hispanics based on their national origin.

At the same time, their common characteristics also have come to light. For example, most Hispanics are strongly family oriented; they are highly amenable to healthcare product and service solicitations, particularly those related to family health issues; they maintain strong religious beliefs and freely give to religious charities; and they widely embrace popular music.

Steadily increasing population growth. With more than 30 million Americans of Hispanic descent, the United States is now the world’s fifth-largest Spanish-speaking country. Estimates show that the United States will be the second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the next five years. Moreover, census projections show that in 30 years, more than 25 percent of the American population will be of Hispanic descent.

Marketers have long recognized these rapid population gains. Few imagined, however, the magnitude of that growth and the speed with which it is occurring.

Increasing affluence. The traditional perception was that Hispanic-Americans occupied lower rungs on the country’s socioeconomic ladder. This stereotype persists. Yet Hispanic-Americans are increasing in affluence and remain among the most creditworthy consumers in the country.

In addition, the number of Hispanic-Americans who hold credit cards is surging. Consequently, Hispanic-Americans are better able to respond to direct marketing solicitations that offer credit card payment options. Interestingly, many marketers shied away from this segment because so many Hispanic-Americans at one point did not have credit cards.

We have learned a lot. Unfortunately, some marketers still fail to recognize the most important element of effective Hispanic marketing: language.

Companies initially thought any person with a Spanish surname was a ripe candidate for a direct marketing solicitation. Language was viewed as irrelevant. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To send a Spanish-speaking consumer an English-language promotion is a waste of money. Not only are there linguistic challenges, but marketers also risk alienating consumers who prefer to receive solicitations in their native tongue.

Conversely, Hispanic-Americans who do not speak Spanish resent that they are being lumped into an amorphous, homogeneous mass. Language issues are relevant regardless of the medium – print or electronic (television, radio, Internet).

Still, the biggest challenge in reaching Hispanic-Americans online is the severe shortage of Hispanic-American e-mail lists.

Here again, language is the critical variable. E-mail lists of consumers with Spanish surnames are readily available. What are not so available – and what need to be – are e-mail lists of Spanish-speaking respondents. These are people who have bought products via direct response solicitations, have responded to Spanish-language promotions or have registered on Spanish-language Web sites.

There are tremendous opportunities to reach the increasingly affluent Hispanic-American market online. And, by all accounts, it is becoming more viable every day. This is because of the astonishing growth in sales of personal computers to Hispanic-Americans. With more computer sales will come more interest in the Internet.

With more interest in the Internet will come more traffic on the exploding number of Spanish-language sites, such as Yahoo Espanol, Umbro, Fiera.com and Latin Fusion.

Yet, only when marketers heed the lessons learned – and only when vital tools such as e-mail lists composed of Spanish-speaking respondents become available – will the tremendous promise of Hispanic marketing be fully actualized.

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